When a friend introduced me to the Chinese viral hit “Ye Lang Disco” (“Wild Wolf Disco”) in September last year, I was not sure what the hype was about. Then, like thousands of internet commentators, I fell victim to the earworm. I was captivated by the song’s refreshingly folksy and unassuming sense of humor. Gem (董寶石), a rapper from Changchun, performed the song in the 2019 season of Rap of China, a popular televised rap competition. Soon after, Gem found breakout success on Tik Tok (known in China as “Douyin”) with this vaporwave-influenced track.
As a music genre, vaporwave arises in the context of post-industrial, heavily-networked societies and has been noted for its nostalgic sampling of Muzak (the background music played in many retail stores) and early computer aesthetics. As a critique of capitalism, it is more playful than denunciatory. As musician and academic Laura Glitsos writes:
Vaporwave digs up those waste products of consumer culture, that which capitalism discards, and brings them to the fore: old VHS tapes, technologies that never reached the market, the grating tones of corporate instructional videos, advertisements from the 1980s. Continue reading →
Levi S. Gibbs, ed. 2020. Faces of Tradition in Chinese Performing Arts. Series: Encounters: Explorations in Folklore and Ethnomusicology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN: 978-0-253-04583-6
Available in Paperback and E-Book
Faces of Tradition in Chinese Performing Arts examines the key role of the individual in the development of traditional Chinese performing arts such as music and dance. These artists and their artistic works—the “faces of tradition”—come to represent and reconfigure broader fields of cultural production in China today. The contributors to this volume explore the ways in which performances and recordings, including singing competitions, textual anthologies, ethnographic videos, and CD albums, serve as discursive spaces where individuals engage with and redefine larger traditions and themselves. By focusing on the performance, scholarship, collection, and teaching of instrumental music, folksong, and classical dance from a variety of disciplines–these case studies highlight the importance of the individual in determining how traditions have been and are represented, maintained, and cultivated. Continue reading →
Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who had been reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, could no longer be reached by friends and family since Thursday.
(CNN)As people across China mourned the death of a whistleblower doctor in an almost unprecedented outpouring of grief and anger on Thursday, little did they know that another truth-teller of the coronavirus outbreak was being silenced, according to friends and family.
Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who had been doing critical reporting from Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the epicenter of the outbreak, went missing on Thursday evening, just as hundreds of thousands of people in China began demanding freedom of speech online. Continue reading →
But culturally, Tibet continues to evolve, and it’s worth taking note as Tibetan-influenced music has become more mainstream in China in recent years. Bill McGrath, a scholar of Tibet and Chinese religions, writes on SupChina about the most popular song in Tibet in recent years — “Fly,” by the hip-hop duo ANU:
ANU is a pair of young men from Nangchen County in Yushu Prefecture at the southern tip of Qinghai Province. Payag (巴雅 Bāyǎ) and Gönpa (宫巴 Gōngbā) moved to Beijing after studying art and music in western China and released their first EP, ANU, in 2016. ANU is an abbreviation for Anu Ringluk, which literally means “Youthism.” In the modern world of Tibet, already filled with established -isms such as Buddhism, socialism, and capitalism, ANU provides a fresh sound for a new generation…
“Fly” has already captured the hearts of ANU’s fans in their hometown of Yushu as well as the rest of China. Last year they won an “innovation award” at the Tibetan, Qiang, and Yi Original Music Award Show, and this year they entered the Chinese national stage by competing on the popular TV show Singer 2019. Where will “Fly” take them next?
Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö <email@example.com>
Source: BBC (11/6/19) Why Chinese rappers don’t fight the power Many of China’s best-known rappers have decided to voice their politics, but in contrast to rap’s anti-establishment roots, these artists are asserting a distinctly nationalist tone.
By Yi-Ling Liu. BBC Music
The Higher Brothers are one of a new breed of Chinese hip-hop acts eyeing international success (Credit; Getty Images)
In 2015, Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers learned something the hard way: be very careful when your songs turn political.
