Tag Archives: Sichuan

Jack Body in China: Interview with NZTrio and Gao Ping

To celebrate and share the works of the late, great New Zealand composer Jack Body, the NZ Consulate-General in Chengdu and long-time friend, composer and pianist Gao Ping 高平 invited the NZTrio to perform at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music this month.

Kiwese attended a press conference (oooh) with Gao Ping and the lovely folk from NZTrio: Ashley Brown (cello), Justine Cormack (violin) and Sarah Watkins (piano), all dear friends and musical comrades of this celebrated Kiwi music maker.

With a YouTube search of the name ‘Jack Body,’ you will find a mixed bag of NZSQ performance recitals and club remixes of the house tune ‘Jack Your Body.’ A truly spectacular name, for a one of a kind, fun-loving and inspired man.

Te Aroha-born composer Jack Body will be remembered for many things. He was an educator, photographer, traveller, editor, facilitator and mobiliser of New Zealand’s musical dialogue with the outside world. Having lectured at the New Zealand School of Music for over thirty years, Jack introduced the Indonesian gamelan to New Zealand, wrote countless numbers of works, invited talent from around the world to perform, write and teach in New Zealand, and even released a photographic series of penises!

Jack attended school and university in Auckland but later called Wellington home, where lived with his life partner Yono Soekarno in Aro Valley. Despite his fascination with the music and cultures of the world, Jack was based in New Zealand his whole life and dedicated himself to bringing the world to NZ and vice versa.

We are forever grateful for his commitment. Rest in peace, Jack.

NZTrio in full flight.
NZTrio in full flight. Image by Kiwese.

Hi NZTrio! This is not your first time in China, is it?

JUSTINE CORMACK: I forget how many times we’ve been here already! Jack established these music links with China. He is the reason we have been able to come so many times.

你们好!这不是你们第一次来中国对吧?

我已经忘了我们来过几次!杰克建立新西兰和中国音乐的关系。他是我们来过很多次唯一的原因。

How did this trip come about ?

ASHLEY BROWN: It was a lovely invitation from Gao Ping and the NZ Consulate. We’ve been to Chengdu twice before to play at the Sichuan Conservatory. We love the food and the people. We are beginning to get further into the local music, too. Gao Ping is currently writing a piece for us, a piano trio with guzheng, which is a very important and exciting project – a way for China and New Zealand to join hands in a cultural way. Hopefully it will be performed on our next visit to Chengdu.

这一次来中国怎么发生的?

因为这一次过来主要是受我们的音乐家高平老师的邀请,第二个是受新西兰领事馆的邀请。我们之前来过成都两次,在川音办过活动。我们很喜欢四川食物也喜欢四川人民。我们对四川音乐也非常感兴趣。我们现在跟高平老师合作,有一个新的创作,为他们和古筝在一起。我们非常希望下一次来到中国的时候能把这个作品完整的,是一个新西兰和中国文化交流方式。

So the piano and guzheng will be brought together?

The piece will be for them and a guzheng, instruments from different directions coming together on the same stage. This program will also include other composers, including several from New Zealand.

钢琴和古筝融合在一起吗?

高平:我的作品为他们跟古筝在一起,同台演出,两个方向来的乐器在一起演奏。这个计划里边还有一些其他的作曲家做住家包括新西兰作曲家。

Shen Nalin, Gao Weijie, Jack Body and Gao Ping outside Parliament during the Asia Pacific Festival, February 2007. Image from Gao Ping's website.
Shen Nalin, Gao Weijie, Jack Body and Gao Ping outside Parliament during the Asia Pacific Festival, February 2007. Image from www.gaoping.org.

Jack said he enjoyed coming to Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou to find Chinese inspiration. What do you think inspired him? 

GAO: Mr. Body came to the Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan region really early on- the first time was about thirty years ago. He travelled out to really remote villages to sample their music, including ethnic minority areas in Guizhou. He loved folk music – the music that derived from the original ecology. He collected a lot of material – this whole journey was recorded in a documentary called ‘Big Nose,’ which what Chinese people call foreigners.

Fieldwork, data collection, sound recording, all of this had an enormous impact on his later works. He was not only interested in folk music but customs as well, like the backstreet hubbub of hawkers and peddlers of Chengdu at the time. He recorded these voices and well as the chanting of workers, then later added them into his works.

高:波蒂先生曾经在采访中提到他喜欢在四川,云南,贵州这些地方去寻找一些中国元素来给他创作灵感,他在哪里得到这个灵感?

高:我觉得博蒂先生对云贵川这个地区,因为他来的很早,大概三十年前就来过这个地方,而且到农村,去所有的我们中国人叫采风,他去非常偏僻的地方包括贵州少数民族的地区。他喜欢民间音乐 那种我们现在叫的原生态民间音乐。他收集了很多资料,后来也有一部纪录片记录他当时这一段经验,叫做《大鼻子》,因为我们喜欢叫外国人叫大鼻子。

田野工作,收集,录音,对他后来的创作影响也是非常大。但不管是民间音乐,还有民俗的很多东西,比如说在成都大街小巷里边,当时有很多叫卖的声音他都把它们录下来,他非常感兴趣,还有那些老公的号子,劳作的时候发生的喊叫的声音,都用到他的作品进去。

What are the highlights of tomorrow’s performance?

ALL: Everything!

