Flemming Rothaus Lauritsen started playing drums at age 7, inspired by his father’s jazz band; he had his first performance with his dad when he was 9. With a foundation in swing, jazz, and big-band, he moved to New York City in 1993 to redefine his style and sound. Since then, he’s experimented with world jazz, hip hop, blues, roots, and reggae, and is a tough musician to pigeonhole. He’s played with Bell Cafe, Ayo, and Gari, among others.
Flemming goes by Slim or, more recently, Ming: “In New York, when I was younger, broke and skinny, I would pass by this homeless guy on my block. He’d always call me Slim and ask for a dollar. My bass player picked up on the name and it stuck. Then, traveling in Asia, people couldn’t pronounce Flemming. They always said Ming. That’s how I got that one. My many names are a mess!”
I met Slim last year in Bangkok. During my travels in Asia this year, looking for stories to document through photojournalism, I ended up near his corner of China. I remembered he used to play in Dali, at a place called Bad Monkey, an English bar that draws some seriously crazy bands. I asked for Ming and they told me I could find him in Shuhe, four hours from Dali. What started as a social visit morphed into a project of its own when I saw all he’d been getting up to.
But how did a Danish-born, NYC-trained professional musician end up in Yunnan, southern China?
“Some time ago I was traveling around in Yunnan, and I saw this beautiful coffee place in Shuhe. Inside was this girl cutting flowers. We talked, we had coffee, and I told her something like, ‘Any place that has a piano is my home.’ A month later, I got an email from her saying: ‘I got a piano, now you have a new home.'”
With a baby on the way, Slim and his girlfriend, Jojo, have opened a jazz cafe and guesthouse called Caffeine. It’s got a serious musical atmosphere, often featuring Slim messing around on the piano, or guest musicians jamming on upright bass, Indian tabla, and whatever else is around, while people come in, drink coffee, and hang out.
The photos below were taken over the last few weeks.