The source of controversy was an anti-Uber song. “I don’t write political hip-hop,” spat out by the group’s rapper Melo. “But if any politicians try to shut me up, I’ll cut off their heads and lay them at their corpses’ feet. This time it’s Uber that’s investigated. Next time it will be you.” It led to the song being blocked by Chinese censors, and Melo called in for questioning by the local Public Security Bureau.
Since then, Higher Brothers have garnered widespread success both at home and abroad, partly thanks to landing their first American tour to promote their album Journey To The West. Alongside many of China’s rising crop of hip-hop artists, they’ve stormed onto both the local and global stage – and largely steered clear of politics. Continue reading →
On the right, Yan Lifei; on the left, Chinese propaganda from the 1950s, when gender equality was championed with Chairman Mao’s famous saying, “Women hold up half the sky.”
“Mommy, don’t go to work. Cuz even if you go, you won’t make much money.” These are not phrases pulled from a Jordan Peterson speech, but the music that millions of Chinese children are listening to these days.
The controversial tune “Mom, Don’t Go to Work” was written by Yán Lìfēi 闫立飞, and was brought to public attention in China earlier this month when it was performed in a singing competition on state broadcaster CCTV. On the show, a little girl, who was one of the contestants in that week’s episode, sung part of the song, which contained a string of problematic lyrics such as:
“Mommy, don’t go to work anymore. Otherwise, I have no one to play with.”
“Mommy, even if you go to work, you won’t make much money.”
Yao Li in an undated photo. She began singing in the 1930s and became one of the “seven great singing stars of Shanghai,” performing and recording in wartime. Credit: Pictures from History and Granger, New York
Yao Li, a celebrated singer in Shanghai in the midst of war in the 1930s and ’40s, whose music remained popular after she moved to Hong Kong when China turned communist, died on July 19. She was 96.
The death was reported by the newspapers Ming Pao in Hong Kong and The Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur. No other details were given.
Ms. Yao was called “the silver voice” in Shanghai, her music influenced by jazz and Chinese folk. She was not famous well beyond Asia, but at least two of her songs made an impact in the United States. An English-language version of one of her hits, “Rose, Rose, I Love You” (1940), was recorded by the American singer Frankie Laine in 1951 and rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Continue reading →
Jonathan Wong performs in Matteo Ricci The Musical, on April 19. Photo: Matteo Ricci The Musical / Cheung Chi-wai
On Palm Sunday, which this year fell on April 14, the first run-through of Matteo Ricci The Musical was held at Clarence Film Studio, in the depths of Shek Kong, in the New Territories. The following day, everything would shift to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, in Tsim Sha Tsui, in preparation for opening night on Holy Saturday. As every Christian knows, Palm Sunday marks the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, after 40 days in the desert, to cheering crowds. By Good Friday, these fans are enthusiastically calling for his crucifixion. Three days later, he’s risen from the dead. It’s the scene-setter for a week of dramatic reversals. Continue reading →
Metaphor playing at the Mao Livehouse in 2013. Image copyright: GETTY IMAGES
The indie bands of the Chinese capital, Beijing, have their own raw, distinctive sound, says the BBC’s Stephen McDonell – partly because they are so isolated from the rest of the rock’n’roll world.
High-top black Feiyue sneakers hit the effects pedal, drums and guitars kick in and a surge of bodies moves to the sound. Cheap beer, smoky air, raucous noise; cluttered, ramshackle and bohemian… this is Beijing’s underground music scene.
Local bands are cult heroes in the dive bars of the old city: young people from all round China drift to the capital because this is where alternative music is taken seriously. People will tell you that Beijing is a rock’n’roll city. Continue reading →
Members of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge perform under the baton of Stephen Cleobury, music director and conductor of the choir. [Photo provided to China Daily]
A new music video for the song Second Farewell to Cambridge, adapted from Chinese poet Xu Zhimo’s famous composition, has been released by the King’s College Record Label to mark Lunar New Year.
It was shot on location at King’s College, Cambridge, the place Xu portrayed in his poem, which was set to music by English composer John Rutter in the summer of 2018. It was performed by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, under the baton of Stephen Cleobury, music director of the choir and features a performance by Chinese tenor Wang Bo. Continue reading →
Pig Cage is a Chinese grindcore band with a difference: its lead singer is a pig. Photo: AFP
Squeals and grunts are part of every metal band’s musical lexicon, and now one act from China is hogging the limelight with a novel approach. Meaty blast beats, muddy breakdowns and oinking vocals are elements that are not exactly unusual to grindcore – an extreme branch of the metal genre – but there’s a twist in the tail: this particular band is fronted by a pig. The name? Pig Cage.