SARAH WATKINS: One special piece in the program is for solo piano with voice recording called ‘The Street Where I Live’ – the voice is Jack describing the street he lived on in Wellington. It is nice to have that voice as part of this conference, even though he is no longer with us. The whole program is a lovely display of Jack’s interest in so many different styles of music.

明天的演奏有什么亮点?

大家:全是亮点!

SARAH: 我觉得一个有钢琴和人声的作品叫做《我所居住的街区》是很特别,作品里的人声是Body先生的本人他的声音。他在描述自己在惠灵顿住的一条街。Body先生已经去世了,但是我们还能够听他的声音 。明天节目表示杰克非常多元化的类型。

WATCH KIWESE TV:
NZTrio’s performance in Chengdu.
Featuring excerpts from Fire in the Belly and The Street Where I Live by Jack Body and Four Sketches by Gao Ping.

What kind of connection did Jack have with Chengdu and Sichuan?

GAO: The first time Mr. Body came to Sichuan was in 1986. Although I didn’t see him back then, he forged some great connections with several musicians here at the Conservatory of Music. Later when I moved to the U.S. to study, I invited him to a performance of his works. When I eventually moved to New Zealand, I had a lot do with him. To be honest, we have always been pushing this NZ and China music connection, he came to Sichuan in 2009 with some other Kiwi composers. He is a New Zealand composer who really cares about Chinese music.

His real ideology was based around a musical worldliness. Not a worldliness where everyone is the same, quite the opposite, he hoped that every place could protect what was unique about them, while also being able to mingle with everyone else. This is what he was about. Whether in his own works, events or festivals, he was always promoting this ideology.

波蒂先生跟四川成都有什么关系?

高:Body先生第一次来到四川是86年,那个时候我没有见过他,但是他当时跟四川的音乐家有很深入的交流了。后来我去了美国留学的时候 请他去美国,有一个音乐会演奏他的作品。后来我去新西兰跟他非常有关系。其实我们一直在做这种中国音乐和新西兰音乐的交流,他2009年来过四川,和其他的新西兰作曲家在一起。他是对中国音乐特别关注的一个新西兰作曲家。

他的真真的理想就是一种音乐的世界注意,这种世界注意不是说大家都一样,恰恰相反,他希望保留的是每个地方的独特有的那些东西,但同时又是大家都能交融,这是他一直在做的。不管在他自己的创作里面怎么做,也同时在他的策划的活动,音乐节,他都是怎么一个理念推动它。

Dong Fei (Kunqu Opera), composer Jack Body, Wu Na (guqin) and Gao Ping (pianist). Photo: Lynda Chanwai-Earle.
Dong Fei (Kunqu Opera), Jack Body, Wu Na (guqin) and Gao Ping. Photo: Lynda Chanwai-Earle. Image from RNZ.

KIWESE: You mentioned that the NZ environment influenced you to compose Bright Light Cloud Shadows (2007). To what extent does your environment influence you work?

GAO: Certainly an artist’s environment has a very deep influence on his art, but it is not always clear. When you write you are emerged in the process, but the air, the light, everything, is what you are in – it does something to you, but it is impossible to separate what that is. That particular piece Bright Light Cloud Shadows was written in Christchurch, that is my NZ piece, although the title comes from the painter Bada Shanren. If I was to write such a piece now it would be very different, because I live in Beijing where there is no light and no clouds…

奇异思:你以前在采访中说新西兰的自然环境影响你2007年编的作品《天光云景》。你觉得环境如何影响创作者做的作品?

环境一定会影响艺术家做的作品,但什么形式还不清楚。你在编作品的时候就沉入过程中,但你还是被环境的空气,亮光,到处的东西影响。我在基督城编《天光云景》,它算是我的新西兰作品,但名字是从画家八大山人来的。如果我现在要编这个作品会非常不一样,因为我住在一个没有亮光也没有云的北京。

Jack Body and Joko Sutrisno, about 1988. Image from Te Ara.
Jack Body and Joko Sutrisno, about 1988. Image from Te Ara.

KIWESE: In addition to having such a close working relationship with Jack, what was he like as a person? Any personal anecdotes you’d like to share?

JUSTINE: He had a really wonderful sense of humour, as well being generous and loving, he really took care of people. There always seems to be a sense of humour in Jack’s music, my lasting memory of him is that wry chuckle. The first piece we will play at the concert is called Pain In The Arse, where have to scream out things like ‘pain in the BUTT BUTT BUTT!’ He would be chuckling at us!

ASHLEY: My memories are sincerity. What he taught us is that collaboration shouldn’t be superficial, where two groups simply share a stage, but to find ways for cultures to intermingle. Eating the food, meeting the people and actually existing together, having an understanding of each other. Having a laugh, telling jokes and a glass of wine with the people you are going to be performing with is really important. Jack certainly showed us how to share a few wines!

SARAH: Certainly one of our first memories with Jack was when we were travelling in Indonesia and our van broke down. So we had to pass a few hours in the middle of nowhere. Jack wasn’t prepared to just sit and wait in the van for a few hours, he wandered off and came back a while later saying ‘come, come!’ He had walked down a dusty road and found some houses at the end, where he met some families who invited us back for a cup of tea. That sense of exploration is what I will remember about him.

你们和博蒂先生有很密切的关系。他是什么样的人?你们能分享什么你个人的小故事?

