Interview: Lao Yang – vinyl lover


A while back, we attended a vinyl party at the GAH gallery, where we enjoyed listening to Yang Kuifeng – better known as Lao Yang – who was playing some of his vast record collection on an impressive gigantic tube amplifier and loudspeakers.

His captive audience sat in an informal circle around him, wandering among the works of Matti Dubee in the gallery and eventually even dancing in this unusual setting.

In between tracks, spanning an impressive range from Vivaldi to Dire Straits, he shared his personal stories on individual records.

Dolly, a GoKunming intern, met him to talk about his passion for vinyl records and his collection.

Audio culture

When we meet him in his record store – The Yunnan Audiovisual Cultural Center – we find him with his kitten napping next to him on the couch, a pot of Pu’er tea on the radiator. Lao Yang is 56 years old, very talkative, sympathetic and joking from the moment we walk into the store.

Lao Yang is a famous record collector in Kunming, owning thousands of vinyl records and he has a story for each of them. He mentions how music lovers can have different preferences. Some prefer the sound of digital music, which is clean, crisp and distinct. Some find their happiness in the sound of vinyl records, warm and emotional. This second type of sound is what Lao Yang has always been looking for.

He began his professional life in the Army Art Department in the 1970s. After leaving the Army, he continued to share his musical knowledge with the public through radio stations, small workshops and concerts. other musical events.

Storytelling and music

As he did at the vinyl party, he now sets out to share the stories behind the music we hear playing on his store’s sound system, with infectious enthusiasm. With the duo of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman “Time to say goodbye” in the background, he tells us the tragic story behind the song, about the boxer Henry Maske – a friend of Brightman. It was originally a farewell song and was first performed in his last fight in 1996. Lao Yang explains:

It was the end of a boxing legend, but the beginning of a musical legend.

After a while, the stereo system begins to play Lao Yang’s lifelong favorite – Beethoven’s violin concerto in D major. He explains where the violin goes and where the choir repeats. It’s like every note has its place in his head, and he gets more and more excited. We are witnessing the passion of a true vinyl lover.

The key to the collection

He believes that quality is the key to the vinyl collection. He says

Some people collect vinyl records by spending money to buy them. They can buy 250,000 records without ever listening to them.

His vinyl collection is based on his personal preferences. At first he only collected classical music. Then he started to broaden his tastes, allowing more musical genres. As he says,

The door to music suddenly opened for me.

Every year he travels to Germany, France and the UK to search for documents. He had a fascination with records sold in flea markets. As he learned more and more about records, he started buying from professional collectors. He would browse their collections on their websites and buy them online.

In search of Sugarman’s elusive record

However, his experience as a collector did not always go smoothly. He tells us how difficult it was to get Rodriguez’s “Cold Fact” record.

Rodriguez was not yet famous when this album was released in the USA. The Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” contributed to his unlikely rise to fame. The film shows how his album achieved immense success in South Africa in the last days of the apartheid era, where it made sense as songs of protest against the widespread segregation policy. Rodriguez’s album was hugely popular in South Africa for 25 years, although South Africans believed he was no longer alive. That is, until an album store owner and journalist begin to delve into Rodriguez’s story and find out that he was still alive and working as a construction worker in the States. -United. Seeing him perform his first sold-out show in South Africa is a truly moving scene in the documentary and contributed to the start – even late in his life – to his worldwide fame.

Because Rodriguez has produced only two albums in his life, the first edition of the album “Cold Fact” has become a rare and highly sought after record, and only nine are known to still exist.

Lao Yang discovered that a foreign vinyl collector had a first edition of the “Cold Fact” record on his website. Unfortunately, the collector did not want to part with it. Despite communication barriers due to a lack of shared language, Lao Yang insisted on emailing the collector with photos of his own records and managed to explain to him that he is in fact a vinyl enthusiast. passionate and knowledgeable, with the desire to show that. album particular to a Chinese audience and share Rodriguez ‘. Eventually, the collector was tricked into selling the record to Lao Yang.

Love life, love vinyl

Lao Yang’s love for music in general and vinyl in particular continued throughout his life. He is more than happy to share his experience with everyone in Kunming.

It has its own record store – the aforementioned Yunnan Audiovisual Cultural Center. Although his first love is classical music, he has a huge collection of jazz, pop and rock. Despite his vast knowledge and experience, he is an expressive yet humble man who enjoys drinking tea, traveling, surfing the Internet and playing with his cat, always staying true to himself and to the music. Lao Yang is a man like a vinyl record – warm and full of character.

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