The remote province Yunnan in South Western China is thought to have been the inspiration for James Hilton’s Shangri-la in his classic novel Lost Horizon. Since their formation in this region in 2000, Shan Ren, literally “mountain men”, have become one of China’s top indie folk bands. With members representing some of the smaller ethnic groups, the four-piece aims to promote and preserve the colourful and diverse heritage of Yunnan and Guizhou’s many ethnic tribes through original compositions and re-workings of local folk melodies.
Shan Ren fuse indigenous music with modern styles, while showcasing a variety of traditional instruments such as the Xianzi, Qinqin and Dabiya (four-stringed plucked instruments) and Xianggu and Sun drum (percussion). Gaining popularity in Beijing’s small but vibrant folk scene on the strength of their energetic live shows, the band were invited to appear in front of 5,000 people at Cathedral Square for the Barcelona Festival Asia in 2010. In 2011, Shanren also presented showcases at MIDEM in Cannes and Liverpool Sound City, UK. After their track “Thirty Years” became the song of Festival Asia Barcelona 2010, Shan Ren continued to attain international recognition, being featured on two releases by World Music Network – Rough Guide to China 2012 and Rough Guide to the Undiscovered World 2012.
Shan Ren were rated as No. 4 hottest international act at Canadian Music Week 2012 which they attended as part of a twelve date North American tour. During this tour, they attracted some serious media attention including Huffington Post, Washington Post and National Geographic who described the band as “The closest thing to The Pogues that we have ever heard a Chinese band come”. Since then the band have been invited to perform all over the world, the Bali Spirit-Festival（Indonesia), Turtle Island Festival (Japan), WomAdelaide (Australia) and Womad Taranaki (New Zealand) among others.
Their 2013 album 听山 (China), Left Foot Dance of the Yi and other Chinese Folk Anthems was nominated for best rock album at the 2013 MIDI music awards and was released in January 2014 by World Music Network. The band is a staple headliner at China’s major music festivals and has been featured on a wide range of domestic TV shows reaching an audience in the tens of millions. Wild, eccentric, and charismatic, Shan Ren are true ambassadors for China’s ethnic diversity and emerging musical creativity.