Search results for 'China Music Scene'

R3 - Waiting
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Sweet sounds coming out of Shanghai. Nicely done Reggie R3.

6Music, China Music Scene, Staff Blog, Ed Peto, China,

The Rough Ride For International Live Music In China

As Music Editor at mega portal Sina and man responsible for highly regarded Dystopia blog, Pilos Chan is a keen observer of the Chinese music scene and one of the most respected music writers and critics in China. In this guest post he offers insight into the rise and ‘crash’ of international live music in China. Photo Credits: Sina

I was at the “Techno Papa” Juan Atkins’ show the other night, talking with top Hip-Hop critic Badbrain about this year’s live music market. We both felt that there’s nothing to say but “sigh”.

Back in 2007, however, this market was full of hope.

Chinese festival crowds

Crowds at Beijing Pop Festival ‘07

In 2005, I started to work for a magazine that covers western pop music. I had a lot of regret for leaving there in the end of 2007 because, as I predicted, that was the year live western pop music “took off” in China. Everything that happened before was just laying the groundwork, and pathetic jokes like the Suede in Beijing show happened too, but since that year I started to feel that there’s something going on in this market.

Suede’s Brett Anderson plays Beijing Pop Festival ‘07

The strongest evidence is the blooming of music festivals. 2007’s Beijing Pop Festival staged the best international lineup ever in China: Nine Inch Nails, New York Dolls, Brett Anderson, Public Enemy, and the drummer of Ramones. In the same year, Yeah Yeah Yeahs headlined Modern Sky Festival and Faithless appeared in Yue Festival.

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6China, China Music Scene, China Live Music, China Festivals, Guest Post, Large,

CNN Cover Beijing’s Rock Scene

Modern Sky Announce Strawberry Festival

Beijing indie label Modern Sky have announced a new folksy-style event called the "Strawberry Festival" in the Chinese media (Chinese links here, here and on the Modern Sky website). Details are still a little vague but available information so far suggests three stages and 60 bands to be spread over the 1st-3rd of May at the Tongzhou Canal Park in Beijing. Everything else TBC.

Modern Sky boss Shen Lihui says that "compared with the enthusiasm of the Modern Sky Festival, the Strawberry Festival will have a warmer tone….the park will be your pleasure ground".

Organisers also suggest it will be the "biggest music festival in Beijing during the May holidays" and that the Modern Sky main festival will go ahead in October as well.

6China Music Scene, China Festivals, News Link, China,

Li Zhi vs U2

The last release on our in-house label MicroMu has been going down a storm. Li Zhi’s live album, 'There's Nobody On Gongti Dong Lu' was recorded at a packed show in Beijing’s Yugong Yishan venue in mid-January.

Since it’s release on Jan 22nd, the Jiangsu folk hero’s first offering since 2007 has been meet met with unanimously glowing reviews across the Chinese internet. At the time of writing, well over a month after it’s initial release, it is still sitting strong at number 6 on uber-review-site Douban's Best New Release list, ahead of some pretty distinguished company:

6MicroMu (Buchadian), Project Blog, China Music Scene, Ed Peto, Large,

Wham! In China

In April 1985, big-haired pop-duo Wham! took to the Worker’s Gymnasium stage in Beijing infront of thousands of screaming Chinese fans, becoming the first western pop act to play communist China.

This unlikely event had taken band manager Simon Napier-Bell 18 months of negotiations to organise; a process documented in his 2005 book I’m Coming To Take You To Lunch.

Wham On The Great Wall

The idea to play China came about following the bands insistence that they become the biggest act in the world within two years. Napier-Bell and co-manager Jazz Summers knew that this would be impossible following the conventional route - namely touring America continuously for years - so came up with the China tour as a globally-press-worthy publicity stunt. Napier-Bell flew to China and sat in hotel rooms calling whatever government phone numbers he could get his hands on, usually leaving the message: “Tell them Simon Napier-Bell called to take them to lunch”.

