Liu Yijun

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Lao Wu at a Tang Dynasty concert, September 24th 2004, photo by Yoshito Katori

Liu Yijun (刘义军 Líu Yìjūn, affectionately known as "Laowu" (老五 Lǎo Wǔ), born 1963, Tianjin) is a Chinese heavy metal guitarist and member of the band Tang Dynasty. Known as the solo artists Tang Dynasty Lao Wu.



He was the younger child of two children with an older sister that also pursued a career in performance arts. The guitar was rather his second instrument being that his first was the Guqin. In 1976, his family moved away from Tianjin in hopes of raising enough money for him to go to college. Eventually he raised an interest in playing the guitar and got his first one in 1978. Despite the fact that his father opposed him in playing music, Lao Wu continued to practice the guitar 15 hours a day without lessons. Upon failing the cutoff line for the Chinese college admission test, Lao Wu realized that music was the only way he can make a living.

His family moved to Beijing in 1984 where he continuously fails to find a stable job. Entrusted by his father who witnessed him every morning at 4 practicing the guitar, he continues to support his son as he pursues his own career. For years, Lao Wu lived in poverty eating off instant noodles and was repeatedly sent to the hospital for malnutrition. Lao Wu was eventually accepted into Beijing's top music organization and was deemed a "lightning guitarist" and the first in China to master playing the guitar pressing the fingerboard over the neck much in the style of modern guitarist, Herman Li. Lao Wu eventually picks up the seven string guitar and the Erhu, as heard in the song, "The Sun."

After Kaiser Kuo left Tang Dynasty in 1989, vocalist Ding Wu recruited him acknowledging his fast guitar playing style as the new Tang Dynasty lead guitarist. Within the band, Lao Wu was most arguably the leader of the band in terms of composing music while Ding Wu lead the band as a decision maker. After releasing the top hits of the 1990s, "A Dream Return to the Tang Dynasty" and "The Sun," Lao Wu led the band with international success only within Asia. The death of bassist Zhang Ju in 1995 brought down the face of the band and their fame in Asia. Tang Dynasty continued to venture from club to club in Japan but resulted in no success. Lao Wu often quoted them saying, "The band is too immature for rock musicians of the century. We can't make money from this type of music, it doesn't even sound original." Eventually, he was asked to leave the band by Ding Wu in 1996 after extensive music differences and disagreements over leadership. Lao Wu had a stint in solo performances under the name "Tang Dynasty Lao Wu", and eventually rejoined in 2002.

He is known to be one of the first Chinese metal-rock guitarists, who also performs ethnically-oriented guitar compositions. Having sold two-million authentically released copies of Tang Dynasty's debut album, Lao Wu and the Tang Dynasty band have limited international recognition, but are quite popular in China despite the media climate not conducive to promoting local rock music talents. Liu has recorded two solo albums under the name Tang Dynasty Lao Wu (唐朝老五 Táng Cháo Lǎo Wǔ), which musically falls more under the world music genre than the rock music genre.



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