School Bar 10th Anniversary Collection: A Documentary

This is a fun documentary about the recording of the compilation album for the 10th Anniversary of School Bar in Beijing, a small bar and refuge for alternative music run by some of China’s former rock veterans. It’s a short film that really conveys the atmosphere and bond between groups of musicians on this scene. Sadly, there are no English subtitles, but the gist of it is that the production was a long and hard journey that tested the patience of the team. Xu Chen the Ops manager, even postponed his wedding to finish it, hence the ceremony at the end. The bands, who seem more used to playing live, went through sessions that lasted for hours on end where one song was recorded over and over again. The album’s producer, Wang Di, one of China’s rock pioneers who’s worked with the likes of Cui Jian and He Yong, is clearly still a highly respected figure among younger musicians. The production of this album is full of rock history significance. The recorded edition took place at the Baihua Studios ( Baihua meaning “hundred flowers”, those familiar with Chinese history will appreciate the revolutionary reference), in Baihua Shenchu Hutong, near Beijing’s Xinjiekou with its streets full of instrument shops, where many of China’s classic rock albums were born. The live recording lasted for days, following the bar’s usual format of five bands per night til midnight. Personally, I’m excited about the ceiling mic used in this live recording, that Wang Di Continue Reading →


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The Philosophy of Chinese Music Part 1: Zhi Yin Culture in The Untamed

If you like your Asian historical dramas, Eastern magic fantasy, or Kungfu shows, you’ll have seen, or been watching, or at least heard of, The Untamed. With gorgeous costumes, props, sets; fantastic script, filmography and storyline, a great cast, and queer representation to boot, no wonder this mainland Chinese series, an unexpectedly domestic hit, has also achieved unprecedented global popularity. Originally a Xianxia (genre featuring humans interacting with supernaturals) web novel named Modao Zushi by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, the series is steeped in Chinese culture. One of the central themes that really stands out is the multiple roles of music in the story. (Heads up, this article contains spoilers). 


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Raising Inner Demons: Chinese Black Metal in Europe

I explore the Zuriaake’s live presence and the representation of Chinese indie music in the West.


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12 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Sinophile

My English partner once told me, that China should re-Christen themselves the East Pole, claim Father Christmas as one of their own, and tell the children of the world, that he’s just moved closer to where the toys are made.

As we hear sleigh bells on the horizon, I know a lot of you will be facing Christmas with a mixture of excitement and dread, with many of you still hunting for exactly the right gift to spoil your loved ones and friends. Interest in Chinese culture have grown in recent years, and I hope this gift guide may help inspire anyone shopping for a sinophile!


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Peking into Chinese Opera

This weekend sees a brief season of Chinese opera at Sadler’s Wells. I thought I’d write a little about this traditional musical genre.


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5 CNY Things To Do Outside Chinatown

This week is Spring Festival 2015. In London’s Chinatown, festive lanterns shine over frantic shoppers rushing about to prepare for the biggest annual feast and celebration, there will be lion dances in Gerrard Street and music performances in Trafalgar Square. Is the thought of pushing through the crowds again making your head spin? Are you an adventurous Sinophile wandering what else there is beyond the bounds of Soho? Here are some things you can enjoy in London outside Chinatown.


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China Underground – A Translated Sample

An interview with the band Vagabond Street, by John YingLing, for his upcoming documentary, China Underground.
I’ve translated about 3 hours of interviews for this project, which is now heavily into post production (but could still do with more funding). This will be one of the video programe available to accompany my talk “Peking Into Punk”.


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A Gaokao Essay

At 2:22 in the early morning, I was walking on a strange street, holding hands with my girl, and feeling the sweat in her palm.

“Do you think my mum’ll get the police to drag us back? Is it really ok to not go to the entrance exams?” My girl asked me, wracked by nerves.


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