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2007-01-21 Tracking Life Through Music: Wan Xiaoli
    2007-01-22 13:08:33     CRIENGLISH.com
Broadcasting time: 2007-01-21

Welcome to this edition of China Beat on China Radio International. I'm your host Xu Jue.

In recent years, there've been waves trying to revive folk on the Chinese music scene. Names like Wild Child (Ұ), Zhou Yunpeng and Xiao He or Wang Juan are frequently heard in China's indie folk circles. And it's no rare occasion to see such figures giving vivid, live performances in local pubs. Well, the person featured on today's China Beat is one such singer, actually singer/songwriter. And after getting a taste with one of his recent works, we'll talk more about the star folkie of today, Wan Xiaoli. This is "Top."

That's the song "Top" off of folksinger Wan Xiaoli's latest album. I hope this slowly revolving triple-metered tune brings a relaxing opening to today's China Beat.

Off of his second album, the revolving "Top" also leads us to a retrospect of our featured folkie's life. Wan Xiaoli was born in 1971 in Hebei Province. He became interested in music at a very young age, and started to play the harmonica and classical guitar. In the early 90s, he worked for a local liquor company. Though it was an ordinary job, he spent his extra time getting good experience - playing with some local performance troupes.

Upon reaching the age of 26, Wan Xiaoli decided to leave his hometown for the capital city. It was here that he finally became a professional pub singer.

Let's have a taste of how Wan Xiaoli performs live. Here's a live recording of his song "Fox."
Tambourine clapping, guitar picking, vocal rapping, background chatting and laughingall of these combine for a vivid picture of Wan Xiaolis live performance of the song "Fox."

After singing in local pubs in Beijing for around 5 years, in 2002 Wan Xiaoli's talents and popularity among pub-goers finally won him a contract with the alternative music label Badhead under The Modern Sky Company.

Before the end of the year, Wan Xiaoli's debut album was released. It was recorded during one of his live shows at the former River Bar. And the previous song "Fox" is right off this album, and also opened that show. Coming up next we'll hear the song "Girl, Stupid As You Are."

That's the song "Girl, Stupid As You Are." The song can be regarded as one of the very few love songs from the folksinger/songwriter Wan Xiaoli. But of course the folk-flavored love song is very different from the pop or rock tunes you may be familiar with. In its casual lyrics that seem to prattle away, love is no longer a refined fairy tale, but an uncouth however sincere feeling.

The next song is also a reflection of this folkie's secret and subtle feelings. It's called "Mama." 

That's the song, "Mama," which some may say reflects Wan Xiaoli's attitude about his vagabond life in the vast city of Beijing.

In his songs, Wan Xiaoli depicts the lives of laid-off workers, mocks political events, questions human nature, and expresses his longing for nature and rural life. He records everything, from what he sees and hears, to what he thinks, in his music.

The song you've just heard is called "Laid Off." Talking about the life of a laid-off worker, the song doesn't sound sad.

Instead, the story is told with a sense of humor, however black.

As a pub singer, Wan Xiaoli got lots of chances to see how people lived life in a modern city. In the next song, "Qi Zha," or Seven Drafts of Beer, Wan Xiaoli depicts a rather common scene in pubs. But the chatting between the two young people in the song reveals their inner emptiness. Here it goes, "Qi Zha."

That's the song "Qi Zha," off of folksinger/songwriter Wan Xiaoli's first album. Now we'll hear the last song, also the title track of Wan Xiaoli's first album, "To and Fro." After that we'll proceed to a new stage in our featured folkie's musical career.

Welcome back to China Beat with today's featured singer/songwriter Wan Xiaoli. At the end of 2005, Wan Xiaoli signed with the indie music label The 13th Month. Since then he's been writing new material and holding solo or joint performances as usual. Around the beginning of 2007, he released his second album, "All Things Are Better Than You Imagine." And here comes the title track.

From the name of the album, "All Things Are Better Than You Imagine," you can probably guess this folkie has somehow changed his former sarcastic mood into a relatively positive one. Perhaps Wan Xiaoli finally realized how lucky he's been compared to many of his peers. Still, luck may be the outcome of ones diligence, along with a bit of talent of course.
Now here's the song "Winter Sky."

Wan Xiaoli is rather thin and tall. When his hair is long, he's said to look like the swordsmen usually depicted in heroic tales. The only difference is he doesn't use a sword or spear to draw blood, but rather his guitar and harmonica to dig into the surface of life and find out what's buried inside.

And now, after a decade of being a folksinger/songwriter, Wan Xiaoli is more steady and deep in his perceptions.

I'd like to wind up today's China Beat with the song "Graveyard," the lyrics of which are adopted from poet Gu Cheng's work. As usual, you can reach me at chinabeat@crifm.com. Thanks for being with us again. I'm your host Xu Jue. Take care and see you soon!


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