Jay Chou releases first album in six years

Source: SupChina (7/22/22)
Jay Chou, king of Mandopop, releases first album in six years, immediately shattering records
The six-year wait for new music by Taiwanese pop superstar Jay Chou is finally over. His latest album and promotional activities have become bona fide cultural phenomena in mainland China, rejuvenating Mandopop listeners’ interest in the singer-songwriter’s decades-long career.
By Zhao Yuanyuan

The past month has been a big one for Jay Chou (周杰伦 Zhōu Jiélún), one of the best-selling artists in the world of Chinese-language pop music. From casually teasing upcoming projects in a travel vlog on June 19 to shattering records across the board with his newest music, the mega pop star’s road to his 15th studio album Greatest Works of Art (最偉大的作品) has been a mix of suspense, excitement, and nostalgic fun.

With such an eventful month for the superstar — and, undoubtedly, one of the biggest moments for Mandopop this year — here is a complete timeline of Chou’s activities this summer so far:

June 19

周杰倫2022年專輯前導 . 巴黎創作紀錄片

Continue reading

Highlights from 2022 Spring Festival Gala

Source: SupChina (2/2/22)
Five highlights from the 2022 Spring Festival Gala: From standup comedy to blessings from outer space
The annual television extravaganza that is China Central Television’s Spring Festival Gala is much derided — some call it a “craptacular.” But it is one of the most-watched TV shows on the planet. This year it featured American style standup comedy for the first time and a live feed from astronauts aboard China’s space station.
By Jiayun Feng

Despite China’s stringent zero-COVID strategy, Omicron and Delta outbreaks have been identified in multiple provinces in the past few months. Efforts have been heightened to minimize the risk of cross-infections at the Beijing Winter Olympics, which will kick off this Friday.

But even amid all the uncertainties surrounding China’s COVID situation, there’s one constant in Chinese people’s cultural life that happens every year no matter what, and that’s Spring Festival Gala (春节联欢晚会 chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì, or 春晚 chūnwǎn for short) — an annual event broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) on Lunar New Year’s Eve.

This year’s program, aired on Monday evening local time, was the 40th edition of the gala and the third one to take place since COVID hit the country. Even with a fully masked audience, the show still managed to feel like old times as a star-studded lineup of pop singers, dance troupes, and comedians took to the stage.

You can watch the entire show on CCTV Chunwan’s official YouTube channel, or look out for these highlights: Continue reading

Rise of female punk bands

Source: SupChina/NeoCha (12/28/21)
Rebel girls: The rise of female punk bands in China
By Ryan Dyer

Beijing-based punk band Pizza Face / Photographer: 鳄鱼拍不拍

This article was originally published on Neocha and is republished with permission.

Living too “punk” is always risky. In China, it might be an even greater risk, as the mainly black-haired, homogeneous society isn’t exactly known for being welcoming to the attitudes and aesthetics that define punk culture. Pink, six-inch hair spikes and studded jackets aren’t digestible for most in the country. Chinese parents often have particular hopes for their children, and any deviation from their expectations means disappointment.

Despite these adversities, punk bands have kept on in China. Within the underground punk scene, female punkers remain somewhat of a rarity. Though they may be hard to find, they exist. It’s encouraging to see their presence, but it’s clear that if punk wants to find a stronger foothold in China, women will need to play a larger role in its evolution. In Western countries, the role of females in punk has been a constant: bands like Bikini Kill, L7, Blondie, and The Distillers have elevated the genre to greater heights. Looking at China’s neighboring countries, such as Japan, where punk arrived much earlier, female groups like OXZ were challenging gender stereotypes as early as 1981. China’s female punk revolution has been more recent in comparison, but its development has been rapid. [READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE]

Denise Ho arrested

Source: The Guardian (12/29/21)
Denise Ho: the Cantopop star and pro-democracy activist arrested in Hong Kong
The singer, who was swept up in a raid on people linked to StandNews, has been an outspoken critic of Beijing for years
By Rhoda Kwan in Taipei

Denise Ho in Washington in 2019 where she gave evidence to Congress about human rights abuses in Hong Kong.

Denise Ho in Washington in 2019 where she gave evidence to Congress about human rights abuses in Hong Kong. Photograph: Pablo Martínez Monsiváis/AP

The arrest of Cantopop star Denise Ho in a raid on reporters and prominent figures linked to the Hong Kong media outlet StandNews has shocked her many fans in the city and around the world.

