LISTEN: China in 70 Songs

RADII contributor Krish Raghav put together a mix of "70 songs that defined the PRC" from 1949-2019

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6:00 AM HKT, Mon September 30, 2019 2 mins read

Well this one’s a doozy. Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, RADII contributor Krish Raghav has put together a remarkable playlist of a song (or two) for each year of the country’s existence. “These aren’t ’70 Chinese Songs’ but rather 70 songs that defined the PRC in each of these years,” Raghav explained on Twitter. “Songs that are gateways to something interesting underneath.”

It’s a comprehensive tracklist, kicking off appropriately enough with PRC national anthem “March of the Volunteers” (“briefly suspended when lyricist Tian Han was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution,” Raghav notes), and winding through the next seven decades of history via a dutifully researched playlist of patriotic “red songs,” classical, folk, Hindi film soundtrack, ’80s hair metal, rock, punk, hip-hop, dance music, protest music, and (much) more.

Here are a few highlights, re-posted here with permission from the author:

2018 — Lexie Liu

The Higher Brothers are cancelled.

Lexie Liu, the multi-incarnate cyberpunk hip-hopstress, is the Chinese rap artist that I think defines the current wave. There’s pride and uncertainty in her songs, there’s defiance and acceptance, and there’s vision…a thousand ideas on where Chinese hip-hop could go. NADA, from 2018, seems to draw on atleast 10 artists in this list — Duck Fight Goose chief among them — and it’s sense of lineage combined with a relentless striving towards the future that I find exciting about Lexie.

She’s called Chinese hip-hop a ‘sausage party’ and wants to break that. She finds macho swagger unsettling, and wants to bring more introspection into the genre. Plus she’s signed to 88Rising, a phenomenon in pan-Asian if there ever was one.

[Read RADII’s interview with Lexie Liu here.]

2005 — FM3 Buddha Machine

FM3 pulled off a minor miracle with their ‘Buddha Machine’, their little plastic box that blasted snatches of drone and ambient music recorded around Beijing. It got the attention of Brian Eno, Throbbing Gristle and Talking Heads’ David Byrne (he called it “the future of music” which….come on, dude).

FM3, like so much music in China, were masters of adaptation. They were making electronic music before alternative nightclubs, in the height of the SARS epidemic under a curfew. The Buddha Machine was their clever chabuduo hack, a little piece of magic that punched above its weight — much like FM3 themselves.

[Read more about FM3’s Buddha Machine here.]

hang on the box beijing punk2003 — Hang on the Box

20 years ago, Wang Yue, Yilinna and Yang Fan of the band Hang on the Box made the Beijing punk scene an international topic, posing in Tiananmen Square for a February 1999 cover of American magazine Newsweek. Crouched under the headline “China: The Limits on Freedom,” the three teenagers were put forward as bold iconoclasts, the new face of alternative Chinese youth.

They quickly became an international sensation, signing with a Japanese record label and becoming one of the first Chinese bands to perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX. Their original members — singer Wang Yue, better known as Gia; Yang Fan, who started on drums and later moved to guitar; Yilinna, the band’s original bassist; and Shen Jing, who replaced Yang Fan on drums in 1999 — all remain active musicians and cultural influencers.

[Read more about Hang on the Box in Krish Raghav and RADII Culture Editor Josh Feola’s illustrated history of the band.]

Read the full annotated tracklist here, and listen to the entire playlist via the YouTube embed below:

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