The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Mark Godfrey'

05
 
“Why am I recording ethnic minorities music?” asks Laurent Jeanneau hypothetically. “I won’t pretend that I m doing it for saving endangered cultures, I let the UNESCO and various organizations or NGOs use big words like “preserving indigenous cultures” and actually not doing much about it . “I’ve contacted quite a few of those organizations in the past, without any results.” 
 
Passionate about the world’s minority peoples and their music, the Frenchman has spent ten years engaged in a “rather non lucrative activity” going to remote parts of India, Tanzania, southeast Asia and China to record traditional music. He’s now taking his mini disk recorder through China to record local minority folk music, before the music is lost to cultural assimilation.
 
“China is huge, it would take me so many years to explore and find the remaining musical traditions of the 400 ethnic minorities, A “Stalinian” approach by anthropologists of the 1950 s ensured the country’s ethnic groups squeezed into 55 official ethnic groupings but there are in fact as many as 400 ethnic groups as well as the Han majority, which accounts for 95 percent of China’s population.
 
In Autumn 2006, with his girlfriend Shi Tanding (herself a Han from China’s Muslim western region Xinjiang who has written about ethnic minorities) Jeanneau did a series of recordings of minorities around Lugu lake in northern Yunnan province and in Da Liangshan in southern Sichuan, both regions in China’s southwest. Centuries of intermingling between minority groups has made for an interesting musical mix. “Pumi and Moshuo are following Tibetan buddhism, and have been in contact with Han or Mongolian during past centuries.”
 
Elsewhere, China’s small community of Miaos carries the influence of the group’s movements between China and Laos and Vietnam, where they’re known as Hmong. A June 2007 trip to the southern province of Guizhou was a breakthrough. “Guizhou is the starting point of all Hmong people and I am now able to compare their different musical developments.”
 
The Nuosus, officially the Yi in China, are like the Miao less influenced by the outside world. The Yi, based in Yunnan and Sichuan encompass six different ethnic groups each with their own language and all together they are more than eight millions people.” In Yunnan, the duo recorded “beautiful” songs among two different Yi groups, the Nuosu and the Laluo.
 
While China, proud and enthusiastic about its past is encouraging the revival of styles of Chinese opera ethnic minorities have suffered from a recent “standardization” approach to folklore, says Jeanneau. “Old cultures need to be recorded before it s too late, something has been done by Chinese and foreign anthropologists…” Otherwise the remnants of minority culture will be replaced by television mass culture… “Within the ethnic groups, the new generations have already integrated mainstream musical taste and few of them see any value in the singing techniques of their ancestors.”
 
The extent to which ethnic minority music survives or gets swallowed up by KTV will depend on local efforts. “As far as I know some Chinese anthropologist might have recorded interesting stuff, I know of one university teacher in Kunming who has documented ethnic minorities in Yunnan, the problem is they bring people in studios to have it super clean, I love the sound environment that goes with it and anyway never had the money to bring people to a studio.”
 
Recordings are often driven by China’s booming tourism industry, which has lowered tastes. “They don t want to listen, they want to see, there are hardly no CDs to be purchased but VCDs and DVDs with sexy ethnic girls and synthesizers to make it acceptable to the masses. I’ve focused on getting old people sing old tunes , you cannot purchase that kind of recordings in China. Are ethnic minorities going to continue perform for real purposes and not tourism? I guess so, let s hope China is big enough to avoid commercial influence.”
 
 
Jeanneau gives RMB50 to each performer he records. “Many times they are more than one person, like five or seven singers, I wish I could give more but financially with low income I cannot.” China’s minorities have welcomed his attention. “They are so surprised that someone is interested by a totally non commercial music, it s a matter of recognition, some people even don t want my money, replying that I’ve come a long way to discover them.”
 
Several dozen CDs sell for RMB30 each at the Sugarjar music store in Beijing’s Dashanzi art district as well as other stores in Shenzhen, Chengdu and Kunming. He’s unsure who’s buying the CDs but of the people who buy directly from me half are foreigners. “Of that I’m getting 15 (I euro 50), which is more than what I get from American label who sells his products US$15!”
 