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6Staff Blog, Ed Peto, China Music Scene, Large, China,

Diamonds In The Rough

Almost exactly a year ago I posted on the hype surrounding the Chinese music scene. I boiled my feelings down to a kind of cautious optimism ie. way too early to start billing Beijing as one of the best music cities in the world (as some over-zealous mainstream western media would have you think) but a genuinely exciting place to be nonetheless.

Now, despite an incredibly tough year for music in China (due to Government clampdowns surrounding the Olympics as well as the horribly misguided soap-boxing of a certain elfin Icelander), exactly a year later and the Beijing sound has come along leaps and bounds.

I thought it was about time I follow up on that year-old post, using the medium of budget video, to bring you up to speed a little:

  • The Old-Guard: The older bands are still getting better (See SUBS, Re-TROS and Miserable Faith in the videos).
  • Strength In Depth: The younger bands have come on from being self-conscious mimic-artists into snarling, full-blooded outfits of their own (See Snapline and Carsick Cars in the videos).
  • Public Demand: A number of festival organisers still went ahead in seemingly impossible conditions with defiantly impressive results.

While 2007 will be the year the paper-trail leads back to in terms of the new Chinese bands really starting to find their own voices, 2008 is the year they perfected them.

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6Staff Blog, China Music Scene, China, China Festivals, China Live Music, Ed Peto, Large,

Network Songs : Life Inside China’s Pop Echo-Chamber

A shorter, edited version of this piece appeared in The Guardian under the title ‘Online Pop Explosion’. Please treat this longer, draft version as a separate article.

When unknown Chinese singer Yang Chengang wrote and recorded the song Mice Love Rice in Wuhan, Southern China in 2000, he would have had no way to predict it’s eventual impact. While the pop ballad languished in relative anonymity on CD format for four years, it’s eventual arrival on the recently booming internet in 2004 sparked off a word-of-mouth phenomenon that would ultimately peak with 6 million legitimate ringtone sales on China Mobile in one week as well as a rumoured 200 million illegal MP3 downloads within a year.

Once exposed to the powerful Chinese internet, Mice Love Rice and it’s exemplary use of instantly recognisable melody as well as inoffensive, syrupy lyrics - in this case a chorus that includes ‘I love you, loving you, just like mice love rice’ - came to define what is now known as a ‘wang luo ge qu' or 'network song', a literal reference to the exponential spread of a song through internet networks. This process of musical ‘crowd sourcing' has proven to be the paradigm of the modern Chinese musical landscape.

Song Ke, founding CEO of one of mainland China’s leading record labels, Taihe Rye, employs a team who use software to monitor the various chart systems and music networks around the internet, looking for songs that are ‘making noise’ and stepping in and signing them up once they have proven to be a crowd pleaser. The practice has paid off: a few songs by unknown artist Dao Lang were "making a lot of noise on the internet," says Song "We got in touch with him, signed all his digital rights, put our new media marketing team behind it and sold 30-40 million ringtones in 2005 alone."

Unlike in the west, however, this ‘democratisation’ of music success - where the web organically decides which songs reach the top of the pile, or at least the attention of the likes of Taihe Rye - has not led to a vast broadening of musical tastes. In fact, the chat boards, blogs, instant messaging systems and peer to peer networks that organically built Dao Lang and Mice Love Rice into hits have shown the opposite to be true. Instead of a range of defined sub-genres, the network effect has crystallized music into one much larger homogenous category, based on the commercial pop song style and format exemplified by Yang Chengang’s hit. The much-feted ‘long tail’ of alternative music and niche genres has, to date, failed to emerge.

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6Published, Staff Blog, China Music Scene, China Music Industry, Ed Peto, The Guardian, Client Work, Large, China,

Olympic Security Hangover : Midi Update

Midi School have just announced (Chinese link) that they will be delaying the festival by another ten days or so. Dates are yet to be confirmed. The official reason is that the government expects millions of Chinese tourists to descend on Beijing during the upcoming October holidays to look around the Olympic facilities, including the Olympic Centre planned for use by Midi.

Midi claim that they would be free to go ahead but that the venue would have to remain open to joe public, obligating Midi to pay 700,000RMB a day for the mandatory use of strict Olympic security barriers. Obviously a crippling financial burden.

