Music-Travel-Worldwide-Samp by mahm500


                  CHINA – BEIJING

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         CHINA : EXPERIMENTAL METHODS
      by Nick Frisch

      1970s               1986                      1989               2000s               2008

                                                                                                                                                               Figures of soldier and horses clay photo: ©kiankhoon
      China cracks a      Cui Jian plays            Tiananmen Square   China’s             Beijing hosts
      door open to the    “Nothing to My Name”      demonstrations.    underground         the Olympics.
      rest of the world   on a TV special and       The world is       pop music grows     The world is
      and foreigners      becomes the first          shocked by the     into a formidable   impressed.
      start smuggling     public example of a       violent images     above ground
      in Rolling Stones   successful musician       shown on TV.       scene.
      and Frank Zappa     not sponsored by state.


                                                                                    Pacific Ocean
                                                                                                           photo: ©Yugong Yishan
                                                                                                           Entrance to Yugong Yishan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ©Nick Frisch
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Simon Frank at D-22 photo:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Jeffray Zhang Shouwang with
                                                                                                                                       ©Philip Jagenstedt
                                                                                                                                       Mao live house photo:
                                                                        China Sea
134                                                                                                                                                            135
                              “Crossing the

                                                                          CHINA : EXPERIMENTAL METHODS
                              river by feeling
                              for stones”
 Websites:                    was a favored
                              catchphrase         of Chairman
                              Mao Zedong’s               successor, Deng
                              Xiaoping. Ever since the
 So Rock! Magazine            passing of Mao, a China of
 Muse Magazine (Hong Kong)    ideological extremes has
                              yielded to experimentation
                              and pragmatism in
                              economics, academics, and
                              especially, the arts.

                              Though Beijing’s politicians are
                              as entrenched as ever, artists have
                              flourished in the capital of late,
                              largely untouched by censorship
                              and free to discover new things
 That’s Beijing               through trial and error.

                              The contemporary art scene,
                              focused around the 798 Art
                              Zone in the city’s northeast,
                              has become an international
                              sensation thanks to its enfants
                              terribles’ recycling of Communist
                              themes. The city’s musical
                              landscape, however, remains a
                              lesser known and evolving gem—
                              a “weird-ass petri dish” in the
 The Beijinger

                              > Beihai photo: ©JackVersloot
 136                                                                137

                                                                                                   CHINA : EXPERIMENTAL METHODS

                        Eli Marshall                       Michael Pettis
                        The founder and conductor          Banker by day and rock-club
                        of the Beijing New Music           owner by night, Pettis lived a
                        Ensemble, Marshall first            double life in New York—and
                        came to Beijing on a Fulbright     brought it with him to Beijing.
                        fellowship in 2003. Marshall       He opened D-22 in 2006 and
                        has been spotted occasionally      has established himself as an
                        at D-22 and the now defunct        emerging markets authority
                        OT Lounge, adding his              on his blog and a professor
                        keyboard improvisations to         at Peking University.
                        the night’s music.                 photo: ©Matthew Niederhauser
                        photo: ©Candice Kwan               (

                        Leon Lee Baoyan                    Yan Jun
                        Jack-of-most-trades, Lee           A cerebral polymath, Yan
                        emerged from a thicket             Jun programs the celebrated
                        of awards and honors in the        Tuesday night series of avant-
                        American arts world                garde music at 2 Kolegas,
                        to lend his PR-savvy               while running a blog, keeping
                        touch to some local venues.        up a steady stream of music
                        Along the way, he brought          criticism, and maintaining his
                        Brazilian drumming and             own career as a sound artist.
                        non-profit arts management          photo: ©Contemporary Art +
                        know-how to Beijing.               Music Magazine
                        photo: ©Leon Lee Baoyan

                        Jeffray Zhang Shouwang             Wu Na
                        The face that launched a           A 1991 graduate of the Central
                        thousand breathless articles,      Conservatory of Music, Wu Na is
                        Zhang, the wunderkind of           one of the most accomplished
                        Beijing rock, has flourished        qin players of her generation,
                        with D-22 as his base and          beloved to traditionalists and
                        Michael Pettis as his patron.      avant-garde fans alike. Her
                        Between his more traditional       bending, sinewy pitches often join
                        band, Carsick Cars, and his        other experimental musicians
                        experimental two-person            in Beijing and elsewhere.
                        project, White, he is easily the   She’s appeared during the
                        most famous young musician         once-legendary OT Lounge
                        on the Beijing scene today.        jazz/experimental nights at the
                        photo: ©Philip Jagenstedt          Oriental Taipan Bakery.
                                                           photo: ©Weilin Wang

138                                                                                          139
      LANDMARK ALBUMS                              words of Beijing-based composer

