“Foreigners in China, asides from bringing more information, had a part in integrating bands into Chinese life, by becoming musicians, good friends of bands, and even agents,” explains Hua Dong (华东) of the band Re-TROS, also known as Rebuilding the Rights of Statues (重塑雕像的权利). “Simultaneously, there is also a portion of people who are committed to taking the performances of Chinese bands abroad, releasing albums, bringing international musicians to play in China, etc., so that more people can hear [them].”

Indeed, Chinese musicians are quick to give credit where credit is due – but expat influence touches both extremes of the spectrum; it is at times helpful and at times harmful.

“In the most positive scenarios, [expat influence] means people who were doing DIY labels or zines or booking DIY shows in other countries can do that in China, and hopefully inspire more people to do the same,” says Feola. “In more negative instances, foreigners try to graft Western music industry models on the local music scene that can be culturally inappropriate or downright exploitative.”


确实,外籍人士的介入给了中国音乐家很大的帮助。与此同时,也带来了一定程度的伤害 – 其影响是两面性的。

“从积极方面来说,外籍人士将独立唱片,音乐杂志以及独立演出策划带来中国,也激励更多人参与进来,”Feola 说。”从消极方面来说,外籍人士希望将西方音乐工业的运作模式照搬进中国。这对本土音乐来说是一种文化层次上的不恰当改造也是一种赤裸裸的剥削。”

Xihu International Music Festival

“Expats were a big part of the [Chinese] music scene in the beginning, especially before the internet, because they were really one of few sources of information about music from the outside world. They brought local bands CD’s from abroad… and even helped take a few bands on tour. They organized parties. They brought over international acts. But I think to say that they shape, direct, or change the local music culture is ignoring the fact that the curiosity and the will to go for it came from kids in China that had a lot more to lose in their lives than the people who brought them a few CDs or organized a few parties.” – Helen Feng of Nova Heart

“在中国音乐发展初期,尤其是互联网普及以前,外籍人士起了重要作用。因为他们在当时相当于为数不多的‘外面音乐世界’的资源来源。他们从海外给本土乐队带来CD… 他们甚至帮助乐队举行巡回演出,策划组织音乐派对,以及引进国际乐队。但我认为,简单地把今天的中国音乐形态归于当初一部分外籍人士对中国音乐的塑造,引导或改造是不恰当的。这是对当年一群对音乐带有强烈好奇心及追求的中国少年的忽视。他们当年为追求理想所失去的远比那些给他们带来国外CD或音乐派对的人要多。” – 新星心的冯海宁

Julien Raffaud, who plays in the Shanghai band Stalin Gardens, agrees emphatically. “Some… expat rock acts are just formed so employees from big multinationals can play drunken Jimi Hendrix covers on the weekends, as headlining acts, while local bands, who write their own songs, will only get to open for these assholes, and get paid less. Acts like Cloud Choir are a real blessing to their scene as they fit into what the local experimental acts are doing, so they aren’t stepping all over the local scene. They’re going for something like symbiosis.”

In addition to helping lay the foundation for the modern Chinese music scene, expats are also partially credited with changing cultural habits towards music consumption, in general.

“I used to think that watching a concert was a big deal; a long time would pass between each one – but foreigners are at the bar practically every night. They not only like to watch performances, but like to perform,” explains Lolly Fan (樊晏), a Media Executive at the influential Chinese record label, Maybe Mars (兵马司). “For them, live music is a relaxed, entertaining thing, unlike many Chinese people, who think it is like attending a big ‘ceremony’.”

Live music is now present in Beijing every night of the week. It is certainly not unusual to stumble across shows headlined completely by foreign musicians playing to audiences that only speak English – but this trend is slowly changing. As Chinese musicians are developing a home-grown voice – and outnumbering foreign musicians in the process – the double-edged sword of expat influence is growing duller and duller. The biggest changes have already been made, and what is to follow is a time of integration.

“Now the biggest players in the music scene, the top bands, are all Chinese; the best clubs are run by Chinese; the festivals are almost all 100% local endeavors…” explains Feng of Nova Heart. “The heart of the scene is Chinese now, and it will continue to be so in the future.”

上海乐队斯大林花园的Julien Raffaud 对此表示同意并强调说:”一些… 由多国人士组成的所谓摇滚乐队只是为了在周末演出 Jimi Hendrix 的歌曲。而本地的创作乐队,却只能成为这些乐队的开场并获得很低的报酬。像 Cloud Choir (浮云合唱团) 这样的乐队是不可多得的,他们会配合本地乐队的实验性演出,且不会喧宾夺主。他们与本地乐队是一种共生关系。”



如今的北京每天晚上都有现场音乐演出。尽管其中的一部分依然由外国乐队完成,观众也以英语观众为主 – 但这种情况正在慢慢转变。随着中国音乐家在家门内的崛起并逐渐在数量上超过外国音乐家,外籍人士对中国音乐的双面影响正在逐渐削弱。中国音乐市场已经成型,接下来则需要通过时间来将其整合塑造。

“如今中国国内的顶级乐队都是中国人组成的;最顶级的俱乐部是中国人经营的;所有的音乐节也几乎由100%的本土力量推动…” 冯海宁说,”中国的音乐核心现在是中国的,将来也会一样。”

Listening Station #1: Experimental Sounds

Downloads and streams from a selection of our favorite Chinese musicians.