Outside China the CDs sell for 5 euros but profits are small. “When I record a musician anywhere in the world he gets $5 from me, so just count how many people u hear on those CDs.” To keep himself on the road, Jeanneau takes turns as an electronic musician, DJ in clubs and a sound recorder for film crews. “I live in Dali, Yunnan in a very cheap appartment, the list of all the jobs i ve done to survive is rather long!”
 
Negotiations with a major Chinese record label for the release of a double CD of recordings from Yunnan and Sichuan eventually ended in frustration. Honest record labels “simply don’t exist,” says Jeanneau. “I am now willing to release things by myself, less CDs and more income!”
 
“I invest my time, money and energy on music that move me, in many cases I seem to be the first one to record those musicians, I am aware of this exclusive dimension, but this is not essential… I love the rawness and uncompromising emotion that most ethnic musicians   express, regardless of the main ethnic groups taste, and western and local cultural decision makers, not to mention tourists and expats who are usually just looking for western music to go along with their western meals!”  
 
China’s minorities face similar fates to those of minority groups elsewhere, says the Frenchman, who released a double CD in 2003 on the french label Musiques du Monde of recordings of the Tanzanian Hadzas bushmen, the Hadzas, “who are in a very precarious situation” because of industrialization and tourism on their land. In 2000 he sold recordings to Discovery Channel, then shooting a documentary on James Stephenson, an American living with the Hadzas. “The result is a cliche film about friendly savages , the way safari tourists wish to see the bushmen.”

More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
19

Brett Anderson live at the Beijing Pop Festival

Brett AndersonReview Snapshot: Brett Anderson stole the show, and confronted authorities with a Saturday night of mostly Suede favourites at the Beijing Pop Festival.

CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
From the fans carrying signed posters into the ground teeny bopper style to the plentitude of CDs and t-shirts for sales outside you knew there was a bit of a buzz about Brett Anderson’s appearance at this year’s Beijing Pop Festival in downtown Chaoyang Park. The 70 percent local crowd looked more like university students rather than the black-tee brigade who frequent Beijing’s predominantly punk scene.

Anderson’s old band Suede made some noise (and lost much money) during a poorly attended show in Chaoyang Gymnasium in February 2003. But judging from the presence of posters ripped off the walls at that gig, the group made some friends on that trip.

The tight blue jeans, dress shirt and pin striped black jacket made Anderson look like Bryan Ferry when he took the stage at 7pm. The athleticism of the show – jacket came off six songs in – was vintage Anderson however, though the hair and vanity were very Ferry.

Dancing, squatting, kicking and occasionally quiet at the piano, Anderson took the Beijing Pop Festival by the scruff of the neck, the kind of middle age crowd pleasing effort that Sebastian Bach managed here last year. Bravely, he kept the hits for later in the night. Newer songs like Dust and Rain and Everything Will Flow were capable of holding the crowd’s attention until we got there.

“Using sex like an antidote,” from the latter song, is an apt line for Beijing, where beauty parlour culture manifests itself in pink lit cabins along the roads leading off Chaoyang Park. Beijing proffers great songwriting material to a writer like Anderson who has always been a kind of a Roddy Doyle of pop, revelling in the concrete and the % of urban life..

After My Love She’s Like A Cruel Disease, a slowish By The Sea marked the return to Suede land and we stayed there for the rest of the show. Wild Ones drew whoops of recognition. And then a giant Mastercard advert takes up the giant screen. Boos from the back of the crowd. Those bendable blinkies fly through the air during Film Star. Anderson blasts on through it even as a white towel is proferred, he’s too much into it and goes right into Beautiful Ones.

Anderson meant business. I Can’t Get Enough, arguably the best song was a slight deviation among tonight’s many hits, guitars and backing vocals punking it up. During the follow up, Trash, you wonder how hard it must be for the hired hands on the stage, given the reminders in tonight’s songs of how good Suede were on their long road together. Anderson’s school pal Matt Ossman has stuck by him, he’s playing bass tonight, but the difficulties with guitarist Bernard Butler are well documented.