The artist, who is also a Canadian citizen, was taken from her home in Hong Kong on Wednesday for allegedly conspiring with five others to publish seditious materials in her role as a former director of the independent news provider.

Ho’s arrest marks the first time a pop star of global renown has been detained in Hong Kong for a political crime after Beijing imposed a national security law 18 months ago in response to months of pro-democracy protests in 2019. Continue reading

Circuit Listening review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jeroen de Kloet’s review of Circuit Listening: Chinese Popular Music in the Global 1960s, by Andrew F. Jones. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/circuit-listening/. My thanks to media studies book review editor Jason McGrath for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Circuit Listening:
Chinese Popular Music in the Global 1960s

By Andrew F. Jones

Reviewed by Jeroen de Kloet

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright December, 2021)

Andrew F. Jones, Circuit Listening: Chinese Popular Music in the Global 1960s Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020.
304 pp. ISBN: 978-1517902070 (paper); ISBN 978-1517902063 (hardcover)

Allow me a rather unconventional and slightly self-indulgent opening to this book review. I read most of this book during a three-week quarantine in a hotel in Hong Kong. To keep fit, I would do some body combat exercises in the mornings. One online teacher, named Dan, would tell me that this lesson is all about connection, about connecting to the music, to your body, to others, and to the movements. That message is strikingly in-tune with the focus of Andrew Jones’s book Circuit Listening: Chinese Popular Music in the Global 1960s. And it is a powerful message, captured so well in the key concept of this book: circuit listening. The book explores musical cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, in the 1960s and beyond, alternating rich empirical detail with lucid theorizations that hark back to globalization theory, popular music studies, and China studies. It presents an outstanding cultural history that helps to de-center the West and powerfully shows how cultural production is always already a form of cross-contamination, cross-fertilization, and creative entanglement, in the Sinophone world as elsewhere. Continue reading

“Fragile” music video (1)

As a follow-up to my Oct. 22 post, see below, for an excellent write-up by Chris Horton in The Atlantic, on the hit song “Fragile” (or Glass Heart 玻璃心) by Namewee and Kimberley Chen, now at 27 million views already, not just 26m … that was yesterday.How refreshing this is! Just like Kimberley Chen says here: “it is not censored, it is not limited, it is not bullshit.”–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

ps. The song again:

Earlier I recommended this discussion. And this is PRICELESS: Namewee responding to China netizens’ comments on Weibo (May 16, 2021, before the song was released):

What a guy! The man has both a spine, and a heart! Such a contrast to all the cowardly censors, spiteful propagandists, and petty trolls in China.

Also see this, very revealing report about how Kimberley was treated in China, as a would-be Tencent talent (her phone confiscated for months, room camera surveillance by pervert staff, and on and on, “This is China”).

Source: The Atlantic (11/9/21)
The World Is Fed Up With China’s Belligerence: Democracies are no longer as worried as they once were about offending a fragile Beijing.
By Chris Horton

In Chinese-speaking communities beyond the reach of Beijing’s censorship regime, the song “Fragile” has been an unexpected hit. With more than 26 million views on YouTube since dropping in mid-October, the satirical love song to Chinese nationalism has topped the site’s charts for Taiwan and Hong Kong, its lyrics mocking Chinese Communist Party rhetoric about Taiwan while also taking aim at Xi Jinping and Chinese censors. Continue reading

“Fragile” music video

This new music video “Fragile” is something else!

“It might Break Your Pinky Heart” by Namewee 黃明志 Ft.Kimberley Chen 陳芳語【Fragile 玻璃心】@鬼才做音樂 2021 Ghosician. Premiered Oct 15, 2021.

  • A nice writeup:

Malaysian rapper Namewee breaks the hearts of mainland Chinese ‘little pinks’ – Namewee and Kimberly Chen’s music is now banned in China.” Written by Oiwan Lam, Global Voices, 19 October 2021.

The Chinese lyrics are fantastic, the English translation a little bit halting, but you get it. (Can’t read the Malay subtitles). The lyrics even mentions the camps and the forced confessions — and are otherwise chock full of allusions to things like the pro-Chinese govt trolls’ disgusting “NMSL” curse, “Your Mom Is Dead.” Also the apples and pineapples, referring to the Chinese regime’s weaponizing of Taiwan fruits; etc. etc. Every sentence politically loaded, while at the same time it can all be read like it’s about complaining about an impossibly thin-skinned and abusive-domineering boyfriend, with a “heart of glass”, always angry and always smashing something, yet always insisting “You Belong to Me.”

