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Let me tell you about this random Chinese band from this random bar in Beijing and why you should listen to it (and share it everywhere)

So. I have all my music (over 160 hours) on a playlist on random, which means that every now and then songs I do not even remember I had get played. Which happened the other day with 相忘于江湖 by 耳光乐队. It is a very low quality live version I downloaded from youtube long time ago. To explain how I got to know this band we have to go back to to my year in Beijing in 2007, when I was much younger and somehow simultaneously much cooler (accidentally) and much more embarrassing than I am now.

It all starts with my friend Jimmy, the only competent teacher in the TEFL course. He happened to stay in the same hostel as me during the course, and we pretty much immediately became friends. Thanks to him, we did not go out to any of the tourist bars in 后海 or 三里屯, but ended up in a small bar with live music from the very active alternative/folk/jazz scene in Beijing. It is still my favourite bar I have ever been to, mainly because somehow the local musicians hanging out in the bar (and the owner) adopted us. When there was no live music we would sit around and play guitar (Jimmy was trying to teach me a Chinese song, I still haven't mastered). One time I ended up in a private party in the staff break room? owners kitchen? some random room next to the bar drinking beer and eating sunflower seeds with the staff/musicians/friends of the owner. The owner was a member of 耳光乐队 at that time (not anymore, it seems, but he plays the saxophone on their first album) and I vaguely remember seeing them rehearsing there. I know that all sounds like a very cool thing and I sound like a very cool person, but I have my diary from that time and read some of it today to find some names and I can tell you, I had a case of Fremdschämen (that will be my next German word to write about) towards my younger self.

This all came back to me, when the song randomly appeared on my playlist. 15 years later and post COVID I wondered what had happened to that bar and that band. For all I knew the band had been a small local band with only a few clips from live shows available on the internet. Folk/Jazz fusion is after all not the most mainstream music here or in China. So I did some high level internet stalking and found out several things:
  • The bar still exists and seems to be doing well. Now I feel very sad I did not try to find it last time I was in Beijing and have one more reason to return to China one day.
  • The band is a hundred times cooler than I could have imagined. They are part of the Chinese counter culture music scene. The lyrics are absurdist social commentary and on top with the very experimental folk/fusion they are doing, which blends aspects of classical Chinese folk music with every other music style, this band is way more interesting to listen to, than I could know from the two songs I had found on youtube
  • Their latest song (a filmed live version) went viral on Chinese social media and then was promptly censored two months ago. Here is a video and explanation of the song.

I searched for any way to get their music in an ok quality, but in the end I only found them on Apple music and Spotify, which I do not use. I finally gave up and signed up on Spotify, found a way to download the songs, but kept on playing them on repeat on Spotify as I really would love to be able to actually have them get paid, especially as I remember the free beers in that bar. I also feel that they are probably not in a good position, considering their social credit score must be extremely low at the moment. So here is my appeal: Go to Spotify or Apple music and add them to your playlist. Recommend them to your friends. If anything, they are the perfect show off, hipster band to know.


Update   Posted on 10 Aug 2023, 14:39 by tine
After writing this post I actually took the time to do some low level stalking on social media and found out that, unfortunately, I was right about the band being in trouble. After their video had vanished from the Chinese internet, they had written "Let's wait and see..." under their remaining tour dates for the summer. Then all their concerts were cancelled and their weibo (Chinese facebook) page is gone. I could not find out what happened to the members.

For Jeff:   Posted on 10 Aug 2023, 13:09 by tine
后海 = houhai, a lake in the centre of Beijing, with lots of Bars around.
三里屯 = sanlitun, the neighbourhood with a lot of night clubs

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