                                                                                                      CHINA : EXPERIMENTAL METHODS
                                                   Eli Marshall. Former Bear Stearns
      OF EXPERIMENTAL                              trader Michael Pettis, who relocated
      MUSIC IN BEIJING                             from New York to Beijing in 2002, is
                                                   betting the city will play a big role
                                                   in the new music of the 21st century.
                           Nomad (2008)            Now an influential club owner and
                                                   blogger, he’s on the record claiming
                                                   Beijing among the “top five or
                                                   ten cities in the world for music”
                                                   and working hard to make that
                           FM3                     characterization a reality.
                           The Buddha Machine
                           (*not actually an
                           album, but a music      So what brings Westerners like
                           box) (2008)             Marshall and Pettis here? Foreign
                                                   artists find Beijing affordable
                           Li Jianhong             and freewheeling and often revel
                           Bird (2007)             in finding creative freedom in a
                                                   country with such an authoritarian
                                                   reputation. Beijing has long been
                                                   the nation’s unchallenged capital
                                                   of culture. Even during the Cultural
                           Beijing New Music
                                                   Revolution—when the state’s
                           Wild Grass (2009)       totalitarian grip was weakened by
                                                   political upheaval—the arts were still
                                                   dictated from Beijing, reduced under
                                                   the iron-fisted control of Mao’s
                           Carsick Cars
                                                   wife, Jiang Qing, to revolutionary
                           Self-Titled (2007)
                                                   formulas like the “eight model
                                                   plays.” And the cityscape is as
                                                   diverse as any in LA or Berlin.
                                                   A vast expanse of grit encompasses
                                                   old and new: should you choose,
      Xiao He
      2009 Europe Tour (*not yet titled or         you can find isolation or
      released) (TBD)                              inspiration in hutong alleyway
      White                                        neighborhoods dating back
      Self-Titled (2008)                           hundreds of years, or a slick
      Wang Fan                                     ultramodern neighborhood whose
      Sound of Meditation Within the Body (2001)   history stretches back no further
      Various Artists (compiled by Yan Jun)
                                                   than the 2008 Olympic Games.
      Noise is Free (2008)
      Sign Language (2005)
                                                   > Japanese-Korean duo 10 show off the
                                                   Beijing scene’s international flavor during
140                                                a jam at 2 Kolegas photo: ©Nick Frisch       141
      Visitors to Beijing can peek in on an evolving music scene that exemplifies

                                                                                              CHINA : EXPERIMENTAL METHODS
      the broader meaning of “experimental.” Here, musicians constantly push
      boundaries and try new things, picking and choosing, and mixing, cutting,
      and remixing. African DJs, American classicists, Brazilian drummers,
      and Japanese computer musicians come here for the low overhead and
      welcoming venues. They mix and mingle with local Chinese musicians,
      who themselves are free to pick and choose whether they want to approach
      Beijing as a place to work within the vast tradition of Chinese music, or as a
      neutral meeting ground for global influences, or somewhere in between.

      As China cracked a door open to the outside world in the late 70s, the first
      great musical challenge was to do anything at all free of the supervision
      of the state, from smuggling in Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa tapes to
      writing and playing songs free of political or cultural orthodoxy. A few early
      foreigners trickled in as well, bringing recordings and skills along with path-
      breaking careers in diplomacy, business, or academia. And one young man—
      an ethnic-Korean Chinese named Cui Jian—moved from trumpet to guitar,
      sang one song during a TV special in 1986, and became the first public
      example of a musician making it big outside the strictures of the state.
      The breakout hit was “Nothing to My Name,” and despite a bumpy artistic
      road through the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown (when Cui had to leave town
      for a while), his example of mixing Western rock with Chinese harmonies
      became an oft-copied model. A trickle of musical exposure became a deluge
      as whole decades of 20th-century musical history, so long withheld from
      China’s cultural scene, flooded into Beijing and mixed with predictably
      interesting results.

      Slowly, more experimenters joined the ranks, and bands and venues sprouted
      across Beijing, with one Wang Fan widely credited for making the rock-to-
      experimental jump. Many bands were—and still are—derivative copiers of
      Western idioms, but Beijing’s cheap lifestyle and density of culture have
      attracted enough talent to start a true artistic conversation. As China
      vaulted into the world’s consciousness in the mid-2000s, a few venues rose
      from “local dive” status to become citywide institutions; meanwhile, local
      musicians started to garner attention abroad, with up-and-coming artists
      such as Jeffray Zhang Shouwang taking trips to New York to meet
      musical luminaries.

