Violinist blames China for losing his job

Source: NYT (9/13/20)
A Violinist Lost His Seat and His Job. He Blames China.
In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey, a former member of the well-known Shanghai Quartet said he had been dumped after a remark he made on social media was misinterpreted as an ethnic slur.
By Melena Ryzik

Yi-Wen Jiang, a violinist formerly with the Shanghai Quartet, says in a recently filed lawsuit that he was unfairly forced from the group after a remark he made on social media was mischaracterized. Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Yi-Wen Jiang, a violinist who was, until recently, billed as a member of the Shanghai Quartet, an internationally known chamber group with roots in China, says he didn’t give the pig emoji a second thought.

Responding to a post on social media about Chinese-American relations a few months ago, he typed in the image of the smiley pig face — “the cute one,” he said — and went about his day. But his posting soon caused an outcry and he was called a bigot for what his critics said was his effort to deride the Chinese people as pigs.

Within days, Mr. Jiang had lost his job and, he said, his reputation.

Now Mr. Jiang, who has been a U.S. citizen for over two decades, has brought a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court, contending his offhand remark on social media was purposely distorted by those who object to his longstanding criticism of the Chinese government. Continue reading

A brief history of HK protest music

Source: LARB, China Channel (7/17/20)
A Song for Hong Kong
A brief history of Hong Kong’s protest music
By Alec Ash

Crowds at Hong Kong’s Umbrella protests, 2014. Parts of this article first appeared on the LARB China Blog in 2017. All photos by the author.

Hong Kong has long been a city of song. In the 60s and 70s it was the music bars of Wan Chai and the neon-lit karaoke joints of Kowloon. In the 80s and 90s, Cantopop became central to the city’s cultural identity (as well being go-to KTV picks in mainland China, an important form of soft power). After the handover to China in 1997 Cantopop lost its mojo – supplanted by K-Pop – but over the last ten years a new musical form has come to Hong Kong: the protest song.

Song is often married to dissent, from Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ in 1939, with its haunting arboreal imagery of lynching, to Bob Dylan’s 1963 ‘Masters of War’ at the height of US-Soviet tensions. In Hong Kong, musicians took up the mantle in response to Beijing’s slow encroachments on their freedoms, from the protest pop of Denise Ho (subject of a New Yorker profile just last year) to the crowd-sourced anthem of last year’s protests (see my LARB piece following a frontline fighter). Now a new security law muscled in by Beijing has muzzled them. To mark the city’s silencing – and in hope that its voice will still be heard – here are personal vignettes of four periods of the city’s recent history, through the prism of three songs and a silent coda. Continue reading

HK bans protest song and political expressions at schools

Source: NYT (7/8/20)
Hong Kong Bans Protest Song and Other Political Expression at Schools
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Singing “Glory to Hong Kong,” posting slogans and forming human chains as a form of protest are banned under new guidelines issued by the city’s education secretary.
By Gerry Mullany

Students formed a human chain during a pro-democracy protest near their school in Hong Kong last month. Credit…Isaac Lawrence/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hong Kong’s education secretary on Wednesday banned students from singing the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong,” posting slogans with political messages or forming human chains, saying “the schools are obliged to stop” such activities.

The statement by the secretary, Kevin Yeung, ratcheted up the pressure on the pro-democracy movement as Hong Kong residents struggle to determine what is acceptable behavior under a strict new national security law that China imposed on the semiautonomous territory last week.

Students, including middle schoolers, have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s protest movement. Beijing’s imposition of the national security law last Wednesday — and the subsequent arrests of teenagers at protests — has led some families to express concerns that their children could be in jeopardy for singing pro-democracy songs or even for expressing such sentiments in their homes. Continue reading

Dongbei vaporwave

Source: China Channel LARB (2/28/20)
Time-Traveling with Your Uncle Gem
Wujun Ke introduces “Dongbei vaporwave”, the electronic music of China’s northeast
By Wujun Ke

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

Faces of Tradition

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 silenced

Source: CNN (2/9/20)
He spoke out about the Wuhan virus. Now his family and friends fear he’s been silenced
By Nectar Gan, Natalie Thomas and David Culver, CNN

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.

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

Tibet’s most popular song

Source: SupChina (12/9/19)
Tibet’s Most Popular Song
THE EDITORS

anu

SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

Not much has changed in the political situation of Tibet since the last peak of international attention in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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?

Click through to SupChina to listen to the song, and other notable selections from ANU’s discography.

Why Chinese rappers don’t fight the power

Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>
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

The sexist music of Yan Lifei

Source: Sup China (9/23/19)
The Sexist Music Of Yan Lifei
THE EDITORS

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.”
  • “Mommy, look at me. What a poor child I am.”

Continue reading

Yao Li dies at 96

Source: NYT (7/25/19)
Yao Li, ‘Silver Voice’ of Shanghai, Dies at 96
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Richard Sandomir

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

Matteo Ricci The Musical

Source: SCMP (4/26/19)
Matteo Ricci: 16th-century Italian priest who tried, and failed, to convert Chinese to Catholicism is resurrected on stage
Matteo Ricci The Musical might not be the show Hong Kong wanted, but, according to those who brought it to the stage, it’s the one we needed. The priest was the first European to enter the Forbidden Palace in Beijing and is buried in the Chinese capital
By Fionnuala McHugh

Jonathan Wong performs in Matteo Ricci The Musical, on April 19. Photo: Matteo Ricci The Musical / Cheung Chi-wai

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

The special flavour of rock’n’roll Beijing

Source: BBC News (4/20/19)
The special flavour of rock’n’roll Beijing
By Stephen McDonell

Metaphor playing at the Mao Livehouse in 2013

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

Xu Zhimo poem gets music video

The video mentioned in the piece below can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjTBYzmVnXI. — Kirk

Source: China Daily (2/14/19)
Classic poem gets music video
By Chen Nan | China Daily

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 squeals discontent with the government

Source: SCMP (1/30/19)
Chinese grindcore band with pig for a lead singer, Pig Cage squeals discontent with the government
Pig Cage, a grindcore band from Inner Mongolia, uses pig sounds instead of human vocals. The band’s creator, Maihem, says he didn’t like the sound of his own voice, so he decided to use a porcine substitute
By Lauren James

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.”

Continue reading

Mass arrests in Xinjiang continue (1)

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:

Uyghur Song 2016 | Soyvmlvk Muellim | By : Ablajan Awut Ayup. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFRolBeXHEc

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:

https://bitterwinter.org/the-orwellian-life-in-xinjiang-campuses/

Magnus Fiskesjö <magnus.fiskesjo@cornell.edu>