Singing the blues from China... in Sheffield

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Blues music usually brings to mind players from the American deep south, or the later, home-grown masters of the genre such as Eric Clapton - certainly not China.

But this could be about to change.

This weekend China’s foremost representatives of the blues will share the stage at Sheffield City Hall with an award-winning British bluesman as part of the OISOI Music Festival, a new ‘cross-cultural community event’.

The Chinese businessman behind the festival, Jay Wang - among the backers of the £65million New Era Square development near Bramall Lane - aims to make the festival an annual affair.

On the bill is musician, singer and songwriter Zhang Ling - aka Big John - who has been a well-known figure on the Chinese music scene since the 1980s.

Formerly the bassist in the band of China’s most famous rock star Cui Jian, Zhang later became known as China’s ‘godfather of blues’.

He started actively introducing the genre to audiences at home, and his song Drinking Blues became an instant hit. Sharing the stage with him will be Li Qi, who came to international attention through the TV programme The Voice of China last year.

Flying the flag for the UK blues scene will be the Trevor Sewell Band.

“The event is meant to create a platform for musical and cultural interaction,” said Jay Wang, director of the Tai Sun Oriental Group.

“These musicians are among the best, both in China and the UK.

“It will be a very exciting blues and jazz night for the audience to enjoy.

“Hopefully the OISOI Music Festival will become an annual event.”

The first season of the festival is also intended to celebrate the forthcoming opening of the city centre’s OISOI oriental food market in July.

The show is set to start at 7pm on Saturday at the City Hall, with doors opening at 6pm.

Tickets are on sale at the TaiSun supermarket, WaDing, City Hall box office, Sheffield Confucius Institute and the Sheffield University Students’ Union.

Audience members are also invited to join the aftershow party for a glass of champagne - as well as a chance to join the performers for a jam session on stage.