As folk heartthrob Hao Yun began snapping pictures like a giddy schoolgirl of Ma Tiao as each emotionally charged tone left his breathe, it became clear to me how much this scruffy long-haired Xingjian, meant to many of the artists still kicking up dust today. Unbeknownst to me, Ma Tiao, has been around for quite some time, well over a decade, and he was here, at Tango, to present his forthcoming new album, entitled 高手 which translates to Master. While not a rousing concert, the night turned into a more intimate affair as friends, idols, and fellow folksters paid tribute to Ma Tiao as he went back and froth between new material and hits of old. Only packed with perhaps only forty or so avid fans, young campus students, kids tagging along with their parents whomost likely went through their campus life listening to his music, and artists and friends who came to support, this was Ma Tiao’s night indeed.
It’s a shame I was more impressed by the special guests, as Ma Tiao does have plenty to offer, but speaking from the point of view of someone who had never heard of his music prior to tonight, it felt that there were two musicians up there on stage, each trying to take the spotlight away from the other. The first was an ‘old school’ rocker, whose rough grainy voice complemented the pristine, natural music that was full of life. The other, simply, a ‘old’ rocker who was churning out all too polished folk songs that tried too hard to be hip, swift, and modern. The first, comfortable with himself; the second, struggling to keep up with the beat. The highlight by far was 塔吉汗, a dusty fun buoyant, crackling tune full of Xinjiang flavor.
The guests on the other hand were an absolute delight, with special shout outs to Chuan Zi and Hao Yun. The name Chuan Zi may not be instantly recognizable but his music is –
Sincere, simple – I swear I’ve heard countless KTV goers take a crack at that song. There is a real gravity in the local Beijinger’s voice (who at one point spent 8 years in jail here) that is all at once compassionate, sympathetic, and earnest. Give a man a guitar and a mic and it’s amazing sometimes what emerges – Grizzly Adams would be proud.
On the other end of the range, I’m continuing to be impressed with the young charismatic Hao Yun – I might just have a man crush on him. If my lady’s wide-eyed gaze seemed to say the same.
It’s easy to see why – laid back, charming, and smooth, Hao Yun is for lack of a better word, hip to the younger generation of beijingers on the grind. With a genuine heart that’s always on his sleeve and lyrics to back it up Hao Yun effortlessly put a smile on each and everyone’s face. Check out his song “卖艺的小青年”, with the running notion that when you have no money when you have no time, and when you have no time you have no money. Too true.
At the end of it all, this was still Ma Tiao’s show, and he ended on a high note, inviting just about all his friends onstage in join him in a sing along. Ma Tiao may have not won me over tonight, but I’m sure it didn’t him – his legions of fans were there, and stuck by his every word.
Check out some more videos of the night below including “高手”and “神在叫你” by Ma Tiao and 有风 by Lou Bing.