When we think of Electronic music, we think first of Shanghai, then of Beijing's DADA and Lantern clubs, of Chengdu's poly centre, of Guangzhou and Shenzhen's bass scenes, but what about the smaller scenes cropping up around China?
With the rise of the bedroom producer there are individuals in cities and towns all over China producing their own beats, those who need to throw off the shackles of their day job and hit the club, share the decks or dance floor with like minded people. Below, 4 people from 4 different cities around China with burgeoning electronic scenes, share their stories.
Jim Freeman 9Cool Club's founder， Zhengzhou
I’m a Zhengzhou native. I’ve been into Hiphop culture since I was a kid, and always liked using dance to express the music I was listening to. So, I became a professional dancer. For work I’d often travel to a lot of a different locations around China, so got to see the inside of a lot of different clubs. I got a pretty good impression of the different vibes from different clubs, and I got the feel for what type of clientele they were trying to attract. A few years later, myself and a few friends decided to create the first underground electronic club in Zhengzhou. We started an event called “Zhengtelandisi”, it was a youth event, we wanted to attracted young people and encourage them to find themselves through music.
Electronic music in Zhengzhou is still a very vague concept, most people still don’t really understand what type of music it is. However, the good thing is, everyone’s seen Shanghai, Chengdu and other places’ electronic music scenes develop really quickly. So people are starting to view electronic music as an avant-garde form of music. While people are still developing their own opinions and getting to know the music, it’s really important to have good DJs and producers to lead everyone and infect everyone with great music.
Often the difficulty is that in Zhengzhou, not many young people are willing to become DJs, or music producers. So that’s the current problem we face, and the future problem we’ll face.
I think the electronic music in Zhengzhou is like a small baby, the good thing about him is he’s still small and he's reliant on the people to guide him. This city will start to rise up. We’re just burying some seeds at the moment, and everybody needs to water and fertilise them together. We don’t know yet what sort of flowers will bloom out of this. PEACE!
Jason Dali DM+B Club
I grew up in Dali and later I moved to Dongbei to go to university. Then lived and worked in Beijing for a few years and later I moved back to Dali in 2015. When I was in Dongbei and Beijing I used to organize a lot of electronic parties. After I returned to Dali I began to invite all the gang I'd met from the electronic scene up north to Dali to perform. I've also working hard on guiding and encouraging some new comers locally to get involved in the scene.
Previously the electronic scene in Dali was really small, there weren't that many DJs and clubs. The people who went to parties were in the minority and were really dedicated fans of electronic music. These days there's gradually a lot more people getting involved. People who previously would never hit the dance floor and never really listened to electronic music, were drawn in by the party atmosphere of our events and as a result began to like electronic music. One of the challenges is that sometimes events are too crowded, things get complicated when there are a lot of people in one place, conflicts, fights, arguments, and noise control complaints for example.
The most unique thing about Dali's electronic scene is that it's inclusive, lots of different styles coexist. Also, although it's a small city, a lot of our electronic parties are even better than 2nd and 3rd tier cities, because Dali's a free and accepting place.
Lately there's been a lot of investors talking to me about how they want to invest in big electronic clubs in Dali. I also heard that there'll be some new electronic clubs opening in the local area soon. More and more people who used to like going to rock gigs are starting to go to electronic parties, there's a great future for the scene here!
Bram Founder of Instinct Chongqing
I have been living in Chongqing for 5 years now. When I first came to Chongqing there had been some major political changes, which dramatically altered the whole culture of the city. The city had to go a new direction, a direction of success. I arrived at a moment of a new beginings. At that time I didn't have any experience in organising events but one by one, event by event that slowly changed. Out of that emerged Instinct and Echobay, the two leading alternative electronic music brands in Chongqing.
What makes Chongqing unique, is the infrastructure, the mountains and it's industrial background. It's a big playground with endless possibilites. Also, its a futuristic city, I feel like Chongqing isn't meant to be succesful at this very moment. Around 20 years ago, they started to build this futuristic city, and it will be finished in around 10/20 years.
The scene has always has been here, it’s just has taken on different shapes. Before I got here there were already festivals in the mountains around Chongqing. There was Cicipark, Nuts, Roots and Falling. Since I arrived, I always have felt very passionate about making Chongqing nightlife really great. Right now Chongqing and Chengdu are quickly becoming 2 of the best places in China to party. We've got 2 underground venues, festivals in the mountains, street parties, warehouse raves etc…
I’ve always really believed in the future of Chongqing. It's the perfect playground to create a strong music scene and rich nightlife.
Instinct's next party is 7.1 Instinct 下一个派对：
Dazhao founder of theBoringRoom Xi'an
I grew up in Xi’an, I’ve doing theBoringRoom (Music Label) from when I was at university. I’ve pretty much never left this city. Scratch was my first introduction to DJing, but I didn’t know how to make music, it was simply a way to get involved in some HipHop performances. My earliest experience of electronic music wasn't dance music. Up until about 09, almost 10 years ago now, I got to know some people who were House and Techno DJs. At the time they were putting on some parties, I started hanging out from time to time.