JUSTINE: 他真的很幽默,深情款款的一个人,很关心大家。他的音乐也有一种幽默,我永远不会忘记他的讽刺意味的笑。我们在演奏中第一首要演的作品叫做《腚疼》,我们要喊很奇怪的东西比如:“疼!腚!腚!腚!” 我以为他会对我们笑死了。我们一起有很多美好时光。

ASHLEY: 我记得他的诚意。他给我们教合作不应该是很浅薄,两个群体在同台而已,但要把不同的文化交融,一起吃饭,认识,存在,了解。他说跟你要合作的人一起玩儿喝酒是文化交融很重要的一部分。他真是示范如何分享几杯酒!

SARAH: 我们跟杰克最早的记忆之一是我们在印度尼西亚旅游的时候,然后汽车中途抛锚了,所以我们在一个很偏僻的地方要等几个小时。杰克是一个完全不会坐在车里面等的人,所以他随便走散找到了一些当地房子和家人,他们请我们来喝茶。我永远会记得杰克的一种探索感觉。

You recently ran a Douglas Lilburn tertiary composition competition. Even here at this event we can see a lot of NZ university promotion, and you will have seen the increase in Chinese students in Auckland. Is there much of a Chinese base in the performance or composition departments?

JUSTINE: Definitely in performance, composition not so many. It seems to me that music is valued by Asian people in New Zealand, that really comes through in their commitment and energy to learning about music. Great discipline, which is often lacking in others (laughs).

SARAH: We encountered some Chinese students over the years, I’m thinking Jeff Lin, and there were a few in the competition.

GAO: Concerts like this are important in increasing China’s awareness of NZ music. I think NZ is known for its milk here, a little wine, but I try to tell them there are great artists and composers!

你们最近办一个Douglas Lilburn大学生作曲比赛。在成都这个领事馆活动也推动新西兰的大学,而你们看过在奥克兰中国留学生也越来越多。在新西兰大学的演奏系和作曲系中国学生多不多?

JUSTINE: 演奏系有很多中国留学生,但作曲系没有那么多。我以为亚洲人在新西兰很重视音乐,他们对学习有一种很认真的态度。他们经常比其他学生有更厉害的纪律。

SARAH: 我们在这几年认识一些中国学生,比如Jeff Lin,还有一些在我们的作曲比赛。

高:这样的演奏会增强中国人对新西兰音乐的认识。我觉得在这里新西兰的牛奶和葡萄酒出名,但我一直在推动艺术家和作曲家!

Any stand out young NZ composers in your eyes at the moment?
你们现在觉得那些年轻新西兰的作曲家是出人头地?

JUSTINE: There are so many. Isaac Shatford – he’s a first year composition student. We’ve even brought along some of his music. In the Lilburn competition he wrote a piece for piano trio, which Lilburn himself never wrote.

很多。Isaac Shatford是一个大一作曲学生,而我们也把他写的作品带过来。他在比赛编了一首钢琴三重奏的作品。Lilburn先生没编这种作品。

SARAH: Salina Fisher, she’s a fantastic composer, violinist and a pianist!

Salina Fisher,她是一名精彩的作曲家,小提琴家和钢琴家。

ALL: Claire Cowan, whose work we played at the dinner reception. She also belongs to the Blackbird Ensemble.

Claire Cowan,我们昨天演过她的作品。她是Blackbird Ensemble的成员。


Good stuff, thanks guys!

Many thanks to the NZ Consulate-General in Chengdu for inviting Kiwese to this event!

Find out more about NZTrio and more about Gao Ping.

In memory of Jack Body (1944 – 2015)

Advertisements

Lest We Remember, Lest We Forget: Interview with Hiperson 海朋森

On a hot summer’s afternoon, the sound of birdsong and motorbike alarms chorus together in the warm air at Zaoshanghao on Democracy Road. 

Excitedly chattered about for the past few years and praised by Douban Music as “the true spirit of rock and roll” “amidst this increasingly conformist, fast-food generation,” Chengdu’s poetic post-punk band Hiperson greets you with their debut album No Need For Another History, out today on Maybe Mars!  

Surrounded by leafy green banana fronds and sunlit rooftops, Kiwese had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Chen Sijiang, guitarists Liu Zetong and Li Yinan and drummer Wang Boqiang, four of the band’s five boys and girls, who exude the chill, friendly vibes of Chengdu.
Say “hi!” everyone!
在一个炎热的夏日午后,早上好民主路的暖空气中上充满了小鸟鸣叫声与摩托车汽笛声交相呼应而形成的交响乐。成都诗情般的朋克后乐队海朋森的首张专辑《不要别的历史》今天由兵马司唱片发行了。
 
唱片发行前的几年前,海朋森就被豆瓣音乐称赞为在 “在越来越模式化,快餐化的时代里,真正的摇滚精神。”
 
在被碧油油的香蕉叶与阳光照耀的老房子屋顶上,KIWESE有幸与主唱陈思江,吉他手刘泽同季一楠与鼓手王博强,与这个五人乐队里的四个成员一起,在成都轻松友好的城市氛围里聊天。
大家一起say“hi!”
Recorded last year in an underground car park with the legendary Yang Haisong of P.K 14, No Need For Another History includes new tracks and reworks of well-loved demos. Warm fuzzy riffs crash through curtains of amplifier feedback; young voices scream lyrics of a history, a past and a present, of leaving and returning; a state of memory and forgetting.

Hiperson are an exciting new band that will leave you feeling as Comfortably Numb as a Sichuan peppercorn.

