Jah Rootman Live at the Hemp House

Guilin is where it's at when it comes to Dub Reggae in China, well Yangshou to be exact. Having caught a great show from Jiang Liang and MC3 at Lan Town last August I was well up for checking out anyone touring the country coming from the gulin scene. Jah Rootman describes Jiang Liang as his “friend and teacher” on his Douban page so it was definitely worth a look.


On arrival at the Hemp House the first thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the crowd, there were only a handful of people in the place. Nothing like the near 100 strong crowd that crammed into Lan Town for Jiang Liang. I’m not sure why the place was so empty, my own reasoning is that there are simply too many options for people on a Friday night. I was torn between 4 live music events that night going on in Jah bar, Xiong Mao and Little bar. It’s not that I’m complaining, far from it. Just if we are going to have different stuff going on at the same time then, some bars on some nights are going to be empty. Competition for what is for the most part the same group of people is fierce.


So it was never going to be a banging show with a small crowd but I still wanted to stick around and hear the guy play. The first 10 minutes were interesting, some crazy beats and spinning off in ridiculous tangents, varying from snails pace to speed of light almost beat by beat. This didn’t last long though as eventually people started to arrive and take their place on the dance floor. These guys were a small group of MCs and their mates. Jah Rootman leaves an open invitation on his Douban page for local MCs to come along on the night and get up and do their thing, and these guys responded.


This was the way it was to go then, at least for the two hours that I stayed and listened. It was MCs all night long with JR keeping it moving, just about, with basic generic dub beats. I’m not going to knock these guys ability as rappers as they were amateurs giving it a go, however, it was clear that were used to hip -hop music. They rapped along to dub beats in hip-hop timing and rhythm that was excruciating at times. None of this was helped by the sound system in the hemp house, for bass music it’s terrible.


I’m not going to lie, it was disappointing but part of me hates myself for writing this. As I left the Hemp House I said goodbye to a group of local kids having the time of their lives. They were trying to out battle each other as MCs and out move each other on the dance floor. All of this to the back drop of a guy trying his best to play live beats in a less than ideal environment. So who cares if it wasn’t perfect, at least it’s a hell of a lot better than what most of the Djs are doing in this town.


Jah Rootman is playing again tomorrow night, this time he is Lan Town, I wont be there, I’ll leave to the local kids. However, if he rolls back into town next year I’ll drop by and hopefully he keeps on getting better.




Bobby B


tigerkuma's picture


Fri, 11/04/2011 - 08:58

Yeah Bobby, the crowd was embarrassingly small, but i thought he battled on valiantly. Agreed, the sound was appalling. My 50 kuai laptop speakers handle bass better than Hemp Houses' awful "system"...