White+ (白+)

Re-TROS (重塑雕像的权利)

Ourself Beside Me

Stalin Gardens

Cloud Choir (浮云合唱团) – “The Way It Is” DOWNLOAD MP3
[audio:http://www.redefinemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Cloud-Choir_The-Way-It-Is.mp3|titles=Cloud Choir – The Way It Is]
“I think it’s a very fresh scene, intent on experimenting and playing around with standard musical formulas, so as to set itself apart and forge itself an identity, a place in the music world, or in music history. Fresh ideas and perspectives… I’d say the underground scene here is in its ”Big Bang” phase.” – Julien Raffaud of Stalin Gardens

“我认为这是个令人耳目一新的市场,充满了实验性与乐趣性并具有相当的水准。但要避免将其与别的音乐混于一谈。我们要赋予其独一无二的身份,帮助其找到在音乐市场以及音乐历史中的一席之地。新鲜的创意及视点…我认为今天的中国地下音乐正在孕育一场‘宇宙大爆炸’。” — 斯大林花园乐队的 Julien Raffaud

Changing Horizons & China’s Musical “Big Bang” Phase
视野转变 & 中国音乐的‘宇宙大爆炸’

Chinese music has been closely intertwined with the country’s political structures since the dawn of Chinese civilization, and an understanding of China’s history is vital to understanding its music scene. Music was seen as central to the harmony and longevity of ancient Chinese states dating as far back as the Zhou Dynasty, which spanned from 1122 BC to 256 BC, and music regularly worked its way into imperial courts as well as literary works, for hundreds of years to follow.

In modern times, the New Culture Movement of the 1910s and 1920s birthed Chinese musicians who traveled abroad to study Western classical music and returned to perform previously unthinkable compositions. New genres also spawned, such as shidaiqu (時代曲), a fusion of Chinese folk and European classical which is now credited for influencing modern East Asian pop music. It was a period of freedom that included state-sanctioned support of the arts – and throughout the 1930s and 1940s, pop stars like the female vocalists known as the Seven Great Singing Stars (七大歌星) dominated the music industry and played a vital role in cultivating the music and cinema of the time.

But after the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art (延安文艺座谈会) in May 1942, Chinese reception towards music permanently changed. Involving speeches given by Mao Zedong, the Forum’s two main points were that art should reflect the life of the working class and be made for the working class, and that art should serve the advancement of socialism. These philosophies led to the repression of anti-revolutionary songs, and folk music was adapted into revolutionary music, so that illiterate rural populations could learn about the Communist party’s goals. Chinese artists who were not working with the blessing of the Communist party were held in low esteem or suffered persecution, and free innovation in the Chinese music industry languished greatly until the major political changes and reforms of the 1980s.

“Due to historical reasons, the ’50 to ‘70s were the eras of “model operas”; the art of real music was surpressed…” explains Fan of Maybe Mars. “After the reform and opening of the country, the backwards state of China’s domestic music scene was finally able to sprout… [but] we started late, so we are still in the imitation and learning stages.”

“The Chinese music scene is unique because alternative music has only really been a cultural phenomenon since the late ’80s and is still very far away from mainstream acceptance or even recognition,” says Feola. “So it’s underground by default, but that’s changing…”

中国音乐自中国文明发展以来都与这个国家的政治结构密不可分。了解中国历史对于了解中国音乐具有重大作用。从周朝(公元前1122 – 前256年)起,音乐就被视为宇宙和谐以及生命长寿的关键所在。音乐在各超各代的王室以及文献中都有重要作用。

在近代,随着新文化运动的开展,一群生于1910至1920年间的中国音乐家得以周游世界,学习外国音乐并在回国后表演了在那个时代难以想象的作品。新音乐流派也在此期间诞生,如时代曲,就将中国民谣及西方经典音乐相融合。时代曲对现代东亚流行音乐产生了深远影响。新文化运动期间,中国政府对艺术发展表现了很大的支持并给予了足够的自由 – 这一状态一直持续到1930 – 1940年代。女性流行乐演唱者如七大歌星等一时主导了中国音乐市场并在音乐及剧场发展中成为了主要角色。


“由于历史原因,50-70年代都是”样板戏”年代,真正的音乐艺术受到压制。.. 改革开放之后,国内落后的现代音乐才开始发芽… 我们起步晚,所以还在模仿学习阶段…” 兵马司的樊晏说。


Sonic Throwback

Teresa Teng – “Honey Sweet” // 邓丽君 – “甜蜜蜜” (1979)

Born in Baozhong in Mainland China’s Yunlin County, Teresa Teng first saw commercial success in Taiwan in 1968, following a television performance and a subsequent record deal with Life Records. In 1973, she successfully crossed over into Japan and, thanks to a contract with Polydor Records, saw popularity throughout all of Asia.

In the 1980s, as political tension increased between Taiwan and China, Teng’s music — along with that of many others — was banned for several years in mainland China for being too “bourgeois”. Yet Teng continued to be played everywhere; the black market supplied both government buildings and nightclubs with her music, and her ban was eventually lifted. Because she shared the same family name (邓) as then Chinese leader Deng XiaoPing, she was also nicknamed “Little Deng”; and it was said that while Deng the Communist leader ruled China by day, Deng (Teng) the singer ruled china by night.

Teng desired to perform in mainland China and was finally extended the offer to do so in the 1990s. Unfortunately, she died suddenly from a severe asthma attack in May 1995, while in Thailand on vacation. She was 42-years-old (or 43, according to Chinese calendars). “Honey Sweet (甜蜜蜜)” is arguably her most famous song.

Where, where have I met you before?
Your smile is just so familiar
As if in a dream…
Where, where have I met you before?
Your smile is just so familiar
I just can’t place it
Oh, in my dreams
In my dreams, in my dreams, I met you
Such honey sweet smiles, how honey sweet
It’s you, it’s you; the one I met in my dreams is you
Where, where have I met you before?
Your smile is just so familiar
I just can’t place it
Oh, in my dreams