Thursday, July 18

Asian music’s diverse genres contain American influence

For UCLA students studying in a region as diverse as Asia, discovering a music scene that includes everything from Chinese punk rock to Taiwanese pop was an eye-opening experience. Education Abroad Program and Travel Study students travelling in Beijing, Taiwan and Thailand experience much of each country through its music. While much American music has influenced Asian culture, Los Angeles has yet to hear a crossover music style from Asia.

Jared Spring, a fourth-year business economics student, studied in Beijing, China for six months, exploring the Chinese music scene along the way.

Spring said he was surprised to find a large Chinese punk rock and alternative scene while in Beijing ““ an entirely different music scene from what he had anticipated.

“I’m half Chinese, so I kind of grew up in the Chinese culture somewhat with my mom’s side of the family,” Spring said. “The music that I learned from them, or even my first couple of months in China, was the classical kind of stuff you would expect to hear … and none of the stuff we listen to here in the United States. But it definitely exists.”

While in Beijing, Spring discovered the Beijing Midi School of Music, a music university with a curriculum that includes modern music genres such as rock and jazz. Every year, the school sponsors the Midi Modern Music Festival as well as the Beijing Jazz Festival.

“For China, their July 4 is Oct. 1, so they have a week off of school then. They have a bunch of music festivals during that time,” Spring said. “I took a bus to this Midi University outside the outskirts of the city. It’s like a five-day festival ““ they have five or six different bands play each day. I only went one day, but … they are huge.”

For Spring, it was easy to see America’s influence on the Chinese punk rock scene, whether musically or in the atmosphere of the shows in Beijing.

“The first band I listened to sounded like Green Day ““ like, same clothes, same hairstyle, same type of dance, same type of fast-paced music,” Spring said. “And it was really eye-opening for me, just because I didn’t really expect there to be this scene. The crowds were 3,000 to 4,000 people just going crazy.”

While the music scene may be reminiscent of the American concert scene, music also serves as an important outlet for youth in China, according to Spring.

“Talking to Chinese people and reading different stuff, (I realized) the ways people are allowed to express themselves aren’t always fair in China,” Spring said. “Oftentimes, kids in our generation are expressing themselves more freely using music, either rock “˜n’ roll or punk, to express their emotions or thoughts in that kind of form.”

Although Spring said he could not understand much Chinese then, he recognized the screaming and musical similarities between American rock and the Chinese hard-core music scene.

“I think a lot of the influences came from America, and also I know Germany has a pretty big hard-core scene, so I know there are a few German expatriates just rocking out like German heavy metal there too,” Spring said.

However, not every student’s experience with the music scene of a foreign country is the same. Wendy Eav, a fourth-year Chinese student, travelled in Taiwan between 2008 and 2009, encountering mostly American pop music.

“I didn’t really get to listen to much Asian pop unless I turned on the radio or went to malls,” Eav said.

While in Taiwan Eav visited Ximending, a neighborhood with an outdoor mall frequented by the younger crowd where both American and Chinese pop can be heard. Additionally, Eav attended a concert of the American-born, Taiwanese artist Leehom Wang.

“He’s famous mostly in Taiwan and Asia, so a lot of American-born Chinese people know of him,” Eav said. “So when we went to the concert, it wasn’t just Taiwanese fans. There were a lot of Canadians, Americans, Singaporeans ““ people from all over the world there.”

Eav said her greatest discovery was that, while American music is frequently heard in Taiwan in malls and elsewhere, the reverse is not true.

“There are a lot of talented artists in Asia, and it’s kind of sad that American music is so popular there, but it’s not vice versa where we hear a lot of Asian pop here as well,” Eav said.

As an intern at ABC, Eav is pushing for a crossover of Asian artists to the Los Angeles music scene as well.

Kevin Huang, a fourth-year environmental engineering student, also noticed that American music has crossed over to Asia while he was studying abroad in Thailand.

“As far as going out at night, like get-togethers and parties, they do play a lot of American music focused around whatever was cool in America maybe six months ago,” Huang said.

But Huang also discovered a huge electronic music scene and attended several clubs and venues that were unique to Thailand.

“There were a couple of venues I went to. One was kind of like a back-alley little nightclub ““ like, in Bangkok you just walk through some dark alley and then you come across a nightclub with a DJ playing,” Huang said.

Aside from clubs playing electronic music, Huang discovered a large music scene centered on the beaches of Thailand.

“There is this thing called the Full Moon Party … and there are just like DJs who set up every couple of meters down the beach just playing all kinds of music, and just people dancing,” Huang said.

Within the beach party scene, Huang found a tiny shack called “Funky’s Bar” ““ a bar on the beach where they played electronic music.

“(The bar owner) had this gigantic collection of electronic bar music playing in the background, and it was really cool. It was good music and stuff that I had never heard ““ I was really impressed,” Huang said.

From electronic beats to Chinese punk rock, the music scene in Asia is more diverse than what many students might imagine. At the same time, students studying abroad seem to share the experience of encountering a crossover of American music into Asian culture, which is a crossover that is not really reciprocated.

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