Anderson’s own reputation for grumpiness is belied by tonight’s role as supreme crowd pleaser. Stage security – a troupe of young migrant worker security guards in ill fitting grey-green uniforms and hats like all the others that guard Beijing’s construction sites and car parks - keep a wide space between the crowd and stage and Anderson decides he wants to fill it during Saturday Night.

The result is pandemonium, and a reminder of what a crafty old stage crafter Anderson is. Totally unprepared for the situation, security resorted to default mode of local forces (repression) and tries to prevent him from walking along the barrier. Then a big laoban (boss) comes over to push Anderson back. The Suede man kept going however, waving the screaming top guard aside. The massive cheer showed China’s youth still likes confronting authority.

Mark Godfrey

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
19

It's played host to all of Beijing's usual supspects and bigger names, like International Noise Conspiracy. After making way for yet another Beijing Mall, Yugong Yishan has reopened in an old Latin-colonial looking building in the old part of the city (or what's left of that). Rui Fu, a posh club making no money - too far from the big business district bucks perhaps - is giving up the lease and Yugong Yishan will next week open the doors on whats likely to be a more dive-bar kind of place. We wish them luck.

 

UPLOADTEMPLATE


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
11

This weekend's Beijing Pop Festival had everything. Bag ladies collecting plastic bottles, a Chinese camper van maker showing its wares, lamb skewers, marijuana, and lots of freeloaders selling their VIP tickets for RMB200 at the gate. We paid RMB250 for our day tickets at the official van, which sold a two day ticket for RMB450: "you get RMB50 discount."

And then we meet a friend inside with an access all areas VIP wristband, snapped up with the VIP invite she bought for RMB200 outside. Go everywhere, for two days, and use the VIP loos at the back of the stage. In China you give flash looking invites to officials, police and anyone else who might be able to put a spanner in the works. Even if they've no intention of going Beijing bigwigs regard free tickets as an acknowledgement of their might and if they don't get them they can exercise their ability to pull one of those many permits you need to put on an open air rock festival in China. Big shows like this one warrant a few hundred such tickets - and a special VIP area of arm chairs and tea service. 

When Alisha Keyes played on the Great Wall a few years ago organisers handed out 500 free tickets out of 5,000 sold and sat the paying public behind about six rows of armchairs reserved for big shots and/or their families. Many of course didn't show, or went home when the novelty wore off. Ticket scabs usually know the likely recipients and approach them for the tickets. Given than construction workers earn about RMB600 a month in Beijing, a ticket sell for RMB200 isn't a bad takings.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
11

Visiting the Sugar Jar CD shop over in the ever-more-gentrified 798 art district in Dashanzi district lately I picked up a couple of CDs of recordings made by travelling French musicologist Laurent Jeanneau. At RMB30 and in unillustrated pink paper packaging the CDs don't immediately catch the eye but then little of what they sell in the tiny Sugar Jar is mainstream.

"Background music, ambient music man!" were the explanations of a couple of local music fans hanging out in the shop. On first listen I've got lots of patriotic chants and background music you hear at morning assembly/exercise time in the yards of Chinese secondary schools. There's also chants and tunes from the Yi and the Miao, minorities in southern China. Jeanneau fears the country's minority music will be lost as the tribes' youth fall in line with the karaoke bars and syrupy Mandarin variations on western pop. It's a tale that's also been told about Tibet and Xinjiang, regions of Buddhist and Muslim peoples where Han culture and mass tourism are having a diluting effect on local traditions and music.

When I called the number on his CD the amiable Jeanneau answered. He doesn't have a mobile and lives, in a cottage outside the city, off the RMB15 he gets from each CD sold at the Sugarjar (he gave up on negotiating a deal with a mainstream Chinese record label). More after we meet on his next journey into town.

