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February 21, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Ask a Grey Wolf

Hailing from Xinjiang, an autonomous region in north-western China, Askar Grey Wolf is a pioneering rock band with a distinctive sound.

The group is a mix of Uighurs and Han Chinese and their unique sound is created through the combination of traditional Uyghur instruments such as the Rawap, the long-necked stringed Tambur and the round bodied fiddle Ghijak, along with standard Western rock instruments. Since forming in the mid-90s, the band has captivated audiences throughout China, Europe and Australia with their refreshing and insightful performances. Salient spoke to lead singer Askar before the band’s first visit to New Zealand shores.

Can you describe how and when Askar Grey Wolf formed as a band?

Askar Grey Wolf has been renowned in the Chinese music scene since the late 90s. Most of the members work for free and we all have jobs to do in our daily lives. We have known each other for a long time and formed a band because of our shared passion for music. Each song seeks to combine multiple musical cultures, including Han, Latin, and Western rock music.

You are currently based in Beijing. What is the music scene in China like? Is it a difficult profession to break into?

There sure have been lots of difficulties, but it’s good to see that things are getting better now.

Describe your musical upbringing. Do you have any particular memories of when you decided to become a musician?

No, not really. I just go with the flow.

Can you describe Askar Grey Wolf’s sound in five words or fewer?

Unique, charismatic, passionate, loving.

How have you incorporated traditional Uighur instruments into your music?

Every Uighur sings with instruments when they are children; it is an innate part of the culture. I combine traditional Uighur instruments with electric guitars and keyboards to create an exciting blend of Uighur, world music and modern rock.

Can you describe some of the traditional Uighur instruments that you use in your music and how they influence the overall sound?

It can be really different when recording the sound compared to playing them for live concerts. It’s definitely up to the music as to what instrument is used.

You have previously performed in Australia and parts of Europe, how have you found the response to your music by overseas listeners?

The crowds from overseas are fascinated by the soul of our music. Every performance has been well accepted as a superstar concert.

Are you influenced in particular by any other musicians or bands from China or overseas?

Pink Floyd.

What is the most rewarding or exciting aspect of being a musician?

To show our feelings and to express how we feel about life.

You have recently finished recording your fifth album. In what ways do you believe your style has changed or developed over the years?

Through a new way of arranging the music, I believe the new album will express a fresh understanding about life.

What can audiences expect by going to one of your live concerts?

They can expect to hear some fresh music elements they’ve never heard before.

What do you hope to communicate through your music?

Love for life, longing for peace and to protect the earth.

Askar Grey Wolf will be performing a one-off concert in Wellington on Wednesday 23 February at San Francisco Bathhouse, 171 Cuba St, 8pm – 11pm. Supported by local acts Orchestra of Spheres and Taikoza. General Admission $15

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