Shekou in Shenzhen, which once was a quiet small fishing Village is now developing at an enormous pace and is actually considered as one of China's most expat friendly town. Shekou is also home to different kinds of musicians and artists coming from all over making it a melting pot of various performing arts. Although bars and venues with live music in Shekou are not as plentiful like its nearby neighbor Hong Kong, Shekou's growing music community is equally as active and intense.
Aside from most bars with in-house bands from the Philippines providing quality entertainment and performances night after night, expats from other countries also perform at other venues and on some weekdays you can see other locals and foreigners alike at Open Mic or Jam Nights giving it their all on stage. A lot of musicians who participate on jam nights are not professional performers but that only means because they are not doing it for a living as most of them could deliver outstanding performances when they hit the stage. From pilots, teachers, architects, engineers, business owners and others, one could see them transform on these jam nights to become stars of their own right for that moment in time. Most bars give way to jammers at certain points on a night, but at the moment, most jam and open mic sessions happen at The Blu Bamboo, Ghost Bar, The Boat House and Trainspotting.
After party-parties at other venues and gatherings among musicians and friends are quite common and most know each other by their first names. Cook-outs, barbecue parties and home food-fests usually happen on Sundays and Mondays when most people have their days off, moving from one flat venue to another and an endless exchange of stories, riffs and jokes is the norm.
From rock, blues, country, folk, pop, reggae and more, Shekou's small and humble music community is well able to provide one with good musical entertainment with any of these genres. Some bands and solo performers are diverse and offers a variety of musical styles while others are purists only playing music from their preferred genre, but most if not all of them are worth the time to hear and watch live.
Another thing about the music community in Shekou is that it is home to some world famous stars, and I mean that literally. Let's start with the super-band Boston whose founding member, arranger and drummer Jim Mazdea owns a bar called Ghost Bar situated just at the A-Best Grocery block just steps away from The Village, another live music venue. Then we have Mario of the Shadettes from the 60s which later on became Nazareth, another band who literally help build the pillars of rock music itself. We also have Steve Jones, an amazing guitar player from a known recording band in the 80s called Lone Star which made its mark in the UK and is now helping Kaktooz (a Filipino band) with their gigs during the absence of their guitarist. Pilot, bassist and vocalist Alex Zamora who's a regular figure in Shekou's nightlife scene when not up in the air was also part of a recording band in Mexico which toured the USA. The Philippines also has its share of recording artists residing in Shekou but I might tackle that story at some other time. Then you have Martin, Shekou's ultimate bluesman from Brazil; truly an act to see, hear and feel. A lot of people also know John Neira who performs with Dave Stone of The Outlaws at Spurs plays country and rock tunes, but what most don't know is that John is actually a great slack key guitar player who had an album out in Hawaii. I'm sure there's more, but at the moment they're whom I can remember and whom I know in person. Just meeting and and knowing these great musicians personally is great enough as it is, imagine performing with them on stage and sharing a drink or two after a gig? Well, I have had the privilege of enjoying those rare moments not just once but from time to time... only in Shekou, probably a place with the friendliest musicians on the planet.
Author: Dennis Briones
This article also appeared on The Shenzhen Standard.