Friday, May 04, 2007


Well, this week got off to a great start.

There's a bar that's been growing on me lately. It's a little like the beginning of a new love affair. Almost without realising it, I find myself seeing her more and more often. I reminisce dreamily about the last time. I look forward eagerly to the next time. I become ridiculously excited by an unexpected invitation to go out.

My new favourite is called Jianghu. It's a little off the beaten track (though a walkable distance from my home), tiny, and not advertised in any of the listings magazines - strictly a word-of-mouth thing. But the word is getting around. It's got a good sound system (and its own upright piano), so it's developing quite a following on the music circuit. (Zhou Yunpeng, a blind folk singer who's something of a local legend was "hanging out" there a few weeks back.) It's in a siheyuan, one of the traditional Beijing 'courtyard' houses, with a narrow room down each of the long sides of the rectangular space, and a small open patio in between. There are increasingly regular music shows in the main bar, the room at the rear; the first room seems to be more of a chill-out space, and perhaps an area for eating. Now that summer's here, the patio needs to be checked out during the day too.

Its cosy and comfortable, with - for once - tastefully understated decor. The service is friendly (it's so small that the young boss, Tian Xiao, and his charming girlfriend - who speaks a little bit of English - can handle everything themselves). And the drinks are cheap. This place is a gem.

But the main reason I've started going there over the past few months is that my guitar-playing buddies Daniel and Nico (very cool guys and superb musicians who have a great vibe together - they play acoustic jazz with a French influence, mostly in the Django Rheinhardt idiom: marvellous party tunes!) have started playing there regularly. Thursday is usually their night, but this week they played on Monday. It was a 'special' gig, thrown together at very short notice (I only got a text message about it that afternoon): the guys jamming with a pair of accordionists they'd been introduced to recently.

The music was fantastic (they got under way a bit later than usual, but then played two long sets, going on until 1.30am or so). The female accordionists were strikingly attractive (one of them was from Quebec; what I said the other week about the French also seems to apply to les Quebecoises!). The audience was intimate but lively (almost all friends of the musicians: the place only holds a couple of dozen or so at the very most, and feels pleasantly full with half of that!). And Daniel - determined to start this May holiday week off in style - bought a bottle of whiskey for the 'fan club'. I was already invigorated when I arrived, having walked for 35 minutes through one of the heaviest showers we've seen in Beijing in many months (and declining to use my umbrella!), and the feeling just got better and better. One of the mellowest evenings I have enjoyed in Beijing.

Pity I had to work all day in a recording studio the next day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh! I can understand the love affair with Jianghu... I rave about it to anyone who will listen. Luckily, it's of little interest to most Beijingers. (Lucky because I like the place better when it's quiet... I mean, I want them to do well, but I don't want to lose that intimate feeling of having the band play just to you.)

So, you finally got to see/hear the accordionists - did they steal the show?

It sounds like I really missed out on an amazing week in Beijing. I hope this is just a teaser for what the summer holds in store.