In the end, the main thing may be how the Chinese regime is proving the singer-songwriter Namewee 100% right — by censoring him and Kimberley! These massively popular Chinese-language singers are now banned in China. Simply out of spite. Ha — their song just passed beyond ten million views now on Youtube.

I confess I watched it twice.

Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Weibo suspends 22 K-pop accounts

Source: BBC News (9/7/21)
Chinese social media site Weibo suspends 22 K-pop accounts
By Mark Savage, BBC music reporter

Park Ji-Min from the K-pop band BTS

GETTY IMAGE: Park Ji-Min from the K-pop band BTS. Fans of BTS star Jimin were among those who had their accounts banned

A group of K-pop fans in China have become the latest victims of a crackdown on celebrity culture.

Twenty-two fan accounts have been suspended by Chinese social media site Sina Weibo for what it called “irrational star-chasing behaviour”. They include fans of Korean pop band BTS who crowdfunded on the platform to customise an aeroplane for singer Park Ji-Min’s 26th birthday.

Weibo accused one fan account of “illegal fundraising” for the stunt.

In a statement, the company said it “firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behaviour and will deal with it seriously”.

It also pledged to “purify” online discussions and “regulate community order” on its platform. Continue reading

Mirror, the joy that HK needs

Source: NYT (8/12/21)
This Boy Band Is the Joy That Hong Kong Needs Right Now
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The popularity of the group, called Mirror, has offered the city a rare burst of unity and pleasure after years of political upheaval.
By Vivian Wang and 

Jer Lau, a member of Mirror, the Cantopop group, during a promotional event in Hong Kong last month. Credit…Anthony Kwan for The New York Times

HONG KONG — They swarm public squares, crowd shopping malls and form lines that stretch several city blocks. They lean over barricades that strain to hold them and ignore police officers who try to corral them.

The crowds filling Hong Kong in recent weeks aren’t protesters fighting for democracy. They are devotees of the city’s hottest boy band.

For more than two years, Hong Kong has badly needed a source of uplift. First there were the mass protests of 2019, then the coronavirus pandemic, then a sweeping national security law. The city has been politically polarized and economically battered.

Enter Mirror, a group of 12 singing and dancing young men who seemingly overnight have taken over the city — and, in doing so, infused it with a burst of joy.

Their faces are plastered on billboards, buses and subway ads for everything from granola to air-conditioners to probiotic supplements. They have sold out concert halls, accounting for some of the city’s only large-scale events during the pandemic. Hardly a weekend goes by without one of the band’s (many) fan clubs devising a flashy new form of tribute: renting an enormous LED screen to celebrate one member, decking out a cruise ship for another. Continue reading

Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond

Film: Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond
Poetry, Translations, Inkwork, and Guzheng Harp Music with Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination

From the Institute webpage and additional information:

One of the rare few English-language poets of our present times working across genres and three or more languages and cultures, Fiona Sze-Lorrain presents us poems from her latest collection Rain in Plural (Princeton University Press, 2020), and shares her ongoing processes of translation, music, and artmaking that are in parallel to her writing. In this film, she also reads bilingual poems and translations of Chinese contemporary poets Yin Lichuan and Ye Lijun, American poet Mark Strand, as well as performs a classical piece High Moon on the guzheng.



Source: SupChina (5/7/21)
Chinese rapper NINEONE# says expressing empathy for men doesn’t make her anti-feminist
She’s a huge star known for her feminist hip-hop lyrics, but now Nǎi Wàn 乃万 a.k.a. NINEONE# is under fire for remarks she made onstage that some women felt undermine their quest for equality.
By Jiayun Feng


Rapper Nǎi Wàn 乃万 a.k.a. NINEONE#.

Another week, another gender debate. Or so it’s beginning to seem when it comes to the Chinese internet, where public outcry over questionable views about gender and women’s roles has become increasingly swift and loud.

This time, the lightning rod is woman rapper Nǎi Wàn 乃万, also known as NINEONE#. Her remarks at a music festival last week about the burdens men face in society touched off a firestorm of controversy. Many commenters, apparently women fed up with China’s retrograde gender dynamics, told the 24-year-old artist to “check her privilege” before preaching her understanding of gender equality.

“Boys have many dreams, too, when they are young, like becoming an athlete or a professional gamer. But when they reach 18, their goals are all about buying a house and a car,” Nai said (in Chinese) onstage last Sunday, suggesting that because men are traditionally expected to be the primary breadwinner in a relationship, they have to let their passion take a backseat when choosing careers.

