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Music is the message

By Francois Manil ( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2015-08-03

     

Music doesn't know cultural barriers…

I used to believe that all what my Fuzhou friends liked was Chinese pop music. Indeed, China’s mainstream songs are everywhere: in shopping malls, restaurants, taxis and of course in the public parks where communities gather to dance.

But there is actually much more to it.

Foreigners looking for music in Fuzhou would usually go to a bar (jiuba), which could mean any type of venue offering alcoholic beverages, from a simple pub to a full blown night club. Those locales are much more welcoming than in the West where strict dress codes are enforced and cover fees are charged. In Fuzhou, you can go to a bar in shorts and flip-flops without raising eyebrows. Foreigners even constantly get free drinks as part of original marketing policies. Yes, that is how tough the culture shock is for expatriates!

Fuzhou’s bar scene is divided into two schools. The older generation of venues, playing Chinese electronic music that sounds like the 1980s and that mainly caters to local, young professionals, and a newer generation that tries to offer something more modern… And international.

Beside Chinese, Russian, Spanish or Ukrainian dancers that perform in several bars, it takes a skilled DJ to bring locals and expatriates together to the dance-floor. If the music doesn’t appeal to the audience, people will remain seated at their table and end up playing dice games. A very familiar situation in China, unfortunately.

As I had DJing experience, a bar near Baolong, offered me an interview for a position, but I never found the time for such commitment. However, I had the chance to meet DJ Simon, a young and friendly guy from Jiangsu who opened a DJ school in Gulou. Everyday, girls and boys from the city take turns in the small training center, practicing their skills on turntables with the help of a semi-professional team.

Simon is genuinely passionate about music and is open to all kinds of talents.

“I spend ten hours practicing, each and every day”, he said. “Although my skills are still modest, I really enjoy learning and improving.”

Simon’s team has a smart approach in that it teaches the would-be artists to first master the tempo and really connect with the music. They work with Chinese as well as foreign music and learn from renowned artists. Their influence is mainly from Japan and Europe.

Foreigners living in Fuzhou often stop by the school. Regardless of their ability to communicate in Chinese, music never misses to bring everybody together. Simon is always delighted to make new friends and keeps saying: “It is all about sharing. I am not trying to make much money; I simply want to enjoy and share great music!”

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