海朋森去年在一个地下停车库里跟著名的P.K 14杨海崧录制了《不要别的历史》。在这部专辑里,包含了他们的新歌与一直备受欢迎的老歌重唱。这些歌曲后来是在一个排练室里录音完成并放在了豆瓣上的。历史就这样在反复的riff节奏里,在幕布后扩音器的回音里,在年轻的呼喊声里,在歌词里,在过去与现在的时空中离开又回来;并永远定格在了回忆与遗忘的空间。

可以说,海朋森乐队的歌曲就像四川著名的胡椒籽一样,能给你带来安逸的麻木感。
Hiperson in Chengdu: Ji Yinan (guitar), Wang Boqiang (drums), Liu Yitong (guitar), Huang Rentong (bass), Chen Sijiang (vocals). Photo courtesy of Hiperson.
Hiperson: Wang Boqiang (drums), Huang Rentao (bass) Li Yinan (guitar), Chen Sijiang (vocals), Liu Zetong (guitar). Photo courtesy of Hiperson.

Hiperson, hi!

HIPERSON: Hi! 

们乐队的名字有都意思,给一下。
The name 'Hiperson’ has a few meanings, how did it come about?

JI YINAN 季一楠我们一直想不到乐队取什么名字,然后突然想到这个名字因为当时才进大学的时候容易想很多事情,包括人和人之间的关系,然后发生在人生上的关系的一些事情 。Hiperson这个名字是描述一个你思考一个问题的角度,这样是在给person打招呼,感觉好像是另外一个非人类的东西在看一些人之间发生的事情。

We couldn’t think of a name for ages, then it suddenly came to us. We’d just started university, a time when you’re thinking about things like human relationships and events that occur in your life. The name describes the perspective you use when you are pondering a question; by saying ‘hi’ to ‘person’ it’s like a non-human entity viewing things that occur in the human realm.

所以我们有一个理念就是有很多事情如果跳出这个人的角度来看的话,他可能就会变化另外一件事情。 这样会得到很多不一样的答案,很丰富。

So our own philosophy behind it is that when examining particular issues, if you jump beyond a personal perspective you will be able to transform it into something else – you can find more answers, it will be more fulfilling.

LIU ZETONG 刘泽同第三方,God Vision. 

The third perspective. God Vision.

你可以给我们介绍 “海朋森”的中文名字?的“海”和的森有一种很自然的感是故意的And the Chinese name, Haipengsen 海朋森? The hǎi of hǎibiàn 海边 (ocean) and sēn of sēnlín 森林 (forest) has a nature vibe, was this deliberate?

LIU 刘:直接英译过来。是在一个开玩笑的环境里 !

It’s just a direct take from the English pronunciation, made up in a joking environment!

CHEN SIJIANG 陈思江: 然后选了几个字在排练室里。

Yeah, we just picked some characters in the practice room.

WATCH: Hiperson interview and performance of ‘He Made Up His Mind To Be a Tourist’ on The Sound Stage last year.

三年之前怎么开始?你们都在川音认识呢?
How did the band form three years ago? You guys all knew each other at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music?

LIU 刘最开始我跟吉他手季一楠是同学,我们两个人就一开始认识就很聊得来,然后我们想做一支乐队。我们找到一个鼓手跟贝斯,就是现在秘密行动的鼓手跟贝斯手。 然后老季他认识了陈思江,是经过朋友介绍的,然后我们就去她里玩儿,这样就慢慢的大家都在一块儿了。我们的贝斯手黄哥黄仁涛也是我们同学,我们就让她一起过来试一下。我们之前的鼓手是陈庆凯也是我们隔壁班的同学,后来因为一些其他的因素,他就没有跟我们一起做了。现在这个新鼓手王博强进来了,我们最早跟他认识是他跟另外一个朋友一起做了一个两个人的乐队。

It started out when Ji Yinan and I were classmates, we got talking and decided to start a band. We found a drummer bassist, who is now playing in Stolen (秘密行动). Then Ji Yinan found Chen Sijiang through a mutual friend, we went to her place and had a jam and it gradually came together from there. Our bassist ‘Tao Ge,’ Huang Rentao, was also our classmate, so we got her over to try out. Our previous drummer Chen Qingkai was too, but after a while some other stuff came up so he left. Now we have a new drummer Wang Boqiang, we knew him from another two-piece band.

CHEN 陈:我们是在同一个school, 然后我是另外一个油画学院,但我们在一个campus. 

We were all on the same campus and I majored in oil painting.

Hiperson
Image courtesy of Hiperson.
你们觉得正式的音乐教育是怎么影响你们的乐队?
Do you think having formal music education has influenced you as a band?

LIU 刘:我们反而没有受那种很正式的那种音乐的。。。

I wouldn’t say we’ve actually had a formal musical education…

CHEN 陈:因为他们都逃课!

Because you all ditched class!

JI 季:逃课的原因是因为学校里面的老师和教的那些课程都是和语文,数学,英语这些差不多。但是因为学院给我们还是会有一个环境,至少大家能够相互认识朋友。这个部分对我们的影响比知识和他教的东西可能意义更大一些。然后可能其他的都是依靠自己的兴趣去学自己喜欢的东西,自己了解,自己学习。

I think the reason we ditched class was that the teachers and classes were all Chinese, Maths, English and stuff. But in saying that, it gave us an environment where we could meet a lot of like-minded friends, and I think that has affected us more as a band than the actual classes. From there, it was more a case of relying on your own interests and working to understand them on your own terms.

