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Photographer Benoit Florencon goes behind the beat of Shanghai’s underground electronic music scene
- Text by Terence Teh
In one of our favourite photography series we’ve featured on Satellite Voices, the French-born and Shanghai-based Benoit Florencon, founder of the Bureau 36 studio, explores Shanghai’s underground electronic music scene. With an editorial stance quotes overlaid on top of 14 different portraits, all within the artists’ home studios, we go behind the scenes into a totally niche movement and collective of artists. It’s an awesome documentation of a fertile and every evolving creative scene. Benoit will be releasing a forthcoming book of the project, in the meantime, check out this preview of images and the stories behind the beats and you can see the full online version here.
Satellite Voices: What’s your Shanghai story?
Benoit Florencon: I arrived in Shanghai in the summer of 2006 to finish my Masters degree for Chinese Studies. It didn't really work out and I dropped out after a couple months, got hired by an e-commerce company who I worked for until the 2010 financial crisis that left me jobless, and then decided that I didn't want to work in an office anymore and would rather follow my passion. I'm currently a freelance photographer.
SV: What were your first impressions of the city?
Benoit Florencon: I grew up in a small town in the south of France, so definitely big, crowded, and a lot of potential.
SV: Can you introduce Inner Spaces - how did it start?
Benoit Florencon: Inspiration came from a book called "Behind the Beat", by Rafael Rashid, who shot home studios of extremely famous DJs and producers in the UK and the US. All those Dilla pictures of him working on his beats in his living room are from these sessions.
I thought I could adapt the broad concept to up-and-coming producers and MCs in Shanghai as a way to raise awareness on their music, especially outside of China, and interview each individual to give a more general background to anyone who would be interested in what's going on here. Since for the rest of the world, China is still a pretty obscure place, and Western media barely cover alternative cultures here. I shared the idea to a few people I was already in contact with and had a very positive answer.
SV: How have these artists inspired you?
Benoit Florencon: I've been working with some of them on other projects, so there's definitely a work inspiration. Some inspire me through their lyrics, others through their hard work.
SV: How would you describe the Shanghai producer scene?
Benoit Florencon: The whole world collides here and everyone has different backgrounds, influences and production techniques. On the local side, definitely fast-learning and fast-growing. Not quite mature yet but getting there. One artist included in “Inner Spaces”, ChaCha, made it to the Red Bull Music Academy last year, which is a huge thing. There is a growing support as well but still the scene would definitely need more recognition and structure to make it to the next level. "Man man lai," as they say here - “little by little.”
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