The man behind Pig Cage is a graphic designer and musician, known only as Maihem (which he pronounces “ma-heem”), who expresses his disgruntlement with the Chinese government by sampling a splenetic swine on his album “Screaming Pig in China”. Pig Cage’s “lyrics” may be indistinguishable, but the sentiment is clear: Maihem has an abattoir’s worth of axes to grind.
“I hate the government but I love my country,” he says, over the phone. “I use metaphors in my music to express my ideas about wanting to change the government through presenting two opposite sides: sometimes I am the butcher, but sometimes I am also the victim.”
He continues: “There is lots of unfairness and adversity in China … Most of time I feel disappointed about myself and life; I would rather be a pig.”
Follow-up on my post about the targeted arrests of Uighur musicians:
Today the Concerned Scholars of Xinjiang, @XJscholars reminds us [https://twitter.com/XJscholars/status/1078636936162492416] about the pop singer ABLAJAN AWUT AYUP, 33, disappeared into the camps since Feb 2018. He is especially prominent for his Uyghur language songs for children. They give a fabulous example from Youtube:
The reason Chinese authorities is cracking down on indigenous musicians like this, is they want to destroy the culture. This is a figure that inspires pride and joy in being Uyghur and happy — and BTW, perfectly happy to include Han Chinese “pengyou” and foreign English, in the images.
And a viable, healthy, confident, strong Uighur identity is precisely what can’t be allowed now under the ultra-extremist Chinese regime. Harrassing cultural icons and disappearing them goes with the mass arresting of parents and grandparents and hauling the “orphaned” children off to Chinese-only orphanages.
–cf. also today, another article about how as one small part of the state terror campaign, they’re painting over all bilingual signs in Uighur on university campuses, so that there will be CHINESE ONLY. See pictures:
Taipei, Dec. 26 (CNA) A Taiwanese heavy metal band performed for their fans in Hong Kong by live video streaming a performance Tuesday, after their frontman, a pro-Taiwan independence lawmaker, was denied a work visa to perform in the special administrative region.
Freddy Lim (林昶佐), a legislator from Taiwan’s New Power Party and his band Chthonic jammed over Facebook Live with Canto-pop star Denise Ho on the second to last day of a music festival the band was invited to perform at. Continue reading →
Memes have become a way to appreciate and participate in popular culture, a way to find solidarity, construct identity, and communicate with precision.
Memes like Distracted Boyfriend and BBQ Becky are products of their times, and when people look back on them, they’ll be seen as more than just clever tools of satire: they are snapshots of what captured the public consciousness at the moment of their inception. Continue reading →
I am writing to let you know about an upcoming East Asian vocal concert at Swarthmore College on Nov. 3, 8-9:30PM. Guest artists from Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul will deliver the world’s greatest cultural treasures—Kunqu, Noh and Pansori—in one evening, with selection of the most canonical compositions: Tanci (The Ballad from Palace of Lasting Life), Kiyotsune and Hagomoro (The Feather Mantle), and Ch’unhyanga (The Song of a Faithful Wife). This concert highlights these seamlessly merged, musically invaluable arts. The concert is free and open to the public. If you are in Philadelphia area during the next weekend, please let me know and I will reserve seats for you.
I myself will be the vocalist in the Kunqu performance. While both the Noh and Pansori singers are in the lineage of UNESCO’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” in their native soils, respectively, as a Kunqu singer I will represent the branch of the Chinese heritage that has almost been forgotten–my master of Kunqu, Mr. ZHU Fu, studied Kunqu under a disciple of Aisin Gioro Putong, the brother of China’s last emperor, in the last few years of the Cultural Revolution, and passed on all that he learned from Ye to me in 2002, before I came to the US to pursue my Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago.
There will also be a reception after the concert, which offers opportunities to mingle and communicate with guest artists.