Dawanggang, a Wild Leap Into The Unknown

Dawanggang - Wild Tune Stray Rhythm ~ Huang Qiang Zou Ban
Dawanggang – Wild Tune Stray Rhythm ~ Huang Qiang Zou Ban

Wild Tune Stray Rhythm – Huang Qiang Zou Ban (Jaro Medien, 2013)

I’m going to be upfront right here in the beginning. If you are looking for some light, sweet music, a little something to serve as background world music ambiance for your next neighborhood barbecue, this review is not for you. Don’t run. Just back up slowly and find another review.

For you hardcore music junkies huddle close, I just got a copy of Wild Tune Stray Rhythm (Huang Qiang Zou Ban) by Dawanggang off the Jaro Medien label. Led by musician and composer Song Yuzhe, formerly of the rock group Mutuigua (Wood Pushing Melon) and the improvisational ensemble Meizhigua (Rose Melon) with artist Xiao, Dawanggang’s is intent on setting Chinese folk on its ear, as well as inspiring a cross-pollination of folk traditions with band members from Inner Mongolia, India, Xianjiang and Beijing.

Huang qiang zou ban or Wild Tune Stray Rhythm is a Chinese opera term for music that is slightly out of tune and rhythm. And, if anything summed up this recording, it’s that phrase alone. Astonishing, quirky, razor-edged are just a few descriptions I’d go with at first listen to Wild Tune Stray Rhythm. But don’t be fooled by first impressions, because there is some wildly rich music on this recording. Jam packed with horse-head fiddle, cittern, throat singing, eight-stringed banjo, mouth harp and some vocals that sound like they might just tumble off a cliff at any moment, Wild Tune Stray Rhythm is powerful and potent.

There’s no polite entry into Wild Tune Stray Rhythm. No, Song Yuzhe tosses the listener straight into the “Meeting Two Wizards on the Mountain Road,” that brims over with Hu Gejiletu on horse-head fiddle and throat singing, Song Yuzhe on cittern or mandolin and vocals and Adil on ghijek or spiked fiddle.

Wild Tune Stray Rhythm gets even wilder with “Talking About Birds (2).” It’s the instrumentation and construction of this track that’s truly astonishing. “Liberate No Man’s Land” is equally bold with Song Yuze on eight-stringed banjo, half zither, manda, sampler and Li Tieqiao on saxophone.

If no man’s land had a soundtrack this would surely be it with its atmospheric feel punctuated by nature sounds. Each track get better with dips into the exotic, like the dizzy journey on “Four Ways” or the deliciously dark “Lion’s Tomb” fashioned out of mouth harp, half zither and sampling or the charmingly dense folk feel of “For Children.” Wild Tune Stray Rhythm finds its inner loveliness with tracks like “Think Bear” with Song Yuzhe on manda and cittern and “Money Gods,” based on the Taoist and Buddhist chants to the gods of money.

Yang Ji’s soaring vocals sets a soothing tone to this carefully crafted track. Equally wonderful is the track “Talking About Birds (2)” with Song Yuzhe on guitar and vocals, Hu Gejiletu on horse-head fiddle, Adil on ghijek, Zhang Yang on drums and Indian born Rani on vocals, where every bit of musical space is used up emotionally and pursued with wild abandoned.

Compelling and evocative, Wild Tune Stray Rhythm is indeed a wild leap into the unknown.

Buy the Wild Tune Stray Rhythm MP3s

Buy the Wild Tune Stray Rhythm CD

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.


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