And in order to free men from this dilemma, the musician went on to urge girls to have “more consideration and tolerance” for the boys they love, so that they can continue to pursue their aspirations. “Girls need to stay true to themselves as well. That’s what gender equality is really about,” she added. Continue reading

In Memory of Fou Ts’ong

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Guangchen Chen’s tribute to Fou Ts’ong (1934-2020), “The Sufferings and Greatness of a Vulnerable Artist: In Memory of Fou Ts’ong.” To read the whole essay, which includes images and video clips, click here. A teaser appears below. My thanks to Guangchen Chen for sharing with us his memories of Fou Ts’ong.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Sufferings and Greatness of a Vulnerable Artist:
In Memory of Fou Ts’ong

By Guangchen Chen

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March 2021)

Fu Ts’ong program note from a performance in New York in the 1965-66 season.

As if 2020 were not bad enough: about a week before Christmas, I received an email from the pianist Patsy Toh; I assumed it was her usual kind holiday greetings. Instead, it was to inform me that both she and her husband and musical partner Fou Ts’ong 傅聰 tested positive of COVID-19. Patsy seemed to be doing OK and was out of hospital already. Ts’ong would stay on for a few more days, and was expected back home for Christmas. I was shocked, knowing how reclusive they were. And I was worried: Ts’ong was 86 and a lifelong lover of pipe smoking. But I was also hopeful, because he had, until recently, always been bursting with vitality and had weathered one challenge after another through his dramatic life. But 2020 proved, right up to the end, deadly: he passed away on December 28.

Fou Ts’ong was a pianist of rare musical sensitivity and formidable cultural sophistication. Born in Shanghai in 1934, he was raised in an atmosphere steeped in learning, both East and West. He was tutored at home by his father, the eminent translator of French literature and art critic Fu Lei 傅雷,[1] who spent his formative years in Europe. Fou Ts’ong grew up in the company of old recordings made by Wilhelm Furtwängler, Edwin Fischer, and the Capet Quartet, among others. With relatively scant formal training, he debuted with the Shanghai Symphony at the age of 17. In 1953, he won the third prize at the George Enescu Competition in Romania, and then the third prize and best mazurka performance at the 1955 Chopin Competition in Poland. Subsequently, he had an international performing career that spanned almost six decades. But what distinguished him as a unique artist was his ability to combine the aesthetics of two distinctively different traditions—the Chinese and the European. Furthermore, he and his family were victims of Mao Zedong’s communism, and the pain he suffered his whole adult life can be heard in a palpable way in his music. [continue reading]

Veteran pianist Fou Ts’ong dies at 86 (3)

Fou Ts’ong was a very dear friend of mine. His passing is a great personal loss. I have been in regular contact with Fou Ts’ong’s family and a few close friends around the world since he was hospitalized. It is a huge loss for us all. And we should remember him in the proper context, though I must say China Daily‘s tone did not in the least surprise me. We are planning a commemorative issue in the forthcoming Mingpao Monthly 明報月刊. I have previously written a chapter on him and his father Fu Lei in A New Literary History of Modern China (Harvard UP, 2017, 650-656). I am also in discussion with a record company to release some of his concert performances.

Guangchen Chen <guangchen.chen@emory.edu>

Veteran pianist Fu Ts’ong dies at 86 (2)

As Magnus Fiskejö was, I was taken aback by how little was in China Daily‘s notice on Fou Ts’ong’s death and even more by the terse sentence on his famed translator father, Fu Lei. For an expansion on Fiskejö’s comment, see Richard Kraus’s chapter on Fou Ts’ong in his Pianos and Politics in China, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 70-99.


Eva Chou

Veteran pianist Fou Ts’ong dies at 86 (1)

As regards China Daily‘s report and how they try to claim him and even his father, “… His father Fu Lei was a prominent writer and translator … ” … Melissa Chan today commented on Twitter, on how Chinese state media reports consistently leave out that Fou’s (Fu’s) parents were in fact tormented to death in Mao’s ‘cultural revolution.’ It’s another reminder that Chinese state media cannot be relied upon. Chan also brings up the hypocrisy of Chinese ultranationalists now berating Fou Ts’ong for living in the UK.

They probably don’t like that Fou called a spade a spade, with a very clear analysis of how its communism is really a form of fascism. See: “Fou Tsong : I wept for China.” — The hell with China. That’s the attitude!’ The famous pianist talks about the tragedy of a country led by ‘gangsters’ …

On a different note, see the tributes by Fou’s colleagues, and a clip of Fou Ts’ong playing as a young pianist:

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>