  


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
05

After months of speculation the US indie rockers Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs have confirmed for the Modern Sky Festival to be held October 2 to 4, during the five-day break Beijingers get for National Day holiday. Yet another festival, yes, and this one is happening in Haidian Park up in the university district – next week’s Beijing Pop Festival is happening in Chaoyang Park, the city’s largest, in the embassy/business district.

No figures or arrangements for getting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs here have been disclosed – one imagines the Grammy-nominated New Yorkers don’t come cheap - but Modern Sky have gotten a lot of criticism for engaging in vanity lao wai (local slang for foreigner) projects, engaging foreign bands for gigs and recordings in China which have no sustainable impact on the development of the local scene. The money, says critics like That’s Beijing’s Berwin Song, would be better spent finding and releasing quality local artists.

Anyway the Golden Week (as Chinese call the National Day holiday) will be made more golden this year by the YYYs  appearing on a mostly-Chinese line up of Modern Sky bands: New Pants, Hedgehog and newcomers My Little Airport. Problem is even though there’s more foreign bands coming – put it down to the pre Olympic excitement – there hasn’t been a dramatic growth in the number of decent Chinese bands. Festival line ups often look remarkably similar.

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
29
 
Once named one of the 25 most influential Americans by Time magazine, Trent Reznor is back in favour and form. Following an album release earlier this year by his band Nine Inch Nails (NIN) a summer on the European festivals circuit is being bookended with a headline slot at the Beijing Pop Festival on September 8 and 9.

 Reznor, whose brand of industrial pop-rock minted millions in big-label revenue since 1989's bleak debut Pretty Hate Machine, is a personal hero for Jason Magnus, president of Rock For China Ltd, which organises the Beijing Pop Festival. A real estate developer who realized a dream by running the first edition of the pop festival in 2005, Magnus admires the band’s anti-establishment views and the anti-Bush sentiments of the band’s latest album, Year Zero.

“NIN always stayed relevant,” saysMagnus, who gushes with admiration for the public relations campaign behind the band’s new recording. “They are still filling stadiums and still challenging their listeners. Their live show and production values have always been fresh and different.”
 
It was always clear that the band had fans in China: NIN albums like Downward Spiral, a staple of most mid – 1990s college dorms is reliably present in small-town CD shops from Shanghai to Urumqi. Few logos are as ubiquitoius as the blocky NIN on the cheap black t-shirts of rock fans on a weekend night in any of Beijing’s rock bars.
 
The band always wanted to play China, says Magnus. “They’ve been very keen, it was always a logistics question.” The US band is tacking China onto an Asia leg that also takes in Korea, Hong Kong before the band flies to Australia. A large crew (30, compared to an entourage of 17 which comprised the entire entourage of last year’s headline act, Placebo) and freight load will break records in China, says Magnus. “They’re bringing 15 tonnes of equipment, Placebo brought four.”
 
Aside from landing NIN Rock For China has been clever with the line up: whatever happens there will be a big turn out for what’s being claimed as the first outdoor show in almost 20 years by socially inspired local bard Cui Jian. The “godfather of Chinese rock” as he’s labeled would surely show up himself to see the other big American name at the festival, Public Enemy, tapes of whom he’s credited with inspiring segues into social-conscience rapping later on in his career. 
 
Chinese rock fans have a historical bent, says Magnus. Other Americans on the main stage include anti-establishment icons the New York Dolls and Marky Ramone from defunct punk legends the Ramones. “I really wanted legends from different genres. I’m not bringing acts out for expatriates but for the Chinese fans and contemporary artists don’t have followings here,” says Magnus, who points to the rousing reception given to hard rock journeyman Sebastian Bach at last year’s festival as proof that local fans like old gold rather than current hot tickets like the Killers and the Strokes. “…I’ve noticed a lot of kids wearing New York Dolls and Romones t-shirts, so we bought them.”
 
Paying for big names like NIN is difficult in China, where rock remains a niche taste in a music market already sapped by CD piracy. NIN are charging “more than 100 percent” more than last year’s headline act, Placebo, charged. The pop festival pays its acts largely from sponsorship.
 
