Picture yourself sitting in a restaurant and overhearing a conversation of two random people sitting next to you. You are bored and alone and so you can’t help but listen. They are right now talking about an underground club they were in yesterday until 3 o´clock in the morning. They are talking about the music they heard, the people they saw, and about the cool location.
You will ask yourself: “why does he mention that?” Two people having a conversation about a night out in an underground club. Nothing remarkable about this!
But as I am describing you this image, I just showed you a small part of it. Like a zoomed-in shot in a movie. Let’s zoom out a little, and suddenly we realise the two people speaking, are Chinese. You will once again say: “Ok, but still why is he telling us this?” There is nothing special about it. So we zoom out a little more and notice we are in a Chinese restaurant in a Chinese city, Qingdao. Suddenly you notice that it is kind of special in any imaginable way.
Music in China
Let us be gentle and say that the underground scene in China is kind of underdeveloped. At least in comparison to the underground subculture in Europe or USA. And regarding electronic music, you don’t usually find a location playing EDM in China. And I don’t mean the type of club where the “DJ” is just some random guy fading one song out and the other in, while hopping around as if he has hurt his foot. You know the kind of guy, wearing his headphone only over one ear, and one hand is constantly waving as if he wants to scare away an imaginary fly that only he can see.
We are talking right now about the real deal. I mean a location where the guy or girl behind the turntables is actually mixing music. A club where you just go to dance and have a good time, and not for showing around the nice outfit you bought yesterday. A club where you’ll find like-minded people all there for the same purpose, gaining mental energy by getting lost of the physical one. All of that, in Qingdao? Of course in Qingdao!
The location I am talking about is literally an underground club, called: “UNITT”. As far as you can already tell by my plaidoyer for EDM you may not be surprised that I am an electronic music enthusiast. If the location is underground I prefer it even more. I got to know about it and the location from a fellow student.
I went there with her on a Saturday night to check it out. The first encounter is always the most important one. In this case it was magical. You arrive at the given address and first you see… nothing! The club is located in the suburbs of Qingdao, so you will find yourself in front of some closed shops and an entrance to an underground car park near a stadium.
My fellow student was pointing at the entrance of the underground car park and told me to listen closely. I heard, very softly, the beat of a rhythm coming from beneath the surface. So, we went into the car park. The sound grew louder and suddenly we were standing in front of the characteristic UNITT sign, a stylized Chinese socket.
The sound and the beat was even louder, and I suddenly noticed I was craving the beat. We went through the door, made from a cargo container -door, and suddenly we were inside the music. On that night, I had several “first-times”. First time seeing Chinese people dancing in this particular way, first time seeing people being there only for fun and first time seeing a real DJ in China. The whole location with its painted black walls, the small room with the big DJ-desk and the small lights on the table.
All together with the compatible soundtrack, it was a wonderful experience. I was so happy with that whole night and once again with the decision to come to Qingdao. When I left the club, with all my clothes fully sweated and the beat still inside my body I knew I would return. Qingdao has always the ability to surprise you.
You may not be aware of the music scene in China, however it is big, vibrant and growing. There are music festivals across the country, and many of the “Mando-pop” and “Canto-pop” stars have amassed fanbases comparable to those of the chart topping stars popular in the West.
Famous Chinese Musicians
Chinese musicians are not often well known outside of China, Hong Kong or most of Asia, unlike their Korean pop counterparts. However there are many who have established huge fanbases similar to those fanatics of Justin Bieber or One Direction, including the “Four Heavenly Kings of Canto- Pop”. These four men (Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Aaron Kwok and Leon Lai) are beloved across China by the young and old alike, and are revered by many young women. Andy Lau is in the Guiness World Record book for “Most Awards Won by a Cantopop Male Artist”.
One young musician, Tao, has an obsessive fan base that often travel across China or further afield to see him perform or even just visit the places he has been.
