Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 7, April 30 - May 6

Heineken Beat99  

Rocking the Altar of the Sun
The Altar of the Sun in Ritan Park is being turned into a stage for blues, pop, world music and big band jazz in Chinaís first international open-air music festival - Heineken Beat 99.


Ritan Park will rock the weekend of May 14-16, 1999. Not only is the altar being altered, but the entire park is being renovated and upgraded to hold an expected 10,000 spectators. It has taken a year of organizing to get sponsorship and unprecedented official approval for the three-day music festival, but it seems that the karaoke-crooning cadres of Beijing are finally letting their hair down. Heineken Beat 99 will also be featured in an hour long rockumentary film to be broadcast locally and internationally later this year.


The festivalís eclectic lineup includes:
Friday May 14
The festival starts with the New Orleans-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band. This jazz band seeks to rejuvenate the New Orleans sound in the tradition of Louis Armstrong. Band leader and trumpeter Gregory Davis says he wants people to "be entertained" and claims that The Dirty Dozen delivers some of the best party music in the world (5:30-7 pm).

Next on stage (7:30-9 pm) is Beijing born and bred keyboardist and singer Zang Tiansuo. Zang started his pop career with several of Chinaís earliest rock bands including Budaowen (Donít Wobble) and 1989. During the mid-1980s Zang composed and performed his own songs, several of which continue to be among the most requested by his fans: "Friends", "The Last Salute", and "Time to Depart." His first solo album, Rushing into the Forbidden Zone, was released in 1987. Through the late 1980s, Zang collaborated with other Chinese rock bands to produce the rock/pop compilations China Tide and There is Only One Yangtze. Zang has just released his third album, Raise My Hand and will be singing tracks from it during his Heineken Beat performance.


Zap Mama winds up the Friday night festival performance (9:30-11 pm). Zaire-born, Belgium-bred singer Marie Daulne is known for her wonderful vocals which draw on African, Arabic, European and Indian traditions. Zap Mama and her band fuse these styles with rap, R&B, reggae and pop to produce a sound that truly qualifies as world music.

Saturday May 15
Beijing-based rock and blues band Rhythm Dogs open the concert (5:30-7 pm) with their energetic repertoire of funk, R&B and soul. Founded by singer and harmonica-player John Anderson, Rhythm Dogs features seasoned and adaptable African guitarist Eddie, bassist and lead singer Zhang Ling and keyboardist Kong Hongwei.

Alternative rocker David Garza is enthusiastic about performing on a stage that used to be a religious altar. "Rock ‘n roll is my religion," he says, "I just think of the stage as an altar, and the music as the offering." Garzaís music draws from a variety of genres to create a sound that swings smoothly from a heavy beat to a jazzy lullaby to kaleidoscopic pop (7:30-9 pm).


Dutch duo Hans Dulfer and Saskia Laroo are not preparing anything special for their performance in China. Dulfer says "I always play my ass off." Dulfer intends to play some tracks from his latest studio album Deep Skin - fierce dance music with a bold beat and a hypnotic groove. Saskia Laroo is one of Hollandís most celebrated trumpet players. She is known for a funky dance/acid jazz sound combined with rap (9:30-11 pm).



Sunday May 16
It is not a party unless you invite the army: the next band on the stage is the PLAís own Golden Angle Jazz Band. This band is composed of 22 younger members of the PLA marching band, who perform jazz standards and a few original pieces.


The biggest name at the festival is bluesman Robert Cray. Often called "a blues guitarist with a soul singerís voice," Cray infuses passion into his performances of music based on the rich tradition of southern (US) soul. Crayís distinctive voice and guitar playing have garnered him four Grammy awards and ensured the critical and commercial success of numerous albums and international tours. His band is made up of Jim Pugh on keyboard, Karl Sevareid on bass, Kevin Hayes on drums and the Memphis horns duo Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love. The band recently released Take Your Shoes Off, an album that marks Robert Crayís 25 years as a band leader. The band plans to perform some songs from this album in Beijing as well as old crowd pleasers such as "Smoking Gun" (7:30-9 pm).

Heineken Beatís final act is the French band Sixun, formed by musicians of six dramatically different cultural and musical backgrounds. Their sound combines jazz, rock, African and Arabian influences. The band has been together for 15 years and has produced half a dozen albums, several videos, and performed in places as diverse as New York, Laos and Japan. Sixun are no strangers to the Northern Capital: they have previously performed at the Beijing Jazz Festival (9:30-11 pm).

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