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Xiaojuan's songs in the key of life

By Zhang Junmian (

08:43, August 24, 2012

Xiaojuan, the lead vocalist of the independent folk band "Xiaojuan & Residents from the Valley", has forged her own unique path through the purity of her music and her life-affirming attitude. (Photo by Zhang Junmian/

For eleven years, Xiaojuan, the lead vocalist of the independent Chinese folk band "Xiaojuan & Residents from the Valley", and her soul mate, guitarist Xiaoqiang have been singing regularly in the evening at Moon River Resort's buffet restaurant in Tongzhou District, Beijing, six days a week, from Tuesday to Sunday.

Xiaojuan has been performing in Beijing since 1993, when she first came to Beijing from Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province. She decided to stay in Beijing and pursue her dream of becoming a folk singer. "We first sang at Lieqimen Beer House [now dismantled] in Zhongguancun, an information technology hub in Beijing," she recalled. "Then we performed temporarily at one of the Rogers' chain restaurants, and then later, in 2001, we began performing at Moon River."

Despite the change of location, many of Xiaojuan's die-hard fans from her Zhongguancun days have followed her to Moon River, inspired by both her music and her message. It appears the feeling is mutual. "Actually they are also my friends who were with me as I grew up," said Xiaojuan. "We gave each other strength to face up to life's different challenges."

From her days as an obscure bar singer to her current status as the Chinese mainland's most renowned female folk singer, Xiaojuan simply loves singing, no matter how large or small the audience. "Singing has become part of my life, and I never really chased success or stardom," she said. "I just do what I like every day, that is, singing, and it brings me great happiness and contentment."

Influenced largely by folk bands such as Brothers Four and the 1960s American trio of Peter, Paul and Mary, Xiaojuan is best-known for her poised, unpretentious and deeply-moving singing style. Critics have written glowing of her songs, describing them as being like "the gentle wind from the valley, which has a magic power to heal the spent mind and restless spirit in a world of hustle and bustle".

Her songs are a reflection of her thoughts and feelings and are often accented by references to natural scenery. She is also known for her interpretations of other classical folk songs.

Xiaojuan, who also suffers from infantile paralysis, has also overcome a number of hardships since her move to the capital. "Life was really hard for me in 1993 when I first came to Beijing," she recalled. "In the most extreme instance, I had only 50 yuan for my daily expenses after I'd paid my rent, and I had to stretch that out over a whole month," she said. "Yet I never thought of giving up singing. You know, you feel fulfilled when you are doing something you really like. "

Xiaojuan majored in accounting at university, but she sensed that it would not make her happy in the long term.

Then in 1998, Xiaojuan and her partners founded the band “Xiaojuan & Residents from the Valley”. Besides Xiaojuan and Xiaoqiang, the band now has two other members: Xiaoguang on flute, harmonica and keyboard, and Arai Soichiro on drums.

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