Chinese Artists to Check Out at SXSW This Year

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1:21 AM HKT, Thu February 1, 2018 3 mins read

We’re not too far from March, which means the citizens of Austin, TX are already beginning to anticipate/dread the onset of South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual music, film and media festival entering its 31st year. SXSW has grown bigger and broader nearly every year, and its 2018 edition, which runs from March 9-18, is looking pretty swollen, with comedy and gaming components tacked on to the proceedings.

On the music end of things, the SXSW 2018 program includes a decent selection of Chinese artists, including highly touted Sichuan trap crew Higher Brothers (who will be in town along with Indonesian rapper and 88Rising label-mate Rich Chigga Brian), an electronic-leaning showcase of Taiwanese artists assembled by Taiwan Beats, and a smattering of more rock/folk-oriented bands that will play together on an official China Night showcase:

Here’s a quick primer on the Chinese artists that have been selected to perform at SXSW, according to the festival’s official program:


Good call! There are quite a few bands across China who’ve tuned into a specific, semi-localized strain of artful, lyrical post-punk, but FAZI from Xi’an are among the very best. They’re also among the hardest working and most prolific, shooting out at least an EP’s worth of new material every year for the last few. Their latest album, Heart of Desire, came out last July, and you can stream it here.


Higher Brothers

Not sure what I can say about Higher Brothers that wasn’t already said in this lengthy profile of the four-man Chengdu trap crew that Noisey published a few days ago. They’re one of the hottest things on China’s underground music scene right now, and a group we’ve covered a few times here. Word on the internet is they’ve already sold out the LA, DC and New York legs of their upcoming North America tour, and I expect they’ll the be most hyped & hotly anticipated Chinese act at SXSW as well. UPDATE: After facing some visa problems in North America and being forced to postpone at least one show in Canada, Higher Brothers seem to have taken SXSW off their tour itinerary and are no longer listed as performing at the festival. Bummer.

Moxizishi / Jikehabu / 3He

Moxizishi (pictured) is a multi-talented musician of the Yi minority who has built a robust following around China and in his current base of Beijing. His music is highly regarded for its eclectic mix of folk, rock, trance, and “world music” elements, and his SXSW performance should be quite interesting as he’ll be joined by Jikehabu, an “inheritor of Yi nationality Bimo music,” and Beijing-based electronic music producer 3He. Check out this short video of Moxizishi performing at (now closed) Beijing venue Mako Livehouse for a taste.


Second Hand Rose

Second Hand Rose are legends of the Chinese rock/festival scene, famous for their combination of traditional Chinese instruments and imported rock instrumentation, as well as for their polished theatrics and on-point stage attire. Check out the Second Hand Rose episode of now defunct CRI English program The Sound Stage to see what I’m talking about.



Disclosure: I’m the drummer of SUBS, right there in the Spurs T, which is why I was clued in to all this. Instead of writing about myself I’ll point to a long interview I did with the band’s two founding members, Kang Mao (center) and Wu Hao (right), who met in Wuhan in the late ’90s and emerged from that cauldron of nervous punk energy to form SUBS in Beijing in 2001. The interview is from the December 2016 issue of Maximum Rocknroll, and you can see it here.


Xiaoxia / Mr. Asbo / Soulspeak

More of an installation than a live performance per se, but this one looks interesting as well: a collaboration between guqin virtuoso Zhao Xiaoxia, jazz singer Mr. Abso, and electronic musician Soulspeak, who returned to his hometown of LA a few years ago after making his name as one of the best beat producers in China during his long tenure in Beijing. From the SXSW writeup: “The music will be performed using an ancient Chinese instrument GuQin. The GuQin is then fed into sampling buffers and manipulated and warped in real time and fed back to the GuQin player, each radically altering the other, constantly changing and morphing.”



SHAO (fka Dead J) throws a bit of a curveball onto the China Night bill, peddling his abstract techno compositions in between the otherwise squarely guitar-oriented proceedings. SHAO has been a key figure of Beijing’s electronic music scene for 15 years or so, first as the co-founder of seminal label Shanshui, and later as one of Chinese techno’s key global ambassadors, with a number of international tours (including one through India) and a thoroughly metallic-sounding Tresor single on his resume.


Sonia Calico

This list is mainly artists from Mainland China, but there are also a few from Taiwan heading to SXSW, including rappers Dwagie and PoeTek, folk artists Prarie WWWW and Sangpuy, and Santa Monica-born TV actor turned crossover pop star Van Ness Wu. Can’t say I’m too familiar with any of these (though Prarie WWWW sounds great), but I’m a big fan of Taipei producer and UnderU label-runner Sonia Calico, who’s also part of the SXSW program. Check out a few of her tunes in this end-of-year mix we put out last month.


Ruby Fatale 鹿比 ∞ 吠陀


New to me, but here’s the official bio: “Drenched in the unique atmosphere of stoner/doom/glitch music and the violent aesthetics, Ruby grabs idea from literature, geometric figures and her own experiences. She also concretizes desires, pieces of memory to dedicate sound particles which are content in specified frequency into her music. When she performs, her partner VJ Wei enriches her narration with delicate frequency-synced visual.” Sounds cool!

Cover image: FAZI

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