2012 Oct 02 Music Players: Badr Benjelloun, BeijingDaze
For our September Music Issue, we asked a selection of the city's music experts for their take on the current state of the 'scene' here in the capital. Now it's the turn of the city's media players. The figures that shape the city musically, their first hand insight provided some cause for optimism, and some sobering conclusions. Up next, Badr Benjelloun of BeijingDaze.com.
How long have you been writing about music?
I’ve been writing about music in this format since the blog started in 2009 and that was really the first time I’ve done it this way. I have been involved with music and musicians for close to 20 years now either as a band member, studio designer, web-master or some other role. My earliest venture with music was a Motley Crue fan site called MotleyPedia in 1997 where I gathered a comprehensive collection of articles and writings about the band.
Describe your blog/website in less than 20 words.
The blog has changed a lot over the past 3 years and it’s almost taken a life of its own at this point. If I have to describe it in 20 words, best I can do is: “Thriving to shine a biased loving but critical light on Beijing’s underground Music scene”
Why do you find Chinese music so compelling to write about?
It’s not as much about Chinese music as it is the Beijing music landscape. There is such a variety and diversity already and we’re just in the beginning of this journey!
How do you think independent Chinese music has progressed since you started your blog/website?
It’s hard to judge sometimes if the music has progressed or my views on it have changed. The music is here and has been here for a while ... what’s changed is the audiences. There are more people coming to shows all the time, even on regular weeknights. Rock 'n roll is slowly infiltrating national TV so society doesn’t view it as “the enemy” anymore and that in itself is the biggest progress of all.
What trends have you noticed in Chinese music recently?
There are a few of them that bear commenting on:
No labels. Kaiser Kuo wrote a column a year or so ago about how we, as foreigners, are stuck with our labels whereas a lot of Chinese musicians are freer and not tied to a particular genre.... it’s refreshing to see a mean metal dude playing in a funk band or hard-rocker playing experimental noise rock. They have more room to grow musically.
Big labels. We’re also starting to see big labels emerge as they sign more and more bands. Maybe Mars is definitely ahead of the game as far as indie is concerned. Modern Sky is ruling the electro-pop landscape whereas Pilot Records is holding the fort for the heavier bands.
Separation. The unfortunate side of progress is separation. There are lines being drawn in the sand as well as certain political allegiances developing slowly but surely. It’s almost like high school mentality. We see it between the old guard and the younger kids, gulou bands and haidian bands etc…
What's the best act you've seen in the last 12 months?
Miserable Faith at Midi 2012. It was a powerful epic experience, almost religious, with 10,000 people singing their songs before they even took the stage.
What's the best new act you've seen in the last 12 months?
Residence A and Jacky Danny. These two bands will go very far if they can stay together long enough to make it happen
What would you like to see for the future of Chinese music in five years time?
It’s hard to predict. There are many external factors at play here between the financial side, the political climate, musical evolution that do influence the scene. That said though, I see a bright and exciting future for the whole scene.
Why do you think it's difficult for Chinese acts to get international recognition?
Lack of discipline and promotion, bands here have not learned how to work to promote themselves and shows. No one is taking responsibility or initiative in terms of making things happen.
The bands that have the means and good management are making some noise internationally though. Look at Hanggai, some Maybe Mars bands, re-TROS, XTX, Xiao He just to name a few.
Click here to see the September issue of the Beijinger in full.