In 2015 we started 'theBoringRoom', a Xi’an based bass, electronic music collective. The objective was to create different types of electronic and musical possibilities in Xi’an, so that local electronic parties would have more to offer than just house and Techno. We have a WeChat platform, we write articles, do workshops, record mixes and also put on parties. At the start it was great, we got really good feed back, everyone seemed to like us and we started to make a name for ourselves. But eventually we started to hit some problems. The biggest issue was, we were doing events locally and all of us DJs involved in theBoringRoom DJs are locals. We’ve been around for years and everyone knew us already, everyone's already seen us play before. Whenever we did events there weren’t that many people. It was frustrating and so we tended to not do too many events for this reason. Eventually, we started inviting out of town DJs and producers to Xi’an, this was problematic as well. Since our parties have always been free entry and not that many venues were willing to support us in doing this. Bringing DJs in from out of town meant that we had to spend money, so the budget was really tight for us to do this, it became kind of embarrassing. Getting more niche, less well known DJs brought the costs down, but nobody knew who they were and if there weren’t many people at the event, then the party wouldn’t be that good and would affect the prospects of our future gigs. Getting in well known DJs is expensive, we couldn’t really afford it. And on top of that we couldn’t guarantee a good crowd. It was really problematic, starting out we didn’t realise we’d hit these type of problems and we hadn’t considered the costs involved.
Another important problem we hit was, not having access to a good venue. By that I mean a venue that has; a good environment, good sound and good equipment. A place where DJs can play and friends can hit the dance floor. Every time we put on events we had to find a temporary place to host them, almost like guerrilla parties, and there weren’t many places that allowed us to do this. If there was a professional club that could support us and let us play music, we could develop a good electronic scene, we could develop a fan base of people who begin to understand and enjoy the music, dancing and drinking habits could start to develop with that. We could develop a weekend party culture if there was a place where everyone knew the music was good. If we could have this type of club it would great for us and for our music. It’s a shame that theBoringRoom consists solely of people from DJ backgrounds, we don’t have any business people amongst us. We don’t really have any experience in negotiating investments or deals etc. theBoringRoom gang are a little inexperienced and still finding our way. The music we’re into is in quite niche and has a small following. We often bring some friends from out of town to share their music so we can experience and discuss different types of music. Every time we take our ideas and plans to discuss investment it basically all falls apart. Bosses want to make money, not have adventures, and also they don’t really get electronic music and aren’t interested, so no one is willing to sponsor us or give us a place to play music.
If you want to talk about the unique thing about this city, it’s that every time a friend comes to Xi'an and asks me about the electronic nightlife, there is no place I can recommend. I can only shrug, even on the weekend we don’t have any place to go, it’s kind of embarrassing. This city’s got mainly beer markets, there’s no bars that have DJs playing, and if there is they’re playing EDM. Everyone generally listens to bands, sing and go KTV. At our parties there’s some people who think the music’s kind of strange, why aren’t there any tables? I guess a lot of people in the electronic scene come across this kind of problem.
I know a few producers spread throughout the citiy, they don’t do dance music though. There’s also a few people who like listening to Deep music, but they barely ever go out, maybe because there’s no events on that they’re into. Some of the commercial clubs in town have those Top 100 DJs playing, but that doesn’t really help the electronic scene here. Everyone thinks that type of DJ represents electronic music.
These are the outdated views of this city. Over the past years there’s been a few more party labels and DJ groups, and also some so called ‘electronic’ music dance clubs appear on the scene. But everyone still doesn’t really understand the concept of electronic music, DJs and parties. A lot of it’s been really short lived, for a reason. Music based education’s really important and lacking, the occasional performance can’t solve this problem. A lot of the DJs I used to hangout with aren’t around anymore, some of them have moved to other cities, some have given up and found another job or other past time. We’ve also tried to get in touch with other music organisations, but they’re not interested in collaborating, so it’s kind of a shame.
It’s a real shame that at the moment we’re not doing theBoringRoom at the moment. We didn’t manage to encourage more young people to get involved, whether writings articles, designing or making music, none of it really worked. Everyone seemed to show a lack of interest in new and fresh things. At least for me, I didn’t see any new DJs appearing on the scene, I didn’t see any new clubs opening. Apart from us there weren’t any promoters or any other quality electronic shows happening. We went to other cities and played, we played Beijing’s Dada and Shanghai’s Shelter. The atmosphere and willingness to accept new things in these clubs was really great. Xi’an still kind of backward, and people here aren’t really interested in the music itself. I really hope people will start take an interest in music and read the articles we’re writing about artists.
I hope things will get better, it's still early days for theBoringRoom. But if we don’t manage to get a good venue then I’m not very optimistic. The friends who’ve come to perform at theBoringRoom events said to me, they can feel that this city’s young people are willing to come out to events to experience new things, since there’s not that many interesting events to go to. But people don’t really dare to let themselves get into it or say they don’t know how to enjoy this type of party. We have to sort of teach people how to enjoy electronic music. In future we’ll continue to put on events and continue to bring a fresh new sound to this city. If more people get involved, for sure things are going to get better and better.