去川音之前有没有自己搞音经验What kind of experience did you have with music before going to Music/Art School?

CHEN 陈:当时我觉得不算一个经验。我学了一个月吉他,因为我觉得好玩儿,就自己编了一些东西,然后放在豆瓣上,这就是我和他们为什么认识原因。那个时候就随意唱唱吗,胡唱,就编了一些,也没有学过。

I wouldn’t really consider it experience. I studied guitar for a month and thought it was fun, then wrote some songs and put them on Douban. That’s how I came to know these guys. Back then I was just randomly singing, just going with it, I never had training or anything.

JI 季:我是从初一的时候就开始,很神奇,因为我妈妈之前在电台在radio station 工作,然后她是管理那个碟库的, 专门放碟的仓库和磁带的tape 和CD的一个房子里面 。我初中的时候说我想学吉他嘛,然后她给了我一张CD的合辑,4AD的,是中文版的,上面配有很多CD乐队的介绍,歌词,照片,很好看那本书 。那个时候什么都不知道,就听了那张CD以后就想听更多的东西 。

I was in Junior High when I started playing guitar, it came about pretty miraculously. My mum was working for a radio station, taking care of all the tapes and CDs in the disk storage room. One day I mentioned I wanted to start playing guitar, so she gave me a 4AD compilation CD that came in a really beautiful Chinese edition book, with introductions to all the bands, lyrics and photos. At that time I knew nothing, then afterwards, I just wanted to listen more and more.

WANG BOQIANG 王博强:我是初中,因为我有朋友在身边学吉他,然后他说:“要不要我们就玩一个乐队吧?”然后我就随便去找了一个琴行, 不是乱选,那个时候感觉是自己对节奏也比较敏感,然后也挺有兴趣。那个时候什么都不懂,我们就在一起瞎闹。大学期间一直有一个做乐队的梦想,一直想把它完成。然后我也很高兴认识我现在的伙伴。

Back in Junior High, a guitarist friend said: “wanna play in a band?” So I went out and found a Tom Lee Store. It wasn’t just picking at random – I think I had a good feel for rhythm at the time, plus I was really keen on it. My friend and I didn’t know what we were doing and just made a racket. I’ve always wanted to fulfil my dream of being in a band, so I am really happy to be with these guys now!

LIU 刘:Hiperson 是我做的第一个乐队。我自己学琴还挺早的,也是初中开始,但我是读的那种封闭式学校,军校式的管理, 你不能随便进出,你只能待在学校里面,哪儿都不能去,后来我觉得很无聊,然后我就让我妈妈给我买了一把木吉他。当时有一本书叫做《吉他自学三月痛》就自己来学。

Hiperson is my first band. I started playing music quite early too, Junior High, but I went to a closed school with military style management, you couldn’t come in or go out, you had to stay within the school. I got really bored after a while and asked my mum if I could have an acoustic guitar. At the time I had this book called ‘Study Guitar Yourself in Three Months’ and worked at it by myself.

你们都是成都人吗?
Are you all from Chengdu?

CHEN 陈:都不是,除了贝斯是。我是德阳。

Our bassist is the only one! I’m from Deyang.

JI 季:我是绵阳。

I’m from Mianyang.

WANG 王:我是西安。

I’m from Xi’an.

LIU 刘:我是湖南郴州。

I’m from Quanzhou, Hunan.

JI 季:贝斯是成都的uptown.青白江。Almost another city.

Our bassist is from uptown Chengdu, Qingbaijiang.

你们对成都的感情很深,你们为什么喜成都?
It seems like you have a deep affection for this place, what do you like so much about Chengdu?

JI 季:有很多各式各样的原因。有吃。。。[笑话], 人也很好玩儿 。主要还是因为整个环境都比较适应 。成都那种环境特别容易让人沉下来,没有那么浮躁,你可以自己专心地做一件事情,周围外面的其他因素都不会打扰你。

So many different reasons. The food… [laughs], the people are really fun. The main thing is that the environment suits us, it’s really easy to feel at home here. It’s not complicated; you can just do your own thing without external factors bothering you.

LIU 刘:我们也没有很特意去选择一个城市去重新做,包括上海,北京,广州,去了这几个地方更不适合我们几个人的性格,成都就是更土生土长的环境。

We were never interested in going to another city like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou – those cities don’t really suit our us. Chengdu has a more grassroots feel to it.

你们在成都待了几年,在这三四年里,这个城市的发展和改变很多,你们觉得这种变化对你们的创作性有影响吗?
You guys have all been here for several years now, and in the past three four years or so the city has transformed remarkably. Do you think these changes have affected you creatively?

JI 季:对于我们来说,城市的变化可能是文化方面的,这几年的活动越来越多,包括project,party之类的,大型的小型的活动都越来越多,和前几年的年轻人的娱乐方式和生活方式都有变化。在这个变化里面,网络的影响也很大。

I think for us, the cultural changes have been more pronounced. In the past few years, there have been more and more events; projects and parties, small-scale and large-scale, it’s all growing because the way young people have fun and live their lives is changing. The internet has had a huge impact on that.

