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Sub-Culture's Shanghai Vinyl Adventures
September 1, 2011
Our Shanghai Guest Editor documents the underground Chinese vinyl scene in an exclusive two-part feature
- Text by Satellite Voices
Gaz Williams is the Manchester-born, Shanghai-based music promoter behind some of the most innovative new electronic bass music to come out of China. Founding Sub-Culture as an event that straddles music, art and film, a blog of the same name as well as the reggae collective Uprooted Sunshine and PAUSE - a collective group of Shanghai’s independent promoters, musicians and artists, Sub-Culture will be our invaluable insight into the bass heavy sonics of the city.
"As far back as I remember I’ve always been surrounded by records. My father was, and still is, an avid vinyl collector and some of my earliest memories are of a room, upstairs in the house where I was born, which was always locked and I could only go in their when my dad was listening to music and he could keep an eye on me so I didn’t touch any of his precious black discs. A few years later I would be woken up at 7am every Saturday and Sunday morning and taken to car boot sales and markets and dragged around stall after stall of junk whilst my dad searched through every box of music he could find.
A few years on and I was starting my own collection, saving up money that I’d make washing pots in a local restaurant or working in packing factories during the school holidays, and going into Manchester with my DJ mates and spending everything I had on DnB or hip hop records from the now-long-gone Slam Jamz Records or Eastern Bloc. From that time until this very day I have never stopped buying records, and in fact the obsession is stronger now than it probably ever was. This vinyl addiction not only comes from wanting to own and listen the music, but also the whole aesthetic of vinyl and collecting – the artwork, the smell, the feeling when you’ve found something you know is a bit special, when you first drop the needle on a new piece. CDs and MP3s just don’t compare.
The whole culture of collecting music was never really possible in China, mainly due to availability of music and also the high cost. Every piece of media, including music, which is ‘officially’ available in China must be thoroughly checked and passed by the government and so over the years choices have been very slim.
Also, the expense of having a record player and records to play on that player was, and for many still is, too much to justify even if they wanted to. Because of this, record players and records were a real luxury item and only owned by the well-off or by groups or public spaces such as dance halls or factories. The only old records from mainland China that can be found today are mainly communist propaganda ‘hits’ and traditional Chinese classical music or folk songs, and because of tight regulations and closed borders there hasn’t been much of an imported vinyl scene either. Well, until recently that is…
In the south of China there are warehouses full of unwanted plastic goods, all waiting to be melted down and re-used to make other plastic goods which will probably end up back at the same warehouses a few years down the line. Amongst the broken plastic boxes, toys, CDs, DVDs and other junk are boxes of records... 1000s of boxes of records."
Check back tomorrow for part 2
Photographer Benoit Florencon goes behind the beat of Shanghai’s underground electronic music scene
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