Unlikely corporate sponsors include credit card company Mastercard and US-based office technology provider R & R Donnelly. Both companies sponsored the festival last year too. New sponsors this year as Hennessy VSOP and perfume brand Dior. “We prefer to stick with the tried and tested brands who were involved last year. We are aware of the limited potential of the market here. Festivals don’t have a long history in China.”
 
Troubled TV maker TCL sponsored the 2005 festival but this year the only Chinese sponsor is the local edition of Sports Illustrated magazine. “Companies have different internal reasons for sponsoring,” says Magnus. He won’t comment on whether sponsorship fees have risen on last year’s figures.
 
Ticket prices have risen from RMB150 per day in 2006 to RMB200 this year but remain “ridiculously good value” for the 15,000 people a day - “near enough capacity” - expected by Magnus. China remains price sensitive. “In general people in China buy one day tickets.” Ticket sales, handled by state owned Piaowu Tong ticket company split 50/50 between one day and weekend.
 
Copious paperwork and permits needed to get the groups in necessitated the abbreviation of the group’s name to PE. Bureaucracy is a way of life for festival organizers in China, who regularly dispenses batches of free tickets to smooth over permit processes. Over 2,000 people brought tents last year. “I really liked that, it adds to the vibe.” Campers are not allowed to stay overnight in the park however, and must be out with the rest of the crowd within an hour of the last song of the night.
 
Magnus has been wrangling with security about shortening the barrier between crowd and performers. Uniformed security guards, required by local law, last year stood to attention facing the crowd. “We want them to change their uniforms,” says Magnus. “It would be really important to the vibe of the festival.”
 
From London, the main stage’s sole Brit attraction, Brett Anderson will be on a second visit to China. A February 2003 showing with his then group, Suede, was poorly attended. “It was holiday time so a lot of people missed it,” says Magnus, who predicts a big turn-out this time round for the former Suede front man, currently in the midst of a coolly received solo career. “We’ve been getting phone calls all year from fans asking if we could bring Suede. As pioneers of Brit pop they’ve got a big following...”

Lesser known foreign bands include Britain’s the Crimea, who play with locals Joyside and Muma on the Hit Fm stage, sponsored by a local radio station.

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
23

The Killers (live at the Sziget Festival, Budapest)

The KillersReview Snapshot:
The Killers close Budapest's 15th Sziget festival with a Sam's Town-heavy set and a Joy Division cover.

The CLUAS Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

Full review:
If there’s such a thing as being too good, The Killers are it. Called into action early on the last night of Sziget 2007 after Chris Cornell failed to show, the band never put a foot wrong in a 90 minute set. Brandon Flowers, in a Victorian looking black-white outfit that looked right he’d been out shopping, went right into 'Sam’s Town'.

It didn’t help dapper Flowers and co that the only other English-language act to measure up to the whole evening on the main stage – after Cornell pulled out - was Juliette Lewis and her Licks, and that’s setting a low bar. Hanoi Rocks down on the HammerWorld stage deserved a slot more than Lewis and co, inexplicably still securing main stages on Europe’s festival circuit with their been-done dive bar rock.

On a stage done up in fairy lights and a steer skull over the keyboards, the boys from Las Vegas haven’t a bad song in their back catalogue. Each Killers song sounded as good as it did on the album. But you’re waiting for some kind of unpredictability, some thing that says they’re humans, not gods.
 
The Killers don’t need hand-me downs but the nearest thing we got to something off-the-perfect-path all evening was a Joy Division  cover, 'Shadow Play'. “Unfortunately this isn’t one of our songs,” said lead singer Flowers before he went into a synthesizer-heavy rendering of this Cohen jewel. The fan beneath a Russian flag behind me screamed for “Meesther Briitside” and he duly got it. The Russian flag was ominously blotted out by a sea of Union Jacks however. Proof perhaps that Brits love this Brit-loving band and even tonight's version of 'Shadow Play' is old news in the UK, having been performed by the Killers at this year's NME awards.