CHEN 陈:现在那种城市化的变化给了你更多可以去表现的东西,不管是你做音乐也好,画画也好,感觉比前两年画的东西更多了,因为有很多不一样的现象在发生,人们都在变,他们喜欢的东西也在变。从一个人的外表到他喜欢去做的事情都在变,有的时候有很奇怪的结合,在那种奇怪的场景里,你会觉得特别有意思。都是趋同的。

The changes in the city have given us more things to express. Whether it’s music or painting, I feel in past two years there’s been more to describe, more to depict, because all these different things are occurring. People are changing and their tastes are changing too. From a person’s appearance, to the things they like doing – all of it is in a state of flux, which sometimes results in really interesting combinations. Everything is converging.

思江,你怎么开始写歌词的?
Sijiang, how did you start out writing songs?

CHEN 陈:我感觉自己创作这些歌词有一定的变化,从一开始你写的仅仅是你感观上的东西,比如说你今天有一个感想,到了后来你感觉可能不仅仅是那种感想,可能会去从各个方面和各个侧面去描写这些东西,会变得更像一个故事,或者一个场景。

I feel like my creative process has changed a lot. When I started, I would just write about a feeling, like how I felt on a particular day. After a while, it’s sort of moved beyond these isolated feelings and turned into more multi-faceted descriptions that are more like stories or scenes. 

你全部用中文来写歌词,我觉得挺好的,因为有一些去国外的独立乐队,比如说刺猬,Carsick Cars都用英文来写。好像全中文歌作的乐队比较少,你们是怎么来看这个事情的?
All of your songs are in Chinese, I think they're great. Some bands that have been abroad like Hedgehog and Carsick Cars also sing in English, and the number of bands that fully sing in Chinese seems quite small. How do you guys view this?

JI 季:我觉得也不是说bad or good的问题,可能就是每个乐队的重心都不一样。

I don’t think it’s a question of ‘good or bad,’ each band just has a different focus.

CHEN 陈:其实我觉得挺正常的,因为摇滚乐是从西方到了这个地方,最开始它是这样来的,所以很多乐队他开始发于自然就想去唱英文,就是原装配置,很natural。

I think it’s actually quite normal; rock music originated in the west and has been sung this way since the beginning, so the fact a lot of bands are singing in English now is just a progression from the original prototype.

如果我的那种写中文的动机可能有两个方面,一个是很自然的方面,一个是很不自然的方面。很自然的方面就是因为它是母语,你用母语说出来的话的力度和英文相比是不一样的。不自然的方面就是你会觉得很赤裸,很naked,有可能你唱英文,因为它不是你的母语,你会觉得我始终隔了一层什么东西在唱的时候。

The reason I write in Chinese has two sides: the natural and the unnatural. The natural being Chinese is our mother tongue – so it carries a different weight than English. That feeling of being exposed, naked, might disappear because it’s not our mother tongue, which is the unnatural aspect. It could put a wall between you and the things you’re singing about.

“你用母语的时候就会是非常的直接,你唱出来对于你和听的人都非常的直接,我没有可以遮掩的余地。”
“Singing in your mother tongue is so direct for the performer and the audience,there’s nowhere to hide.

Image courtesy of Hiperson.

LIU 刘:如果唱歌的这个人,他是画画的,他就反而更容易写中文歌词,就包括木马,他是画画的,还包括欧老师欧波,他们都是画画的,他们就也很善于用中文的东西来表达,而不是用英文,就有一个这个现象。

If a singer is also a painter, they are able to write songs in Chinese more fluently. Like Muma, he’s a painter, and Ou Po [singer of Sound Toy ], too. There’s some kind of phenomenon where artists are really good at expressing things in Chinese rather than English.

专辑封面:陈思江,王旭。 Album artwork by Chen Sijiang, Wang Xu.
专辑封面:陈思江,王旭。 Album art: Chen Sijiang, Wang Xu.
在你们的歌词里,有一些主题是关于历史,过去的事情和还没有发生的事情,记忆和忘记,就是这两个方面,还有leaving和returning。There seem to be a few common themes in your lyrics, such as history, the past and present, remembering and forgetting, leaving and returning…

CHEN 陈:我觉得我创作歌词的时候,可能我会把这些东西全部放到一起来看,就是有很多层面,就是说politics and personal feeling,和你的生活经验, 它有可能是结合到一块儿的。

When I write lyrics, I tend to put all of theses layers together, encompassing politics and personal feelings, life experience, society, emotions – they all roll into one.

在中国,如果你要说关于政治的事情,要小心一点。在你们的歌词里有很多双关语,比如说在《幕布》,这是通往剧院的大路,这个大路,可能也是中国大陆?
One needs to be cautious when commenting on politics in China. The puns in your lyrics, for example in ‘The Curtain’ you say “zhè shì tōng wǎng jùyuàn de dàlù (“this road is turning into a theatre”), this dàlù 大路 (road) could also be be dàlù 大陆 (Mainland China)?

CHEN 陈:我觉得你好聪明,怎么说,可能我没有刻意去回避一些你对政治观点的表达,但是你在做一个艺术的事情的时候,可能你不会像在对社会发表观点是那么直接,那些东西就会包含在一些景象啊经历啊这些东西里面,有可能里面有很多的双关,有时候我自己也说不太清楚。

Ah, you’re clever. I guess maybe I didn’t make a deliberate effort to avoid this political pun you’ve mentioned, but when you are engaged in the arts, you may not want to express your views to the public so directly; though they can be included within descriptions of scenes or experiences. Perhaps there are a lot of puns in the lyrics; perhaps sometimes I don’t articulate myself clearly.

