By Matt Taylor
What happens when you mix the charm and charismatic nature of traditional Chinese instruments and weave them through contemporary western musical genres? You get instrumental group A-Play China 一奏器樂派, who in December 2017 released their debut album Chapter I - Kung Fu Pop 第一卷˙宮羽破, an avant-garde mashup of of Eastern old and Western new.
The aim of A-Play China is to create modern pop music with traditional Chinese instruments, thereby acting as a two way cross-cultural bridge between East and West. On Kung Fu Pop, traditional instruments which have their roots in Chinese folk (including the guzheng 古箏, erhu 二胡 and dizi 笛子) are seamlessly integrated into elements of soul, rock, disco and pop, resulting in a seven track album able to embody the beauty of the ancient and modern, whilst simultaneously combining the vigor and vitality of the urban and rural to create a new and refreshing musical landscape.
Founder of the group and producer of the album, Zhou Jin Tai 周金泰 is an accomplished producer and composer, and has already enjoyed an illustrious decade in the Chinese music industry. As well as producing for other artists, he has composed the theme tune for several TV drama’s, has acted as head producer for New Year & Spring Gala events for Jiangsu TV, and invited to sit on the panel of Sing! China 中國新歌聲.
In the Chinese music industry, Zhou is seen by many as a pioneer in pop music due to his cross-border music creation and innovative thinking, and he has dedicated his career to the exploration and excavation of high quality independent pop music.
Chinese instruments being utilized in modern pop isn’t completely new. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, musicians like Jay Chou 周杰倫, Wang Leehom 王力宏 and S.H.E were leading figures in the China Wave 中國風, which sought to not only bring Chinese instruments and folk tales into the modern pop dichotomy, but place them at the core of their records, with the bridges and hooks often dependent on these traditional instruments.
Where A-Play China differs from this however is in how the instruments are employed - rather than playing traditional melodies and then building a pop song around this, or being used simply for hooks and interludes, they are instead intrinsically fused with their partner Western genre, resulting in a refreshing and harmonious collaboration where it feels less of a novelty, and more genuine pop song led by traditional instruments - a surprising rarity in modern Chinese pop music.
Despite this innovative use of instrumentation however, these traditional instruments are still capable of tapping into the expressiveness and spiritual connotation of the folk music they have historically been used for. For thousands of years, these instruments have carried with them stories and feelings of the East, and that is not lost at any point on the record.
The album Chapter I - Kung Fu Pop 第一卷˙宮羽破 is available to stream and purchase on most major music platforms:
By: C.P. Ching
G.E.M. 鄧紫棋 is currently in the midst of a two-year-long world tour aka the “Queen of Hearts” and will make her way back to the United States on April 1st for a concert in Uncasville, Connecticut.
This is the first time the Hong Kong-based singer will be holding a concert on U.S soil, since her last embark in November 2015. When she held a concert in Newark, New Jersey for her “G.E.M. X.X.X Live World Tour”.
G.E.M has been busy touring for much of 2017, and have had multiple shows across Australia, China, along with other major cities like Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore. In addition to that, she will be holding three consecutive concerts in Taiwan from March 23rd to March 25th before heading out to Connecticut in April.
For fans out west, it might worthwhile to make the trip out to Connecticut to see G.E.M live later this month, as it is unknown when and where her next show in North America will be.
By Matt Taylor
Celebrating her 25th anniversary in the entertainment industry, veteran Hong Kong superstar Karen Mok 莫文蔚 is returning to the centre stage with new single Slowly Like You 慢慢喜歡你.
Slowly Like You 慢慢喜歡你 is the second release from her as yet untitled seventeenth studio album, slated for release later in 2018. The concept of the song is rather than being overwhelmed by a fast romance, falling slowly in love with someone is more romantic, and allows for greater time to appreciate the intricate details of each other, in turn allowing for a deeper love. By taking our time, we can savour the time with our loved ones, walking together into old age.
