Fight! Fight! Fight!

One sure sign that the Chinese music scene is coming up in the world is the fact that we now have a wide variety of scene “Insiders” vying for the title of scene “Guru”.

Max-Leonhard von Schaper and Yang Yu (of Rock in China Wiki fame) fired the first salvo with this treatise in triptych, first published on Luke Hansford’s Beijing Noise site.

The gist of it is that Max doesn’t have as high an opinion of Maybe Mars bands as many people (especially in the Western media) do. He wants equal attention for the Chinese musical diaspora. Fair point.

In his essays he also took some mild shots at photographer and Beijing scene documentarian Matthew Niederhauser (of Sound Kapital fame). Niederhauser fired back in the comments of the Beijing Noise blog and, basically, shit was on. Archie Hamilton also got into the act on his China Music Radar site. Finally, Andy Best had something to say about it, too, taking the debate around to Shanghai and Han Han from Miniless.

It’s obvious that both have a vast knowledge of Chinese music and its recent history. It’s also apparent that both care a great deal for the scene. The thing that makes me uncomfortable about this debate about Chinese music is that LARGELY absent from the debate are, A, musicians and, B, um, Chinese people.

The whole thing has an air of, well, masculine genitalia comparison. It seems like outside parties clashing over who controls the information stream from the periphery and, thus, capitalizes on the music of Chinese people. Whether this comes from the best of intentions or not, it is still capitalization.

However, whatever the intentions or the process, it’s clear that the scene needs these people, and more like them.

Niederhauser is a good photographer who spends a lot of time and energy to bring his images from (mainly) D-22 to the world. The scene needs graphic documentation, as well as overall talent and enthusiasm.

Von Schaper (along with his web partner, Yang) has put an inordinate amount of time into cataloguing and covering bands from all over China. The scene needs verbal documentation, as well as overall talent and enthusiasm.

Maybe Mars and D-22 have spent the last few years of their lives to make good (some people say it’s not, but I call them crazy) music, and to present that music to China and the world. Above all, the scene needs good music and publicity, as well as overall talent and enthusiasm.

So what we have here is an abundance of effort, talent, and enthusiasm. Mix in a little cattiness and you have a good old-fashioned (if contained) Internet controversy. I am not going to weigh in on which side is “right” but I must say I have enjoyed it. The scene deserves a little passion and debate. I just wish there were more diverse parties involved.

So what do you think, Shanghai people? Do you respect Max-Leonhard Von Schaper for decrying the lack of pub outside of one specific group, or do you think he needs to be quiet and check out more shots of Chinese musicians in front of red walls?

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  1. Max-Leonhard von Schaper

    Hi, just for the record, as the disease was spreading and more and more people came out and started talking, let me complete the picture: The discussion was joined by Luke (Beijing Noise), Alex (Beijing Gig Guide), Beijing Daze, Shanghai writer Lisa Movius, Shaun of Tenzenmen and also Mr. Jake Newby (another Shanghai legend…). Also check out the interview with Jamie Welton on Beijing Daze, I think I can read in it a little nice reference to our May Debate …

  2. Andy Best

    Ha, sounds a little like I’m included in the willy-waving from the outside category. My article is just sending people their way, like this one and the Shanghai comments are just doing what you mentioned, reminding people of the actual musicians and their achievements.

    In the comments at BN I just wrote that I like Maybe Mars, basically.

    I just bought three of their CDs two days ago. Latest CSC, AV Okubo and Muscle Snog.

  3. shaun/tenzenmen

    i think i mentioned the same thing on the beijing noise comments – where are the musicians and the chinese. what do they think?

    has everything died down now? and has anything measurable come out of it?


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