“我觉得不用说的非常明白直接,大家能感觉到,我觉得那个感觉比你传达那个观点更重要 。”

“I don’t feel the need to lay out my views in such a direct way. I think it’s more important to evoke a feeling than convey a perspective.”

WATCH: Hiperson perform ‘The Curtain.’ Video by Maybe Mars:

你们的专辑快要发行了,我超级期待啊!你们在Psychic Kong里面的时候是怎么样的经验?
Your new album is coming out soon, can't wait! How was recording at Psychic Kong?

CHEN 陈:Super cool, super tired. 我们去年8月待了10天,录音的话就是7天。后来我又录了几天人声。

We went to Beijing for ten days in August last year and recorded the album over a week. Then I did some extra vocals afterwards.

JI 季:它是我见过最underground的studio,在一个地下停车场里面,然后会走很久很久,里面很潮湿,很冷,没有任何光线,没有 fresh air,是在很热的夏天,进去以后就是另外一个感觉,就是很酷的设备和楼梯,那个地方你从眼睛看上去并不那么的专业,但是杨海松的态度和心是很专业的。很棒的一个经验,对我们的启发也很大。

It’s the most underground studio I’ve ever seen. It’s in an underground parking lot and you have to walk for ages to get to it, then inside it’s really damp and cold; there’s no natural light or fresh air. It was a really hot summer, but once we entered the studio it was a completely different feeling. It has really cool recording equipment, a staircase. At a glance, it looks really unprofessional, but Yang Haisong is an incredible producer. It was a really great experience and gave us a lot of inspiration.

杨海松是你们的制作人,跟他一起录音怎么样?
What was like recording with Yang Haisong as your producer?

JI 季:老杨给我们最大的一个启发就是你要如何自己去选择自己的声音。他在制作的时候不会去做很多修改,你是什么样子就是什么样子。在录音的时候他就会给你一种精神上的动力,因为我们在那种环境下面没有习惯,然后我们刚开始的时候会缺氧,大脑就会变慢,他就是一个很容易进入工作状态的一个人。他早上7点钟就会在录音棚里,我们是早上10点钟开始,他那么早就过去了。

I think the biggest piece of advice we took from him was that everyone needs to be in charge of choosing their own sound. He doesn’t tweak the original sound a lot – what you hear on record is the way it really is. During that week of recording, seeing him in his element gave us a kind of spiritual energy. We weren’t used to being in that studio environment and it was hard to breathe at first, our brains went slow, but Haisong could just effortlessly switch into working mode. He’d get there at 7am, we’d start at 10.

WATCH: The Maybe Mars preview of Hiperson’s debut album:

你们和兵马司怎么认识的?
How did you get involved with Maybe Mars?

JI 季:最早是和P.K.14一起演出。

We played a show with P.K 14.

CHEN 陈:在这儿之前还有The Gar. 就是很多兵马司乐队来成都演出,我们都去做opening,双方就看对眼了。

Before that we opened for The Gar. We’ve opened for a bunch of other Maybe Mars bands and got spotted that way.

LIU 刘:我们在读大学的时候,兵马司就有许多优秀的乐队,包括我们以前很喜欢的Guai Li。我们一直觉得兵马司不像其他的厂牌,他更有自己的精神在里面。

When we were at uni, there were a lot of excellent bands on their label, including Guai Li, who we’re big fans of. We’ve always thought Maybe Mars is different from other labels, they have their own soul.

CHEN 陈:有一天我们去兵马司签合同,就和兵马司的老板Michael开了一个会,他说的话对我的映象很深,他说“We don’t want to make money, we want to make history,”就很打动我们。

When we went to sign the contract, the label boss Michael said: “we don’t want to make money, we want to make history.” That really resonated with us.

我要问你们这个专辑的名字《我不要别的历史》,
对你们来说是什么意思?
Your new album is titled ‘No Need for Another History,’ what does this phrase mean to you?

LIU 刘:这个名字确实有很多层意思,每个人可以有自己的理解。

There are many different layers; everyone will have their own interpretations.

CHEN 陈:《我不要别的历史是我们又写的一首歌 。这个历史可以是个人的,可以是一个团体的,可以是一个国家的。

It’s from an old song we wrote. The history could be that of an individual, of a group, of a nation. 

LIU 刘:也可以是一个世界的。

Or the world!

你们新的专辑有CD和黑胶。在成都好像没有什么唱片店The album is gonna be available on CD and vinyl, though it seems like there are no actual record stores here in Chengdu?

JI 季:对,我和刘泽同正准备打算在成都做一个这个东西,主要就是想让它很便宜,每个人都可以有一台黑胶player,每个人都可以买自己的黑胶,这样就不会让人觉得黑胶离自己很远的感觉。

Yeah, Liu Yitong and I are actually planning to set one up, with the goal of selling them really cheaply, so everybody can have record players and vinyl won’t seem like such a distant a concept.

在中国,喜欢听音乐的人不一定去买他们喜欢的作品,所以你们有什么样的看法?对于你们的新的专辑出来?
In China, music fans are not necessarily going out and purchasing the music they like. What are your views on this ahead of your album release?

