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Frenchman Zhang Si'an's Cultural Alchemy of Poetry and Sound

*His mother knows him as Jean-Sebastien Hery. Beijing's audio illuminati know him as Zhang Si'an, singer and guitarist in a host of fascinating local music projects.* I sometimes meet an expat in Beijing and think, “Square peg, round hole.” They just weren’t made for this city and this time; they can’t feel the rhythm or hear the melody. I seldom see this with the French, who seem to resonate and move with modern China, often creating a whole new sound. One such new sound is Frenchman Jean-Sébastien Héry, Chinese lyricist, singer and guitarist in four extraordinary cross-cultural music projects including: **The Incredible JSB!, the Amazing Insurance Salesman, the Maix Jazz Band and his solo project, [Zhang Si’an](http://www.myspace.com/zsian).** “I discovered the Beijing music scene in 2000 seeing bands such as Wild Children, Water Pushing Melon, Xiao He, and Second-Hand Roses, says Jean-Sébastien, “I used to play in a bar called The River. Playing there and meeting all those talented people was a great experience. I discovered something different than what we had in the West.” This formative experience inspired Jean-Sébastien to reinvent himself as Zhang Si’an, making the curious and perhaps courageous decision to start singing in Chinese. **To date, Zhang Si’an has produced four albums sung almost exclusively in Chinese.** “Back then I thought, ‘Everybody is singing in English, why not try something else?’ Every language has its beauty. I often use Chinese poetry to write songs. I love the way landscapes, feelings, and moods are described in ancient Chinese poems and I try to give those beautiful old words a new shape and sound.” Songs like, “Lotus,” “Xiwang,” and “My Heart Is Dead” reveal the potency of **Jean-Sébastien’s cultural alchemy as he pours ancient Chinese elixirs into Western musical vessels like rock, folk and even Gypsy-jazz.** To me, Jean Sébastien’s sound is wonderfully eccentric—something like Xiao He and the Moody Blues channeling Django Reinhardt: it’s yearning, fantastical, brainy and fearless. Says Jean-Sébastien, “I think whatever style is played, it should be original and personal. What I try to do is always go further in experimentations. My message is, it's good to mix styles and cultures; it’s a message of understanding.” **In 2010, Jean-Sébastien will record his 5th Zhang Si’an album.** He’ll record another with the Amazing Insurance Salesman and release an album from The Incredible JSB!, all while maintaining his regular performance schedule and weekly Thursday night gigs with the Maix Jazz Band at Enoteca. His next show with the Amazing Insurance Salesmen is Thursday, January 14 at Yugong Yishan. If you haven’t seem him yet, get started. They don’t make them like this just anywhere. #Jean-Sebastien Hery with the Amazing Insurance Salesmen, Thursday, January 14 at [Yugong Yishan](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/nightlife/live_music/has/yugong-yishan/). #Zhang Si'an at [Jianghu Jiuba](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/nightlife/live_music/has/jiang-hu-jiu-ba/), January 22, 9:00 p.m., 30RMB #Zhang Si'an's blog is [here](http://blog.sina.com.cn/zsian) #Zhang Si'an's video for ["Beijing Days"](http://you.video.sina.com.cn/b/11442450-1355895337.html) #Zhang Si'an's video for ["Ji Dan Chao Fan"](http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/4egD8wl_5HU/). #**All Zhang Si'an's music can be purchased [here](amazon.com)

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