Chinese Pickin’

Red Chamber - Redgrass
Red Chamber – Redgrass
Red Chamber

Redgrass (Za Discs, 2009)

Vancouver has become a hot bed for Chinese musical talent. Numerous leading musicians from mainland China and Hong Kong have moved there in the past two decades. Red Chamber is the latest Chinese supergroup that has come out of Vancouver and the title of their new recording is Redgrass. The four instrumentalists, Mei Han (zheng), Guilian Liu (pipa), Zhimin Yu (ruan), and Geling Jiang (san xian) perform stringband music wizardry exclusively on plucked instruments. The repertoire on Redgrass includes Imperial Court classics of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) as well as contemporary compositions that include bluegrass, eastern European horo, jazz and other genres.

The terms redgrass and Chinagrass have been applied recently to a growing number of Chinese and North American musicians who play acoustic music on stringed instruments, playing music that has its roots in Chinese music and includes bluegrass and other western elements. The CD Regrass includes a guest appearance by bluegrass musicians John Reischman and the Jaybirds.

Mei Han is recognized internationally as one of the leading virtuosi and authorities on world music for the zheng. She has performed with orchestras in China and Canada, and been the subject of national TV and radio specials in Australia, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Singapore and others.

Guilian Liu is one of the world’s premiere pipa (lute) masters. Liu graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing and was the first prize-winner of the Chinese National Instrumental Music Competition in 1989. Liu has performed in Europe, Asia and North America. Her superb expressiveness and impeccable techniques were praised by renowned conductors Herbert von Karajan and Seiji Ozawa. She was featured performing in the Oscar winning documentary From Mao to Mozart – Isaac Stern in China (1979). Liu was the Director of the Shanghai Pipa Society before moving to Canada.

Zhimin Yu is a versatile man (lute) virtuoso. After emigrating to Canada in 1989, she has become one of the most sought Chinese musicians in Vancouver and has performed with the Vancouver Chinese Ensemble, the Silk Road Ensemble, and many other cross cultural projects. Yu is also a gifted composer, actively writing for a wide variety of Chinese and Western ensembles. Yu has single handedly redefined the man repertoire, bringing it into the 21st century.

Geling Jiang is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, who started her professional training at age of 10. After graduated from Wu Han musical Conservatory, she became a member of the Chime Bell Ensemble of Hubei province for 20 years, with which she recorded numerous radio broadcasts, TV programs, and films; and performed tours to the United States, Japan and Singapore. Trained initially as a sanxian (three-string fretless lute) player, she also regularly plays the zheng, pipa and man.

Upcoming tours:
2009 – April-May, Ottawa to Kalamazoo Tour – Ottawa National Arts Centre
July, Malaysia, Singapore – Rainforest World Music Festival
2010 – Feb., Canadian East and Maritime Tour
May, Canadian Northwest Territories Tour

The CD is available from

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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