Yao 13 尧十三
Yao 13, the stage name of Tang Yao, was born in 1986 in China’s southwestern Guizhou province. As a child he began studying the erhu, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument, and later picked up the guitar. When Yao 13 moved to Wuhan to attend college, he dove into the independent music and creative scene developing that city. He gained fame in 2011, by then in Beijing, with his folk-influenced song “Blind Man,” sung in the Zhijin dialect spoken in Guizhou. The song quickly spread via the internet, and caught the attention of CCTV host Chai Jing and folk music pioneer and poet Zhou Yunpeng, two early advocates.
Yao 13’s music, with complex arrangements, traditional instruments (including erhu), and a mix of the folk traditions of southwestern China and influences from American folk music and the blues, won him the admiration of many young musicians and directors in Mainland China, including his roommate, the songwriter Song Dongye, who signed Yao 13 to his Sesame Leaves record label. One of Yao 13’s songs appears on the soundtrack for Lou Ye’s 2014 film Blind Massage, and he was recently invited to pen the theme song for a forthcoming action film from director Rao Xiaozhi.
In October 2015, he released Island. Sailor, one of the most anticipated indie albums of the year. His most complex album to date, it challenges traditional notions of folk music and went on to be nominated for a Golden Indie Music Award in Taiwan and won a Golden Melody Award, sponsored by the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.