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MP3 Monday: Huan Qing
Experimental electronic folk/world music refractions from Dali-based field veteran, Huan Qing. See him play this Wednesday at Zajia Lab.
By Jan 28, 2013 Nightlife


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.

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Good afternoon. That AQI high enough for you? Nothing better to do right now than stay at home, don a mask, burn some incense, close your eyes, and pretend you're in rustic Yunnan, where the air is always often clean and the dope grows wild.

Today we visit long-time Dali resident Huan Qing, a veteran Chinese ethnic folk explorer and — to keep last week's fire burning — pioneer of an original strain of experimental electronic music.

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Originally from Sichuan, Huan Qing has been an avid cataloguer and transmuter of southwestern Chinese ethnic folk music for over a decade. His earliest work, compiled on his 2002 album A Piece of Copper Skin, refracts minority instrumentation and vocal styles through a lens of careful, sustained post-production manipulation.


Huan Qing performing with Subjam label founder Yan Jun

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Like western China hinterland field recorder Song Yuzhe and fellow Dali émigré Li Daiguo, Huan Qing linked up early on with Yan Jun, one of the first experimental music promoters and performers in China. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Huan Qing has foregone the Beijing-ward drift typical of musicians of his ilk, rarely leaving the rural context. His determined self-isolation is reflected in his prodigious musical output, which diffused into more meditative, ambient electronic soundscape territory on his 2008 triple CD-R release, Water, Fire, Qing.

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Huan Qing's handmade instruments

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A major distinction of Huan Qing's practice is his dual role as musician and artisanal instrument maker. In his field recording missions and casual meetings with neighboring musicians, he approaches not as an emic ethnomusicologist but as an artist constantly seeking new media and formats for expression. Over the years, he has assembled an impressive battery of wind, string, and percussion instruments of his own design, which are featured most prominently on his 2010 album My Instrument Songs. The more overtly structured folk compositions on this record bely the intrinsic experimentation that went into refining each instrument and tailoring each to a carefully defined idiom of lush, intricate, densely melodic arrangements.

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Huan Qing live at 2010 Sally Can't Dance festival

Lately Huan Qing's live performances have veered back into avant electro territory, submerging the most subtly identifiable of found sounds in a wash of echo, low end waves, and stereo cross-fade trickery. Below enjoy an extended take from his performance at the 2012 Sally Can't Dance festival:

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Huan Qing makes a rare Beijing appearance on Thursday, January 31 at Zajia Lab. Find more music on his douban page.

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