Song Yuzhe: 10,000 Years of Turmoil!
I first met and performed with Song Yuzhe in Tibet in 2008 - he suddenly appeared in the only drinking hole that was still open in Lhasa after the riots. From memory he had just returned (a few minutes) from the outback, a field trip I think, researching, talking to people, learning about Tibetan custom, culture and art. As he introduced himself he looked wild, unkempt, weather beaten more warrior than musician but a much gentler version, a happy warrior! We sat and drank, played a few songs. Yuzhe was amiable, talkative, prone to outbursts of contagious laughter. Before the end of the evening we had somehow planned a small gig for the next day. The bar owner, Wang Xiao (another excellent musician) would join the lineup. I agreed to make a curry, instruments would be provided, music would happen - plan finished.
By the next evening word had got out, the place was packed, something was happening in Lhasa, I thanked my luck for being a part of it. I cannot really remember much of what happened during that gig, a good time was had, much music performed, that much I know. In the morning Wang Xiao put up bail for the release of Yuzhe - it was that sort of event.
Between 2008 and 2010 I met up and jammed with Song Yuzhe in Shenzhen, Beijing and Lijiang - informal, happy occasions. It was the Lijiang event though that introduced me to some of his highly original music, music that would become the material for his first album: Wild Tunes, Stray Rhythms
Dawanggang is an ensemble founded in 2009 by Song Yuzhe after returning from Tibet. Its aim was/is to bring musicians from different backgrounds together to perform.
On (Huang Qiang Zou Ban -Wild Tunes, Stray rhythms) he is joined by Hu Gejietu, Wang Fan, Zhang Jian and percussionist, TATO.
Wild Tunes, Stray Rhythms is not an easy journey, but journeys to out-of-the-way places seldom are, and this one is worth taking. It’s very cinematic in its creation of rich and powerful auditory images, so much so that the group’s sound has to be a contender for the new musical genre award. If you can imagine mother earth opening up beneath your feet as she releases the pent up emotion of 10, 000 years of turmoil, then Dawanggang will provide the soundtrack.
The band’s sound is full-on and texturally rich, a synthesis of ethereal vocals, throat singing, horsehead-fiddle, hand drums, electronica, zither, eight string banjo, chanting and a plethora of skirling pipes and bells. Song Yuzhe’s’ singing is always heartfelt, his rich baritone voice full and round as he scoops air into his lungs to sculpt words into powerful passionate cries.
Dawanggang created something original, beautiful, feral and at times dissonant and disturbing. Wild Tunes, Stray Rhythms is a highly idiosyncratic album, definitely leftfield, but in a strangely addictive, engagingly quirky way.
Since those early beginning Song Yuzhe has travelled the world performing at some of the biggest music events 0n the calendar (Rothskilde/Womad) been courted by Radio 3, and collaborated with many more musicians including the Edinburgh based, Tinderbox Orchestra, with whom he recorded his 2019 album, Talking About Birds’.
Talking About Birds is an epic 16-minute journey in two parts. From soaring saxophone solos to barren soundscapes, experimental choirs and haunting folk melodies, the recording features over 100 musicians and singers aged 12 to 80. This awe-inspiring collaboration is underpinned by the thundering vocals of lead singer Song Yuzhe and the immense sound of the full Tinderbox Orchestra & backline.
Song continues to grow and develop, still holding onto his rock roots whilst embracing the possibilities of avant garde expression. His work is compelling, refreshingly unique: he walks his own path, he gets my respect.