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6Staff Blog, China Music Scene, China, China Live Music, Ed Peto, China Festivals, Medium,

Air To Headline Midi Festival?

As someone who recently spent three months and nearly a thousand pounds in flights, lawyers fees, bribes and fines to just be allowed to remain in the country I am all too aware of the bureaucratic nightmare that is attached to getting anything done in China. I really have to take my hat off to the upcoming Midi and Modern Sky Festivals. As it stands it looks like they are both going ahead even after a notoriously oppressive year for live music.

The sad thing is that they have been forced to go head to head, time-wise, in most cases asking the limited pool of acts for exclusivity. They are also both largely taking place indoors - Modern Sky in Haidian Exhibition Hall and Midi in The Olympic Centre - making for an all the more surreal and stilted affair.

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6Staff Blog, China, China Live Music, China Music Scene, Ed Peto, Large,

Writing For The Chinese Music Press

In November last year I got a call from a flustered Chinese magazine editor. ‘Would you be able to do an 800 word album review for our December edition?’ she asked, adding ‘by tomorrow?’.

Normally I would have turned this down as the money tends to be poor and the deadline was a bit abrupt, but the magazine in question was Rolling Stone China - re-named ‘InMusic’ after a disastrous launch left them unable to publish under that name - and the album was Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’.

Radiohead Cover

Ultimately the prestige of the publication and the immediate relevance of the album (I had it on rotation at that point) saw me sitting down the following day to churn it out.

It was only after I got my copy back that I started to wonder why they had approached me, a westerner, to review such an important album. I met for a coffee with my editor Lua Zhou to ask how it came about:

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6Interview, Staff Blog, China Music Scene, China Media, Large, Ed Peto, Published, China,

Interview : Pissing On The Bamboo Curtain

The Chinese independent music scene can be a hard nut to crack. Non-Chinese-speaking music fans have to be much more determinedly hands on in their approach than elsewhere in the world. Indecipherable band names, poorly recorded and hard-to-find albums and lack of English media coverage are just some of the barriers-to-entry, testing even the most resilient of music fans.

New podcast ‘Pissing On The Bamboo Curtain’ will be a real godsend to anyone looking at making sense of this exciting little scene. Podcasters Ian Sherman (who also happens to be Music Editor for Beijing Time Out) and Kyle Schaefer’s high-brow - yet somehow low-brow - ramblings will also be a godsend to anyone who enjoys apocrypha, obscure references and general verbosity.

Kyle and Ian

Kyle Schaefer and Ian Sherman

These guys know their stuff. They play good tunes as well. Here are links to the first two gloriously amateurish installments, hosted on the Tagteam Records site:

Sept ‘07

Oct ‘07

I took it upon myself to send a few questions their way - pulling back the curtain on Pissing On The Bamboo Curtain, if you will. They replied in a typically wordy and waggish fashion. Good stuff. Read on…

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6Interview, Staff Blog, China Music Scene, Ed Peto, Large, China,

Don’t Begin The Hype…Yet

There’s nothing worse than hyping things up too early. While Billboard magazine saw fit to call Beijing one of the top 5 cities to watch for music in 2007, regular gig-goers here are slightly less sanguine on the subject. This place has a long, long way to go before it can be compared to even the second tier cities in most other developed countries in terms of originality and depth of talent. As a rule, most bands are highly derivative as well as technically suspect, making the three chord mock-anger and incompetence-drowning feedback of punk music the weapons of choice.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a certain buzz in the air though. While there has never been a shortage of fan favourites like Brain Failure, New Pants and the now defunct Hang On The Box, there seems to be a certain knowing assurance in the current rising stars where there was only amateurish exuberance before. Bands like Rebuilding The Rights Of Statues (Re-TROS) and Lonely China Day, both of whom toured the States recently to glowing reviews, are just…well…believable, and that is a very rare quality in this town. Here are the Re-TROS playing ‘If The Monkey Becomes (To Be) The King’ at Beijing’s 2 Kolegas club last night:

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6Staff Blog, China Music Scene, Ed Peto, China Live Music, Large, China,