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Long Shen Dao
Dragon. Spirit. Tao.
The innovative Eastern-style reggae band Long Shen Dao was founded in 2007 and is considered by audiences and media alike to be ‘China‘s first authentic reggae band’. It consists of members who have absorbed the essence of their traditional culture and applied these Eastern philosophies into a synthesis of modern music.
Established in their native tongue of Mandarin Chinese, their music is well-paired with the inclusion of traditional Chinese instrumentation that is then fused into the basis of reggae and later peppered with rock, electro, Drum’n Bass, Ska and Dub. The result is a completely unique creation that can only be described as ‘Chinese reggae.’
In recent years, the band has been invited to perform at every major music festival and artistic event across China and have won several awards. They have also represented China on tours to
New Zealand (2012), Korea (2013) and Canada (2013) and performed at various cultural and musical events. As creators of a modern merge between Eastern and Western music, Long Shen Dao’s source of energy and creativity is the firm believe in a unchangeable universal power of both love and nature.
Long Shen Dao can be translated as three separate words: Dragon. Spirit. Tao. Also interpreted as “The Way of the Dragon Spirit,” Long Shen Dao is made up of six uncomplicated, down-to-earth young people who appreciate the free, lighthearted and borderless spirit of reggae music.
Musically, while the central style is reggae, Long Shen Dao’s music is also inspired by rock, dub, hip-hop, world music, ska and electronic music. They also regularly invite a guest player to perform live on a traditional Chinese instrument called the guzheng (zither).
In the 1990’s, each member of the group made a name for himself within the Chinese rock music community and recorded at least one studio record with various bands. After experimenting with many types of music, each member felt that reggae music was the best form of expression for them, especially given the current global world in which diverse definitions of value and spirituality exist.
In 2007, the members of Long Shen Dao all fell in love with the reggae style. Their first Beijing performance in January of 2008 was sold out. They are considered the first official Chinese reggae band and this has garnered them a lot of attention in their home country and abroad.
After having released their first album ‘Tai Chi Reggae’ in January of 2012, their subsequent rise to fame has been swift. Performances all across China at dozens of major music festivals as well as tours to New Zealand (2012), Korea (2013), Canada (2013, 2014) have all been extremely successful. Plans are in the works to return to New Zealand (2015) and enter Europe for the first time (2015).
In 2014, they signed a deal with the biggest record company in China, ‘Modern Sky Music.’ As a result, 2015 will also see a new album released by the band, their second full-length CD.
Lead singer, Guo Jian, explains that while he and most of his band mates sport dreadlocks, the group members are not Rastafarians. He goes on to express that reggae music, like a warm breeze, is
accessible to people no matter where in the world they come from. Lyrics contain references to the understanding of love and spiritual freedom and include aspects of Taoism.
“Our music may be ‘reggae with Chinese characteristics’ but we feel that the guzheng is in no way different from the guitar,” says Guo Jian. “The emphasis is not on where an instrument comes from, but that all music belongs to a globally shared culture.”
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IRIE. You are from Beijing, China and are considered China’s first ever reggae band. How did you get into reggae?
Long Shen Dao: We love reggae because reggae music sounds warm and comfortable. It easily drives people to dance with the music. It is always about love, peace or the attention of life and society. All those positive things make us like Reggae more. It motivates us to create the Reggae music which truly belongs to us. You can discover our thoughts and feelings in our works.
IRIE. Long Shen Dao translates to ‘The Way of the Dragon God. Can you share with us the meaning behind your name?
Long Shen Dao: ‘Dragon’ is the totem of China, which symbolizes Chinese spirit and the way of thinking. ‘God’ is a carrier which is very spiritual and close to the heart and belief. It seems to me that ‘Dragon’ and ‘God’ are the Yin and Yang or the symbols of consciousnss and heart, just like the exchange and clash between traditional Chinese mode of thinking and world culture. And ‘the Way’ is the philosophy and path we need to figure out i.e. the S-shaped curve on the yin-yang symbol. That is the reason why we named our last album ‘Tai Chi Reggae’.
IRIE. Did you grow up listening to reggae music? And who are some of your musical influences?
Long Shen Dao: Rather than enthusiastically pursue rock and roll and the restless lifestyle that accompanies it, we started listening massively to Reggae when we were 20 years old. The most influential musician we listen to was Bob Marley, of course. We also listened to the Reggae musicians from Europe and New Zealand.
IRIE. Your sound is a fusion of reggae and traditional Chinese music which has been described as Chinese reggae. Can you explain?
Long Shen Dao: Although the inclusion of Chinese traditional instruments make our music sound different, those sound are very natural and familiar to us or anyone who is Chinese. With the fusion of Chinese instruments and Reggae, we wanted to make breakthrough in form and genre. We hope the listeners can find love and warmth from our songs.
IRIE. Is it true that each of you have had success in music before becoming Long Shen Dao?
Long Shen Dao: Yes, each of us come from different popular Chinese rock band and that was very helpful for us in forming Long Shen Dao.
IRIE. Is there a new album in the works for Long Shen Dao?
Long Shen Dao: Yes!!! We are recording the new album now. There will be ten tracks in the upcoming album and 70 percent has been completed. The recording process was temporarily interrupted because of our European tour. We will continue after we return to China.
IRIE. Where can we see you performing live in 2015?
Long Shen Dao: Our European Tour just finished. We performed at Festival Mundial and Glastonbury and a lot of big Chinese music festivals all over the country.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say to the IRIE audience?
Long Shen Dao: We hope your audience like our music and wish them happiness every day. Love will connect us together!
IRIE. Much Respect!