'This River Is Wide' was introduced by Flowers as one of the band favourite songs and delivered like he meant that. The set burned brightest towards the end, on 'Reasons Unknown', before the band came on a third time and briefly for the lovely 'Exitlude'. 90 minutes of perfect rock n roll. But come on Brandon, you’re allowed to make mistakes.

Mark Godfrey


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
23

Razorlight (live at the Sziget Festival, Budapest)

RazorlightReview Snapshot:
A full bodied performance by Borrell and company who led the Brit contingent at the US-dominated rock segment of this year's Sziget in Budapest.

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
British bands and fans are colonizing many of Europe’s best festivals – note Spain’s Benicassim becoming an Alicante of its former colourful, multinational self. Thankfully Sziget has a massive pool of local talent to balance things out, and big US names. But the Rakes and Razorlight were well chosen Brit presence on the main stage on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

A slice of what sounded like Edith Piaf wafted over the dry ice and the band appeared and then segued into the opening chords of 'In the Morning'. Appearing like a hairy, postmodern angel in a kitschy Darkness-like white leopard suit with a split front, Borrell had the goods and delivered them with some panache. A full bodied In the Morning had the plentiful supply of beautiful women dancing in their designer wellies. Wellington boots in pink and flower patterns moved as Borrell sang “all they know is how to put you down” on 'Golden Touch'. None of these ladies in wellies are used to being put down, we hope.

Shirt off, guitar on for 'Tonight in LA', Borrell closed an hour-long show with Miracle to make way for Sinead O'Connor. The sun was still shining but Razorlight packed up with Vice, confirmation of the band’s worth to a headline slot. Seeking to ingratiate himself with the audience perhaps, Borrell dedicated the song to his "favorite filmmaker," the recently deceased László Kovács, a hometown hero here.

Budget concerns at Sziget (the government subsidized the concert till this year) has meant higher ticket prices and more foreigners at Sziget 2007. The local fear is that the bill will be designed so that wealthier western European fans travel. There’s already a sizeable roster of French acts to satisfy an ever larger contingent traveling from France. If they must attract foreign talent we hope the organisers at least choose some as good as Razorlight.

Mark Godfrey


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
23

A Chinese pop star’s ambition to be the world’s first musician to sell one billion downloads is the reason behind an unlikely collaboration between a pop star’s dreams and a nascent Irish dotcom company’s ambition. Dubbed China’s Whitney Houston, Wei Wei is aiming to set a world record by selling more than one billion downloads to mobiles from her http://weiwei.mobi site, designed by a Dublin-based Internet firm, by the end of 2008.
 
Beautiful and well connected (she’s reportedly on first name terms of several of China’s politburo), label-less Wei Wei released her latest album, Wei Wei 20 X 20 Celebration Collection (it marks her 20 years in showbiz), exclusively on her website, designed specially to be mobile-phone friendly.
 
The 34 year old singer decision to shun traditional CDs and download stores like iTunes (the album was later made available at iTunes) for her latest release was helped by her being chosen to sing at the opening ceremonies of next summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing. “This will be one of the world's biggest-ever media events.”
 
“Accessing the internet from mobile phones is the future of the internet and allows me to reach my older fans as well as the younger generation who use mobile phones much more than PCs for accessing the Internet,” said Wei Wei in an email.
 
Designed by Dublin-based dotcom firm dotMobi, the .mobi domain makes websites more suited to mobile phone using music fans, says Vance Hedderel, director of communications at mTLD Top Level Domain Limited, dotMobi’s parent company. “Sites built using the .mobi domain can be accessed from most internet-enabled mobile phone, no matter which operator the user is subscribed to.”
 
“That means an artist like Wei Wei can ensure her material is available to the widest possible global audience without restrictions. End users don't have to be tied to an operator's portal to get the music they want -- assuming that the music they want is available on an operator's portal -- and they can be sure that the money is going directly to the artist, who can use those profits to make more material available.”
 