Anita Mui is a Hong Kong native who broke records with her sold out performance in London, and enjoyed a hugely successful international career which saw her performing with Janet Jackson at the 1988 Summer Olympics and earning the nickname the “Madonna of Asia”.
Many Chinese artists, such as Priscilla Chan and Faye Wang, are examples of Chinese stars who have used Hong Kong as their base for establishing a successful career in China and the rest of Asia.
Musicians Beyond the Middle Kingdom
Western music isn’t uncommon in China at all, at least from what I have experienced. If you go to bars and clubs popular with Westerners you will of course hear a lot of popular American and British songs, albeit they may be songs you haven’t listened to since you were in school or songs you thought were buried deep in the 1990s.
You may be surprised at the opinions on some Western musicians here. For example, Avril Lavigne, seen by many in the West as an artist who has left her best days behind her, has earned the nickname “Godmother” (酵母) in China as she is still beloved by many young Chinese girls who see her as the “Godmother of Pop- Rock”. However, this sounds the same as the Chinese for “yeast”, so her Chinese fans have unfortunately taken to calling her this instead.
Other popular musicians in the US and the UK are not so lucky with their nicknames. Taylor Swift has earned herself two nicknames among Chinese music fans- “Unlucky” (霉霉) because of her well-publicised love life, and the slightly more insulting “Bus”, (公车霉) because she has a lot of boyfriends. Mariah Carey is known as the Cow Sister (牛姐), and Ariana Grande, because she is so often compared to Mariah Carey, is “Little Cow” (小牛牛).
Obviously there are many Western artists who have made a name for themselves in China, and the general consensus is that if they have managed to coin a Chinese nickname for themselves they are hugely popular (despite how insulting the nickname may seem). Justin Bieber, One Direction, Adele… all of these huge stars in the West are similarly popular in China.
Aside from Western musicians, the world of K-Pop (and to a lesser extent J- Pop) has also made a huge mark in the Chinese music scene. In Qingdao, there is a huge Korean influence (due to the cities proximity to South Korea) and this has come through in the music played in the Korean restaurants and shopping malls throughout the city.
Taiwanese musicians are also hugely popular- especially Jay Chou. He is an artist who has managed to gain some significant popularity in the West alongside huge success in Asia, due to his unique combinations of R&B, rock and pop.
KTV, or Karaoke TV, is hugely popular among Chinese people of all ages. It is popular throughout the week as an excuse to get together, consume a fair amount of alcohol, and have a good time while singing loudly but not necessarily well to Chinese and occasionally Western songs.
KTV has been described by some Westerners as “surreal caterwauling.” It is however, a fantastic experience and if you have the right mix of people (preferably with some Chinese friends) you will have an unforgettable night.
KTV is the perfect place to let go of your inhibitions and get comfortable with your inner singer (however warbler may be a better description than singer.) It is definitely more fun if you have Chinese friends with you as they will encourage you to fully embrace the experience and forget about any potential embarrassment- everybody is singing, everyone is terrible, but everyone is having an amazing time!
Beishan World Music Festival was on last weekend. Saturday night has been a great party night for most of our Zhuhai interns. It was quite easy to grab a ticket, as the ticket counter is usually at the main entrance to the Beishan terrain. One-Day-Tickets for the festival cost are 99RMB,- and the fun kicked off at around 06:00 p.m.
The atmosphere at Beishan Festival is quite nice. The company, which organised the event is also responsible for the protection and development of intangible cultural heritage at this cultural and creative industry park, where the festival was held. It’s a small but excellent festival at an extraordinary place. Many of the local bars and restaurants in Zhuhai supported the event so there was great food and beverages on offer! They provided a food corner where they prepared food for sale from different parts of the world.
I enjoyed the concert with Ray Lema VSNP Quintet on Sunday most.
All together there were three stages, each with different kinds of music. The open-air stage close to the entrance seemed to give mainly local performers the chance to show their talent while, at the roofed main-stage international talents from France, Great Britain, Korea, The Netherlands and other surrounding countries were welcomed to show off their music styles.
