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[Music Monday]: Globalization One
Another worldly week in Beijing, with Algerian gnawa, Kingston dub, Russian electro-jazz, Danish afro-jazz, Xinjiang Latin jazz, Classical piano from Taiwan, and more. Insert globalization observation here...
By Oct 12, 2015 Music

U Brown: WED Oct 14 @ DDC + THU Oct 15 @ Temple

Music Monday is a weekly SmartBeijing column, serving up fresh audio/video streams from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever).


Another worldly week coming up on Beijing's live music stages. Algerian gnawa, Kingston dub, Russian electro-jazz, Danish afro-jazz, Xinjiang Latin jazz, Classical piano from Taiwan... I'm sure there's something clever to say about globalization here but I'll leave that for the Huffington Post, they have prefab article templates for that kind of thing. Onto the music:


Amazigh Kateb

First up, some overflow from Shanghai's JZ Festival, which holds its 11th edition this coming weekend. Hey, that looks kinda great actually. Earth, Wind, & Fire! If you want to get down for that one you can have some discounted pre-sale tickets kuaidi'd to your best Shanghai friend via SmartTicket.

Otherwise, you can enjoy the pared down, but no less diverse, Nine Gates Jazz Festival, which kicked off last Friday and continues on through Thursday, October 15. Nine Gates is also an annual deal, this year taking place mostly at DDC, plus some scattered events at Ao Club and East Shore. (Full program here.)

The KutiMangoes

You still have three chances to catch the rest of the Nine Gates program at DDC. Tomorrow night (TUE Oct 13) they host Danish afrojazz act The KutiMangoes, who recently won the Danish Grammy for best World Music album. Sound is equal parts Mingus, Coleman, and Kuti.

On Wednesday (Oct 14), world-renowned Algerian musician Amazigh Kateb takes over DDC's stage with his Afro-Reggae fusion trio. Kateb was born to Franco-Algerian playwright Kateb Yacine, from birth "immersed in a poetic and musical universe but also in a culture of resistance and insubordination." He went on to found roots/reggae/gnawa group Gnawa Diffusion in 1992, and still serves as an ambassador for the distinct Algerian style to this day. Here's a neat little video that reflects Amazigh Kateb's fusion of traditional Algerian music and instrumentation, contemporary urban soundscape, and underground political action (YouTube, flip your VPN on):

Nine Gates Festival closes on Thursday, October 15 with a concert by Xinjiang native Luo Ning and his Latin jazz trio. Close the books, globalization is complete.

Find individual ticket prices/timings for the three remaining Nine Gates Jazz Festival gigs here.


Fading out the horns and jacking the reverb up to 11: Heavy Hong Kong is launching a lengthy China tour for venerable Kingston dub producer U Brown in Beijing with two mid-week events. The Jamaican rub-a-dub stalwart got an early break when he caught the ear of legendary toaster/MC U-Roy, becoming his deejay apprentice. (N.B. That's Jamaican dancehall deejay, not 21st-century Macbook DJ.) He went on to collaborate with legends like Jacob Miller, Dennis Brown, and King Tubby.

Here's one of U Brown's best-known singles, "Weather Balloon":

And here's a deeper cut from his oeuvre, "Tu Sheng Peng". My first thought was, "Weird, why is a Jamaican dub producer putting out a track with a Chinese name?" Turns out it's slang for the reefer. Definitely using that from now on. Great tune too:

U Brown's on hand for two events in Beijing, starting with a "sharing forum" on Wednesday afternoon at DDC: "Learn more insights to the history of soundsystem culture, dub music, and firsthand experiences with legends like Jacob Miller, Dennis Brown, and King Tubby. Don’t miss this chance to get intimate with Daddy U Brown! Beijing fans, lucky lucky lucky!"

Super lucky! That runs from 4-6pm on Wednesday (OCT 14), 30rmb ticket. Then on Thursday U Brown brings the golden age Kingston sound to Gulou with a live show at Temple Bar. That one's 60rmb, 10pm start.


For something a bit more classical: Aotu Studio hosts Taiwanese free improvisational pianist Shih-Yang Lee for two live concerts in their first-floor showroom on Friday and Saturday evening. Lee is a veteran Taiwanese composer and performer, whose pieces for piano, sax, guzheng, pipa, sheng, and dizi present a contemporary image of classical Chinese music responding to influences from the Western canon and avant-garde movements of the previous century.

As a pianist, Lee plays with clear chops and training but adopts a bold improvisational style, both solo and in collaboration with other musicians. He's known for his intense live performances: that picture in the poster is after a concert where he played so hard his fingers were bleeding by the end.

Taiwanese improvisation/noise/avant-garde netlabel Kandala Records has put out a few pieces by Lee, including this improvisation over a traditional Ukrainian folk song that he performed with jazz pianist Alex Pryrodny in 2013:

So, yeah, Aotu is carting a baby grand in for two standalone events. On Friday, October 16, Shih-Yang Lee gives a solo performance, preceded by solo piano improvisations by Beijing artists Zhang Shouwang and Yan Yulong. Then on Saturday, October 17 he'll play in a duet with Li Tieqiao on sax, supplemented by another piano + sax duet from Li Song and Li Bingyu. 50rmb per night, 9pm start. More info


After Nine Gates has wrapped, we'll get an extra dose of jazz fusion/JZ runoff over the weekend with New Noise's latest booking: Long Arm from St. Petersburg. The "contemporary electronic jazz" veteran drops into Yugong on Friday, October 16 to kick off a small China tour pegged on festival bookings in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

They say: "The talented multi-instrumentalist/producer from St. Petersburg is well known for his melancholic jazz-infused electronic music and creating a surreal atmosphere with highly textural sounds. Long Arm is often compared with his contemporary Flying Lotus, both mixing elements of jazz, hip hop and electronic music and transcending any genre. Long Arm will show us his craftsmanship with the use of different synths and other acoustic instruments mixed live while being backed up by the exquisite flow of drummer Ruslan Gadzhimuradov."

Long Arm's currently the resident artist at German label Project Mooncircle. Here's a month-old track to get a sample of the vibe:

Long Arm plays at Yugong Yishan on Friday, October 16, after an opening set from Dalian's ERG. 8:30pm start, 100rmb ticket.


Last but not least: the Nasty Wizard crew celebrates Cassette Store Day on Saturday with an all-day double-header across two venues in Gulou. International Cassette Store Day is a real thing that was invented by the Illuminati in 2013 as a conspiracy to dupe the masses into spending whatever meager savings they'd been able salvage from the global capitalist debt-slavery system on obsolete music media formats. You can tell it's Illuminati if you carefully analyze the iconography of the poster: psychedelic tie-dye pattern (MKUltra); MS Word '95 joke fonts (enslavement through technology); the intentional misspelling of "cult" as "kvlt" (a clear allusion to our overlords' obsession with pyramids); not one, but two eyeballs. Gives me the shivers.

Anyway, Cassette Store Day in Beijing kicks off at 4pm at the fRUITYSHOP record store in Dongsi Tou Tiao with live sets from Dan Taylor, Noise Arcade, and an encore from new Dalian electronic rock trio ERG, who are performing with Long Arm the night before. That stands for Extremist Religious Group. Not much extremity to their music but it's a pretty cool blend of live drums & vocals with out-of-the-box analog synth noise. Some of the members come from one of my favorite Dalian bands, Which Park. Looks like they decided to swerve away from the throwback indie rock and try an MS-20 on for size:

After that, the party moves down the road to DDC, where you'll be able to catch live sets from The Eat, Lonely Leary, Juju, and Fake Weed, plus tons of barbecue. Wares from Beijing's most prolific DIY cassette labels — Zoomin' Night, Nasty Wizard, 87非87 — will be available for purchase throughout the day if you want to buy into the big tape conspiracy.

Here's a photo of a cassette tape in case you thought all music now exists exclusively in the format of packets of digital information flying around in the ether. WAKE UP PEOPLE:


Nine Gates Jazz Fest = TUE Oct 13 (The Kutimangoes) / WED Oct 14 (Amazigh Kateb) / THU Oct 15 (Luo Ning) @ DDC

U Brown = WED Oct 14 @ DDC (4pm talk) + THU Oct 15 @ Temple

Shih-Yang Lee = FRI Oct 16 & SAT Oct 17 @ Aotu Studio

Long Arm = FRI Oct 16 @ Yugong Yishan

Cassette Store Day = SAT Oct 17 @ fRUITYSHOP & DDC

Cover photo of Amazigh Kateb by Victor Delfim
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