Yao Li dies at 96

Source: NYT (7/25/19)
Yao Li, ‘Silver Voice’ of Shanghai, Dies at 96
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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:


Magnus Fiskesjö <magnus.fiskesjo@cornell.edu>

Chthonic live streams to HK after visa rejection

Source: Focus Taiwan (12/26/18)
Taiwan band Chthonic live streams to HK after visa rejection
By William Yen

Image taken from www.facebook.com/HOCCHOCC

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 of 2018

Source: Sup China (12/19/18)
Men Are All Pig’s Feet’ — And Other Chinese Memes Of 2018 That Reflect Our Times
A year in which online users saw through the BS and women said “Enough.”
By Frankie Huang

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

An evening of East Asian vocal arts

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Best wishes,
Peng Xu <pxu1@swarthmore.edu>

Sinophone Musical Worlds–call for contributions

Call for contributions China Perspectives / Perspectives chinoises
Sinophone Musical Worlds and their Publics
Guest editor: Dr Nathanel Amar, postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong

Download PDF File here:  Call for abstracts CP China musical worlds


Recent success of Chinese reality television singing competitions broadcasted on national television or streamed directly on the internet, has shown the extent of musical genres represented in the Chinese world, from pop to folk via hip-hop or rock ’n’ roll. The popularity of new musical styles up to then considered as deviant as well as the recent attempts of the State to intervene directly on musical contents, tend to blur the distinctions between “mainstream” (流行) music, “popular” (民间) music as non-official, “underground” (地下) music or even “alternative” (另类) music. This call for papers aims at promoting a better understanding of the transformations of Chinese “musical worlds”, in the sense that Becker gave to “art worlds”, which stresses the role of cooperation and interactions between the different actors of the artistic sphere. As Becker wrote, “all artistic work, like all human activity, involves the joint activity of a number, often a large number, of people. Through their cooperation, the artwork we eventually see or hear comes to be and continues to be. The work always shows signs of that cooperation” (Becker, 2008: 1). We thus welcome contributions which take into consideration the necessary cooperation between individuals, allowing the constitution of musical worlds. Continue reading

Chengdu hip hop

Source: Guernica (8/29/18)
Chengdu Cool: The Rise of Sichuan’s Homegrown Hip Hop
The city of Chengdu is raising China’s new generation of rappers. They are playful, provocative and boldly assert a distinct regional sound that the public has not heard before. But under the tightening grip of the government censor, can Chengdu’s hip-hop artists keep their cool?

Photo by Yi-Ling Liu

The moment the elevator doors opened, Pema Tenzin found the party that he’d been looking for. He just hadn’t expected to find it here.

From the outside, Poly Center appears to be one of many dull, nondescript office buildings lining the streets of the Chinese city of Chengdu. But inside, on the twenty-first floor that autumn night in 2016, the air was thick with laughter, strobing multicolored light, and the muscular thud thud thud of the bass was booming from the speakers. Young people leaned against the walls of the cramped corridors, taking hits of laughing gas from candy-colored balloons before diving back into one of three clubs in the vicinity. At the end of the hall was his destination, the experience he’d been anticipating since he left Gansu: NASA, Chengdu’s hottest hip-hop club, where an MC that Pema had long admired from afar freestyled for the sweaty crowd. Continue reading

Song King

New Publication
Song King: Connecting People, Places, and Past in Contemporary China
Author: Gibbs, Levi S.
University of Hawai’i Press, 2018

When itinerant singers from China’s countryside become iconic artists, worlds collide. The lives and performances of these representative singers become sites for conversations between the rural and urban, local and national, folk and elite, and traditional and modern. In Song King: Connecting People, Places, and Past in Contemporary China, Levi S. Gibbs examines the life and performances of “Folksong King of Western China” Wang Xiangrong (b. 1952) and explores how itinerant performers come to serve as representative symbols straddling different groups, connecting diverse audiences, and shifting between amorphous, place-based local, regional, and national identities. Moving from place to place, these border walkers embody connections between a range of localities, presenting audiences with traditional, modern, rural, and urban identities among which to continually reposition themselves in an evolving world. Continue reading

Underground club music thriving against the odds

Source: Fact Magazine (3/4/18)
How underground club music in China is thriving against the odds

Image via: Arkham Shanghai

Underground club music in China is faced with a number of unique challenges, from internet censorship to police crackdowns and rising rents. But thanks to a dedicated and diverse range of artists, promoters, broadcasters and DJs, alternative culture is thriving in 2018. April Clare Welshspeaks to some of the hard-working movers and shakers keeping the scene alive against the odds. Scroll down to the end for a SoundCloud playlist.

It’s not easy being an underground club music fan in communist China. Internet censorship blocks access to major western music sites including SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify and the live scene is up against escalating rents, strict building regulations and police raids. But since its beginnings in the late ‘90s, clubbing in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan has provided plenty of alternative spaces for electronic music adventurers, with a constant stream of artists, producers, broadcasters and label heads pushing things forward. Continue reading

Seeking sources for Sound Ethnographies class

Hello Colleagues,

A artist/filmmaker friend and I are creating a new class, “Sound Ethnographies of China” here at NYU Shanghai, and we’d love your suggestions for reading and listening assignments for our students as they collect sounds and interviews and edit them into audio ethnographies. Possible themes include salvage ethnography, form/content, structures of feeling experienced through sound, and STS. Are you familiar with (accessible) sound archives, good folklore studies, or writings on sound culture on China? Please get in touch. We are particularly interested in sound art: early recordings of music or theater, or writings on any period focusing on sound art (music, theater, film/TV, sound-based installation and performance art).

Thanks for thinking with us!

Leksa Lee
Assistant Professor Faculty Fellow, NYU Shanghai

Tan Dun’s Passacaglia

Source: CBC Radio (2/8/18)
Why this Toronto conductor wants you to keep your cellphone on during the show

Toronto Esprit Orchestra music director Alex Pauk will conduct both the musicians and the audience during an interactive performance called Plug In.

Toronto Esprit Orchestra music director Alex Pauk will conduct both the musicians and the audience during an interactive performance called Plug In. ( Bo Huang/Toronto Esprit Orchestra)

When Alex Pauk appears on stage to conduct an orchestra on Sunday evening, he’ll turn to face the audience instead of the musicians.

Then he’ll do something even stranger — ask the spectators to take out their phones and turn them on.

Continue reading