The video, directed by Chen Yin-jung 陳映蓉, embodies the journey of love within a family in a specific moment in time. One on hand, you have a young couple who are about to cement their love through marriage. On the other, you have their parents, who through small interactions are able to convey their deep love and connection to their partner.
The track is a collaborative effort, written by Li Ronghao 李榮浩 and produced by Arai Soichiro 荒井十一. Karen has been friends with Arai since they met backstage at her 2009 Back to Karen Mok World Tour 回蔚莫文蔚巡迴演唱會, and he was the executive producer for her most recent album, 2014’s Departures 不散不見, for which she was nominated for three Golden Melody Awards, including Best Female and Best Mandarin Album. Not just collaborative partners, Karen and Arai enjoy a close and warm friendship. According to Karen, this is because they have similar views about the process of creating music.
Li Ronghao & Arai have been close friends for over ten years, so when Karen confided that she was a big admirer of the singer-songwriter, Arai wasted no time in reaching out to him, and Li ended up playing guitar on several songs on Karen’s last album. Li even joined Karen on stage in Beijing on her 2015 world tour.
Evidently, Karen, Arai & Li are a powerful creative force which have the capability of creating critically and commercially successful projects.
Prior to the release, both Karen and Li had been teasing fans on Facebook for days, uploading videos using the slow motion function as a representation of the song. Every video was captioned with ‘because slowly is the best reason' (因為慢慢是個最好原因).
Karen Mok is a legend in the Chinese music world. Over her illustrious 25 year career she has released sixteen albums, starred in over fourty films, and is referred to by fans as the Queen of Love Songs 情歌天后.
By Matt Taylor
It must be good to be a fan of Lala Hsu 徐佳瑩, who has premiered a video for Just Dance 現在不跳舞要幹嘛, the fourth from her fifth studio album The Inner Me 心理學, which was released on December 27.
The song is a stylistic departure for Lala, and is heavily influenced by 1970s disco and funk. However, rather than relying on nostalgic sentiments to sell the song, it is distinctive, modern and fresh, thanks in part to Lala’s ethereal vocals.
The track was produced by Starr Chen 陳星翰, known for his production and writing credits on recent albums by A-Mei 張惠妹 and Jolin Tsai 蔡依林.
The humorous and colourful video was directed by Birdy Niou 邱柏昶, and is meant to show the viewer how easy it is to break the shackles of everyday life and have fun. Not only that, the video attempts to portray that dancing is not a hobby restricted to a certain demographic, but is one that should be enjoyed by everyone, irregardless of gender, body type, or walk of life.
By Matt Taylor
Earlier this week, Faye 飛 (詹雯婷) released a video for the experimental Vault of the Sky 蒼穹. The video is breathtakingly cinematic, and plays with concepts of light and dark in nature.
2017 was a big year for independent Taiwanese singer Faye. The lead singer of Golden Melody award-winning pop/rock group F.I.R finally released Little Outer Space 小太空 her debut album as a solo artist. The ten track record was the culmination of not only one year of recording the actual record, but the end result of several years of self reflection and a journey inspired by her desire to combine her world view with her music.
The song and video were influenced by various ethnic styles blended into contemporary electronic pop, with traditional instruments including the Morin Khuur 馬頭琴 and the Komuz 火不思 taking centre stage. The composition of the song was inspired by Faye’s Mongolian friends, and Faye herself noted that the song represents the beauty that she sees in the world.
As if this wasn’t enough, on Friday Faye debuted a two track remix EP on Spotify, giving both Vault of the Sky and album opener Cave 洞 a fresh lease on life. Whilst Cave gets a dance makeover, the Vault of the Sky remix not only enhances the traditional influences introduced in the original, but also introduces elements of hip hop and acoustic guitar, alongside the introduction of Tuvan 呼麥 throat singing. Both songs are reminiscent of 90s alt-pop diva’s Faye Wang 王菲 and Bjork, and absolutely cannot be missed.
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