      Now, scenesters come to shows bristling with expensive recording devices to
      capture every moment of performances, and debates rage in English and

      >   [top] Midi Festival photo: ©Ian Holton
          [bottom] Beijing Music Ensemble photo: ©Kendra Mehr
142                                                                                     143

                                               2008 Olympic Games National Stadium (Bird’s Nest) and
                                               night traffic in Beijing photo ©iPhotos

                                                     Chinese about whether locally

                                                                                                                                                                                                      CHINA : EXPERIMENTAL METHODS
      SEE IT                                         bred originality has overwhelmed
      FOR YOURSELF                                   imported imitations. There is
                                                     a China rock wiki (http://wiki.
                                            and The New
      Midi Festival (Beijing)                        York Times has even weighed in on
      An annual festival traditionally held in May   Chinese hip-hop and electronica.
      for experimental music, in both the broad      Still, the music scene has avoided
      and formal senses of the word. Rock, punk,
                                                     the gentrifying spotlight that
      classical, and electronic music converge
      and collide with no obeisance required to      brought a boutique hotel and fine
      any prior tradition or milieu. Recent years    French dining to the 798 Art Zone.
      have seen the date and location change, so     2 Kolegas, Beijing’s premiere venue
      check ahead.
                                                     for experimental music, is a gritty
                                                     shack situated on the edge of a
      Mini Midi Festival (Beijing)                   drive-in theater complex.
      An offshoot of the Midi Festival, it occurs
      at the same time. Organized and run by
      the owners of the club 2 Kolegas, it is the    The annual Midi Festival in
      only outdoor event for experimental music      May has made ample room for
      in China.                                      experimental music, in both the
                                                     broad and formal senses of the
                                                     word. Numerous shows in all
                                                     styles—Brazilian drum troupes,
                                                     Mongolian rock groups, flamenco
                                                     played by Muslim Uighurs from
                                                     China’s northwest—happen in any
                                                     given week. Rock, punk, classical,
                                                     and electronic music converge and
                                                     collide with no obeisance required
                                                     to any prior tradition or milieu
                                                     (try pulling that in Berlin). But
                                                     there’s always the cultural richness
                                                     and depth of China for those who
                                                     choose to orient their work around
                                                     it. Whether you lament Beijing
                                                     music’s relative immaturity or get
                                                     excited over its evolving potential,
                                                     you certainly won’t be bored.

      photo: ©Ian Holton                                                                              2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, when the
                                                     >   [top] The Forbidden City photo: ©joebrandt
                                                         [bottom] Tiananmen Square photo: ©Brian      world watched in horror as supporters of Hu Yaobang (a pro-market, prodemocracy, and
                                                         Jeffery Beggerly                             anti-corruption official) took to the streets to mourn his passing and ended up facing
                                                                                                      violent suppression from the government of the People’s Republic of China, resulting in
146                                                                                                                                                                                             147
                                                                                                      injuries or death for thousands of Chinese citizens.

                                                                                                                        CHINA : EXPERIMENTAL METHODS

      1   2 Kolegas/Waterland            6   Sugar Jar Record Shop
          Kwanyin                            Underground music store
          Yan Jun’s brainchild.              known for its broad selection of
          The site of the iconic             independent Chinese music.
          Tuesday night Waterland            2 Jiuxianqiao Lu                   3
          Kwanyin event, Beijing’s           + 6433 1449
          most regular experimental      7   Workers’ Stadium
          showcase.                          City landmark stadium that
          21 Liangmaqiao Lu                  plays host to major events,
          + 6436 8998                        including the legendary 1986
      2 Yugong Yishan                        Cui Jian performance of
        Recently relocated to a              “Nothing to My Name,”
        traditional hutong setting           and competitions during
        and books an eclectic mix of         the 2008 Olympics.
        DJs, bands, Brazilian                Gongti Bei Lu
        drummers, and others.                + 6669 9185
        3-2 Zhangzizhong Lu              8   798 Art District
        + 6404 2711                          Home of Beijing’s thriving art
      3 D-22                                 community, located among
        A major incubator for                50-year-old decommissioned
        Beijing’s bands and music.           military factory buildings.                8   4
        Its distance from the city           Jiuxianqiao Lu,
        center—far out in                    Chaoyang District
                                                                                                2   10
        the university district—         9   Jiangjinjiu Bar
        belies its artistic                                                                          7
                                             An intimate space that offers
        centrality.                          laid back jam sessions. It
        242 Chengfu Lu                       often hosts ethnic minority
        + 6265 3177                          bands, usually with no
          MAO Live House                     cover charge.                                               9
          Has a decidedly punk-rock          2 Zhongku Hutong
          focus. Nonetheless, attracts       + 8405 0124
          its share of forward-          10 Jimmy’s Thai Kitchen &
          thinking experimenters.           Lounge                                  5
          11 Gulou Dong Dajie               A new 100-seat capacity
          + 6402 5080                       music venue that presents
      5 Central Conservatory                jazz, world, blues, soul,
        of Music                            rhythm & blues, folk,
        Highly respected, leading           funk, and new music.
        musical institution in China.       Dongzhong Jie
        43 Baojia Lu                        East Gate Plaza Tower B 1/F
        + 6605 3531                         + 6415 5157

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