Lei Qiang is an erhu player (an ancient Chinese violin) with a classical/traditional background. Since he emigrated to Canada in 1993, he has had an active career both in traditional and pop circles, releasing solo CDs, recording on albums by Quebec singers Robert Charlebois, Bruno Pelletier, and Gildor Roy, and touring with the widely popular circus troupe Cirque du Soleil.
Born in 1960 in the Shaanxi province of the People's Republic of China, Qiang started to play the erhu at the age of 15. From 1978 to 1982 he studied at the Xian Conservatory of Music, the most prestigious traditional music institution in the province. For the next decade he toured China and made appearances in Japan and Hong Kong with the Shaanxi Provincial Song & Dance Troupe.
Following an invitation to perform in the Chinese Garden at the Montreal Botanical Garden, Lei emigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal in the summer of 1993. In between rare engagements, he resorted to street playing. It is while he was performing a set on Sainte-Catherine street that record producer Paul Etch noticed him. The encounter turned Etch, once a rock music bassist, to world music. He immediately invited Lei to his studio to record a demo tape of solo erhu. It was well received and the pair decided to record a "real" album. They asked the Shaanxi Provincial Song & Dance Troupe to record arrangements of traditional pieces, to which Lei overdubbed the lead erhu parts in Montreal. The CD Chinese Traditional Erhu Music (Vol. 1) came out in 1995 on Etch's newly incepted Oliver Sudden Productions imprint. It revealed the underground Chinese culture of the city to the masses and attracted well-deserved attention.
Soon Lei was invited to perform at multicultural festivals in Montreal and throughout Quebec. Adult pop singer Bruno Pelletier asked him to perform on his 1995 album Défaire l'Amour. He also appeared on country-pop singer Gildor Roy's Plein l'Dos (1996) and performed at the 1996 Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow in Albuquerque, NM. In 1997, Lei released a second album on Oliver Sudden and toured Canada with pipa player Liu Fang. He also played erhu on some tracks from Cirque du Soleil's Quidam soundtrack and accompanied the Cirque in Las Vegas for the production O in 1998. He has slowed down his activities since then. ~ François Couture