DOGS: Hello! Please introduce yourself and the band.
My name is Wang Niejing and I was born in South China. My name has my mum’s surname in it to mark their love. I started playing in rock bands at the age of 17. My band’s name is The Herdsmen and we formed in 2010. I’m a Lahu and Lahus call me Zhaa. So do the band members. My other friends call me Ajing. I quit my job as a policeman 13 years ago and have been concentrating on creating my own music ever since. The addition of a Russian guy to our band infused electronic sounds to our natural style of music, giving us an electronic yet natural folk sound. Currently, our band includes a number of different Chinese minorities and we attempt to absorb all kinds of influences. We collect different music instruments from around the world and build these into our music. Our front man is a Pumi. There are only 30000 people in the whole world who are Pumi. Pumi music is very special and their instruments are very unique as well. They use goat-headed fiddles as their ancestors adored goats. We have also added a dance element to our music and we are one of only a few bands to have a live dancer. Our live performances are therefore sonically and visually interesting.
我叫王聂晶，我在中国南部出生，父亲姓王，母亲姓聂，我是他们的结晶。十七岁开始组建摇滾乐队. 现在的乐队叫牧羊人（the herdsmen），于2010年组建。我是拉祜族，我的族人叫我扎阿，乐队里我也叫扎阿，通常朋友叫我阿晶，现在我已经辞去我13年的警察工作，专职做自己的乐队。我们的乐队原来有一个俄罗斯成员，他用电子结合了我们的原生态音乐元素，做成原生态电子民谣。今天我们的乐队是不同的民族组成的纯原生态乐队，我们搜集了全世界不同民族的各种乐器，我们把它们不同的声音融入到现在的音乐里。现在的主唱是一个普米族，他的族人在地球上只有近30000人口，他们的音乐很特别，他们的乐器也非常别致，因为祖先崇拜的是山羊。我们也在普米族的音乐里加入其他民族的音乐元素。当然，我们的乐队一直很特别，因为我们加入了舞蹈，我们是中国不多见的加入舞蹈元素的乐队，我们的现场可听，可看。
DOGS: Please tell me more about your band members and their roles in the band.
Our front man Rong Ba A Fan is a Pumi and, as I mentioned before, plays goat headed fiddle. Niejing Wang is a Lahu and plays all kinds of minority instruments. Chang Sheng provides backing vocals and plays fiddle. Our drummer is called Nan Ding. Our bassist is called Azhi. Our dancer goes by the name of Xueyan Shi.
DOGS: Are your family supportive of your decision to play music? Sometimes in the West families prefer their children to choose a more secure occupation.
My family is very supportive of whatever I want to do. However, being a musician requires lots of time being put aside for promotion. And being a professional musician also means a lot of work in terms of earning a living and creating a successful band. Now, we have achieved that goal and our only job is playing in the band.
DOGS: Do you play all over China – how does your music go down in different places?
Touring we have visited a lot of different places. In China currently, a more traditional style of music is not necessarily very popular but people often change their minds after attending our gigs. I think that is because our music is so unique. Our music is not always based around four chords and our melodies are very beautiful. We have actually toured China twice now and have been invited to play abroad as well. In China, we have done quite well from participating in big national TV contest type shows. We have played at big music festivals such as Zhangbei, MIDI, and Made in Chengdu.
DOGS: We love the music we have heard but obviously this is not our mother tongue. Are you singing in Mandarin?
The music we put up on YouTube is in the Pumi language and some songs are Pumi songs. Pumi music history is very old. Some of these songs can be dated back 100 years ago. Some are even dated back as far as 500 years.
DOGS: How does the songwriting process work?
Our work is based on Pumi music, combining and merging our creative input, channeling this into the live music experience. We try and preserve traditional melodies and chord structures but with a modern twist.
DOGS: Tell us more about the types of gigs you have played.
We play around China and have been given opportunities to play abroad as well. We like international music festivals and we also like Chinese events. We have embraced both inside and outside performance and we like playing on campuses at different schools and universities.
DOGS: Has your band ever played outside China?
Our band has played in Russia and Edinburgh in the UK. We had worked with our Russian friend to release the Tribal Trip album in 2013. We then signed with Shanghai World Music Jihuiming Cultural Broadcasting Company and released our band’s debut album in 2015. We have enjoyed every gig we have played abroad. People abroad have responded really well to our style of music and seem to really like us. Representing China, we were invited to play at Edge Festival in Edinburgh in 2014.
DOGS: What does the immediate future hold for your band?
We are working on our album at the moment and you can listen to our music on Douban, Baidu and Wangyi and 163.com, as well as YouTube.
DOGS: Thanks so much for your time! This has been really fascinating.
For more info and music on the Herdsmen check out the links below here: