MP3 Monday: ChaCha
A primer ahead of Saturday's set by multi-talented, Shanghai-based electronica/reggae/hip hop vocalist, ChaCha.
MP3 Monday is a weekly SmartBeijing column, serving up MP3s from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever). Copyright holders: if you would like your song removed, please email us here, and we'll honor your request promptly.
Monday, sunny Monday. In line with these unexpectedly blue skies, today we have some jams from ChaCha, a frontwoman of Shanghai's Uprooted Sunshine reggae sound system, one half of electronic duo AM444, and a formidable solo vocalist. ChaCha is one of Shanghai's most prolific and accomplished artists, having collaborated with international heavyweights and local electro/hip hop paragons on a wide range of projects. She's performing at Dada Bar this Saturday as part of yet another Sub-Culture jam (hope those dudes have a gaotie frequent rollers card). Here's a little background.
ChaCha got her musical start in her hometown of Guizhou, where she sang in a rock band at the tender age of 16. After sticking that out for three years, she moved to Shanghai and pretty quickly got plugged into the scene around the old LOgO bar on Xingfu Lu. Though her original love was trip hop, one fateful summer night in 2007 hooked her on the bass-heavy dub riddims of the Uprooted Sunshine sound system: "After a few shots I went to the MC on the stage [to] ask him if I can try to sing a song with them. He gave me the mic -- he was really open and he didn't even care if I was shit or if I might destroy the party." Soon after that ChaCha was a full-fledged member of the crew, one of four full-time MCs. Uprooted Sunshine has a storied history of their own. They're China's oldest (and probably only) reggae sound system, now over seven years deep. They dish out your standard laid-back Jamaican vibes and plenty of toasts, but can also throw down some pretty hard-hitting uptempo dancehall when the mood strikes:
A few years back, Uprooted brought Clive Chin, a second-generation Chinese-Jamaican producer who worked with such legends as Augustus Pablo and Lee Perry, two guys who pretty much invented dub and, by extension, spawned contemporary bass music. Clive's visit was truly a "roots" trip, as he was the first member of his family to return to China since his grandfather initially uprooted. His China tour resulted in Clive producing a 10" single for ChaCha called "One Day You Will Know." Stream a remix of that one here.
photo by Benoit Florencon
At the end of 2010, ChaCha teamed up with Shanghai-based Dutch producer jay.soul to form AM444. Here ChaCha's vocal talents and hip hop chops are more prominently on display, backed by more straight-ahead (though no less bass-heavy) electronica. They put out their debut EP, Eye Wonder, in April 2011. Listen to some cuts from that above. In 2012 they hopped aboard the vinyl train, releasing a split 10" with San Francisco electro-indie band Tussle released by a China vinyl cabal composed of Shanghai's Uptown record shop and Beijing's Genjing label. Last October they released Rooms, a full-length follow-up to Eye Wonder that expands on the former's subtle beatwork and anchoring vocal melodies. Here's one off that:
Along the way, ChaCha has collaborated with notable local and international artists. Here she is on "You Me," an original track she laid down with Shanghai producer Hamacide that was subsequently remixed four times over and packaged up as an EP:
Here's a collaboration with two leaders of Beijing hip hop, MC/turntablist DJ Wordy and producer Jeff Liang (aka Soulspeak):
She's also worked with London-based producer Kode9, founder of the massively influential dubstep/bass music label Hyperdub. Kode9 has been to China a few times, and is so enchanted with the Shanghai experience that he named a recent single after Xingfu Lu, home to Dada Shanghai and Sub-Culture HQ. Stream a Kode9 x ChaCha joint here (VPN warning: it's a YouTube vid).
As if all that's not enough, ChaCha also does the bedroom production thing with a solo ambient electronic project called Faded Ghost. Way more experimental by contrast. Still super bass-intensive. Broken ghost vocals and sparse double bass riffs on the low end. Faded Ghost put out an EP last year called Ghost Ark, which just got a cassette re-release on the new SVBKVLT Beat Tapes imprint (another Sub-Culture project). Here's some of that:
ChaCha plays on Saturday at Dada along with Japanese reggae crew Part2Style as an extension of the Eastern European Outlook sound system/bass music festival. Scope more of her various projects in the following links: ChaCha (solo) | AM444 | Uprooted Sunshine | Faded Ghost