Press material surrounding the Wei Wei release described Wei Wei as “China's biggest music star” will surely be refuted by more recent arrivistes like Liu Yifei, winner of last year’s hugely popular Supergirl reality TV pop show. She's no longer top of China's pop scene yet Wei Wei’s prices are premium: songs like the Red Flower and Welcome to Beijing cost US$4 per download. Mobile phone ring tones adapted from tunes like See You 2008 cost US$3. Songs on itunes typically cost US$0.99 to download.
 
“Yes, they’re expensive,” conceded Wei Wei manager Bjorn Bertoft. “But Wei Wei is a hugely popular star.” Shooting to public prominence after winning the Young Singers contest on national TV in 1986, Wei Wei has been China’s favourite face at large sporting events, singing at the opening of 1991 Asia Games in Beijing and performing a duet with famously randy Spanish pop star Julio Iglesias in at the East Asia Games in Shanghai two years later. In her 20-year career, Hohot-born Wei Wei has sold more than 200 million tapes and CDs and has recorded hundreds of songs, both in English and Mandarin.
 
Famous for her interpretations of Chinese songs like Telling to the Spring and Sparkling Sky (she also covered Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Changes Everything), Wei Wei has ambitions beyond China, a market with its own copyright and piracy pitfalls for musicians. The woman who claims Swedish group ABBA was her inspiration to learn English, moved to Stockholm in 1999  to begin an assault on the English language market. The move was described by the artist at the time as a way “to capitalise on the growing global influence of Chinese popular culture.”
 
Wei Wei flies to Beijing at least once a month for concert and TV appearances - she also sang at the start of the Beijing marathon and the closing of the Nanjing Crawfish festival last year - but records in Sweden. Her 20X20 album was polished by fabled production team Johan Åberg and Robban Habolin, writers/producers for Cher and Christina Aguilera. The Inner Mongolia native spent an hour signing autographs at the dotMobi booth during the international telecommunications conference, 3GSM World Congress, in Barcelona in February. Based in Stockholm since 1999 with four sons from her estranged marriage to a Swedish-American husband,
 
Selling direct-to-consumer downloads rather than CDs helps curb music piracy, says Wei Wei. “This is a major problem in my home country… This is an important shift in music history. In China, the market for CDs was over a long time ago. I am going to concentrate solely on digital technology,” says Wei Wei.
 
Her other claim is even more intriguing. “It's also an environmentally friendly way of distributing my music.” So no more plastic CDs then? Certainly, the global music industry has been struggling to adjust itself to a post-CD world. Large music companies at first tried to suppress online music sharing sites like Napster before eventually selling content on licensed on line traders like iTunes and Realplayer.
 
dotMobi is the informal name for mTLD Top Level Domain, Ltd, a joint venture company based in Dublin, Ireland with offices in Washington, DC and Beijing. Sites and Internet services operating around .mobi are optimized for use by mobile devices. The company is hoping that it can create critical mass by tapping into China’s 400-million strong mobile user base, the largest in the world. The standard has the backing of leading mobile operators and network equipment makers as well as Internet content providers, including Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia and Samsung.
 
Working with Wei Wei opens doors in China, one of dotMobi's five largest markets. In the early part of 2008 the company’s Beijing office plans to unveil content directory to make it easy to find mobile content that works on mobile phones, and a device database to make developing mobile applications easier and less expensive.
 
Other musicians are following Wei Wei’s lead. Independent artists Tila Tequila and Jennie Walker have recently also built .mobi sites. “Having weiwei.mobi has been a very good demonstration of what is possible,” says Hedderel.
 
Wei Wei and FC Barcelona soccer heroes Messi, Deco, Márquez and Puyol give a gentlemen's salute to female soccer players with "Go-Girl-Go (Fly With Me)", a theme song and a music video for the Women’s World Cup which China’s hosts in September. “Wei Wei is a national icon in China, familiar to more than a billion people,” claimed an early dotMobi press release. Hardly. But familiar to enough of people to carry the company into the Chinese market.

More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
Page 13 of 16First   Previous   7  8  9  10  11  12  [13]  14  15  16  Next   Last   

Search Articles

Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).