As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the kind of freestyle form by Ray Lema VSNP Quintet. They played a kind of Jazz I’ve never heard before. Finally the lead singer of this group invited a boy from Zhuhai, onto stage. He was invited to perform with his saxophone together with the group. You could really see the fire in his eyes when he had the chance to show his skills.
As we have been placed some interns at the company who organised this festival, a few of them were around to help at several points. I met happy, well-known people everywhere around the festival, it created a good opportunity for local people to meet.
After the concerts on Saturday most interns headed over to the official after party in Ningxi. When I spoke with our interns most of them told us the after-party was great. Two Macau-based artists came over to DJ.
The International music festival’s organising company helps charities, well-known artists exhibitions. It has committed itself to create one of the best cultural and creative industry parks in South China, making significant contributions to culture and creativity
Experience all the musical and cultural events that Zhuhai has to offer or do an internship in a creative, cultural and open-minded company! Apply now for an internship or email us for more information.
Just like many other people, when I started to study Chinese, I had to face a lot of difficulties. I asked myself things like: Will I ever be able to produce those sounds and tones correctly? Or: How would I be able to learn all of those characters? Of course studying is a lot of hard work and if you want to study a language you will never stop learning. But then I found my ways to have some fun while studying.
This is basically about the spoken language, because there is no other way but to study the characters a lot, if you want to be able to memorize them.
No.1 Listen to music
Do you like music? Then find some good Chinese songs from your favourite music genre and start listening. Maybe you can find the lyrics in Chinese and pinyin, sometimes they have translations too. It also helps a lot to sing along, because you can practice your pronunciation and in music, as it’s all about the melody, the tones aren’t that important. Also remember going to Karaoke, or as the Chinese call it, KTV. This is one of Chinese people’s most favourite past-times, where you can make friends and have a lot of fun.
No. 2 Watch movies or TV
I started getting interested in China after my first Jackie Chan movie and I have always liked to watch movies. Then I also found my love for Asian television drama. When you watch Chinese movies you can put on subtitles first so you know what’s going on. Chinese movies and TV usually have Chinese subtitles, too, so if you’re already good, try to read along. Whilst watching you can practice your listening comprehension and also learn about Chinese culture. As Chinese love to make their own history into movies, you can learn about the main events in a faster way than reading a book. And if you meet Chinese people you will have something fun to talk about.
No. 3 Learn tongue twisters
I know it can be a little hard and maybe people will laugh at you first, but it’s still fun. It will help you with your pronunciation and studying the tones, because Chinese tongue twisters are also mainly about the tones. If you listen to the song 中国话Zhōngguóhuà by Taiwanese girlgroup S.H.E. you can hear some famous tongue twisters. You can also teach Chinese people your country’s tongue twister and laugh at them. 😉 Here is a really simple one for the first try:
sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shí sì shì shí sì, sì shí shì sì shí.
Four is four, Ten is Ten, Fourteen is Fourteen, Forty is Forty.
No. 4 Learn how to say and read your favourite dishes
As food is an important thing here in China and there are so many different dishes, you will have to find out which food you like and how to order it. In the meantime you can also study a lot of useful vocabulary that has to do with food, such as different types of vegetables or meat. You can combine studying and enjoying a delicious meal. Every city or region has their own special dish. The city I’ve studied in is famous for 扬州炒饭 Yángzhōuchǎofàn, which you can get in Chinese restaurants all over the world, but it still tastes the best in Yangzhou. 😉
No. 5 Find a language partner
Of course the best way to learn a language is to speak it and with a native speaker it’s the most efficient. So if you are still in University you should find out if there is a program to find a language partner or you can try to make Chinese friends via the internet. You can do all the fun things you do with your other friends and improve your Chinese at the same time. The easiest way to learn is if you come to China, because you will quickly find friends whom you can practice Chinese with.