JI 季: 我之前看过一个我非常喜欢的乐队的采访,叫Fugazi,Ian MacKaye他做了一个讲座,说到了这件事情,他和他老婆做了一个新的乐队叫The Evens,他们去圣地亚哥演出的时候,他们还没有发过唱片,但所有人都知道他们的歌,所有的人都会唱,他一开始很震惊。不能避免我们就可以换个思考,就像我们的乐队的名字的理念一样,我们可以换一个角度去看这个事情,它也是很好的一件事情。

Recently I watched an interview with Ian MacKaye from one of my favourite bands Fugazi. He and his wife are in band called The Evens. They did a show in San Diego and despite not having released any records, everyone could sing along to all their songs. It was a total shock! So while we can’t avoid the issue, I think we can take the concept of our band’s name and change our perspective in order to turn it into a good thing.

LIU 刘: 我觉得还是有在转变,就是这个东西大家是去在网上下载还是去支持你的实体,包括现在国内有很多网站都还是有付费下载,就是一个慢慢的过程。之前我也玩游戏,我要去网上下载那种盗版或者是破解的,最近我玩游戏我都去买的正版,因为我会被那些游戏的工作人员感动,因为他们真的会花很多心血去做这个游戏,你为什么要浪费人家的心血你要去下盗版的。到时候也许10年之后,你会说我真的被这首歌感动了,我应该用实际行动去支持它。

I think it’s in a transition from downloads to support, including how there are Chinese websites now where you have to pay to download, it’s a gradual process. I used to download a lot of pirated games, but now I buy the real thing because I want to support the game makers. Why should they put their blood, sweat and tears into creating this thing if people just go and download it for free? Maybe in ten years or so, if people feel a song has really moved them, they will take real action to support it.

陈:     其实我觉得现在反而有一个启发,就是互联网的这种盗版现象,从某种角度上来讲是在弥补很多中国大众文化的缺失的那部分,可能通过那种免费的东西,你可能从来不会接触这些东西,它慢慢地吸收了这些文化的东西。

Actually, I think it’s been an inspiration, this internet piracy phenomenon. In many ways, it’s making up for deficiencies in Chinese pop culture, where these free things that we might never have been able to encounter otherwise are slowly being absorbed.

现在你们的巡演安排好了吗?
Have you finished planning the tour?

LIU 刘:我们巡演的计划差不多定下来了,加上我们后面加的两站,可能有29个站,可能会以开车的方式,是豆瓣的车。兵马司这一点对我们帮助很大,我们希望第一次就是以一个不一样的方式出现。因为中国大部分的其他乐队都会坐火车,飞机。可能就是从北,到东,再到南边,西南。

It’s pretty close to being finalised – we’ve just added two more dates, so about 29 shows all up. We are hoping to drive the whole tour with a Douban van. Maybe Mars have been a big help, we wanted to do something different for our first national tour, as most bands touring in China take trains and planes. Maybe we’ll start in the north, head east, south, then south-west.

JI 季:       因为开车可以节约开支的话,尽量就是两个城市隔得不是特别远,才能够更有效率,更节约成本,所以巡演就有很多小的城市,很激动。小到刘泽同的老家,很多很小的四线五线城市。

Driving could save a bit of money. We’re trying to plan it so we can drive between cities that are close together as efficiently as possible, so we’ll be playing a lot of small cities, which is really exciting. Liu Yitong’s hometown. A lot of small fourth and fifth-tier cities.

LIU 刘:还有惠州,东莞。

And Huizhou, Dongguan.

这些城市演出很少。
I guess these places would have very few gigs.

JI 季:       就算是一个小的城市,一个小的演出场合,只有五、六个人来看你的演出,也很不错,很朋克。

For a small city, having five or six people turn up is still not bad. Very punk.

CHEN 陈:我们在做这个乐队是和我们的环境息息相关的。当下的中国是最有代表性的developing country, 除了像你一样来到这里的人无法亲身感受到。传统文化的消失和复兴、激进的现代化和城市化进程,作用在人们身上产生了许多光怪陆离的现象。普通人们用血肉和商品相互摩擦。

因此我们更加地想到小城市去,那里有还没有完全城市化的人群,对于他们来说我们也可能是奇怪的,这令人兴奋!

The reason we’re in this band is closely related to our environment. Modern China is an exemplar of a developing country, which people don’t get a sense of unless they come here and experience it firsthand, like you have. The disappearance and revival of traditional culture, as well as the intensity of modernisation and urbanisation has confronted people with endless bizarre phenomena. It’s flesh and blood of ordinary people pressing up against commodities.

So we’re really looking forward to playing smaller cities, people there aren’t completely urbanised and they might think our music is weird, it’s exciting!

你们觉在中国得独立音乐有什么样的挑战What do you think are some of the challenges for independent music in China?

LIU 刘:受众面还有理解的一些方面,你选择是你的选择的问题,可能就是不被理解,包括不被家人理解,不被朋友理解,你做的是什么东西?你为什么要做这个东西?你没有钱,你以后能干嘛?你不能出名或者怎么样,你做这个有什么用?这些疑问是很多。

Audience and understanding. Some people don’t get why anyone would choose to do music, including friends and family who’ll ask: What are you doing and why are you even doing it? There’s no money in it, what are you gonna do after that? You’re never gonna get famous, so what’s the point? Loads of questions like that.

你们的家人都支持你们吗?
Do your families support your music?

JI 季: 他们虽然不知道你在做什么,他不了解你做的音乐和事情,但是他们会支持你,家人的爱就是这样。

Even if they don’t know what you’re doing and they don’t understand the music or the other things in your life, they will still support you. Family love is like that.

LIU 刘:其实家人,现在我们这代的父母更多的是希望你能更自在地成长,不像老一辈家长担心自己孩子吃不饱饭,温饱问题,但是现在可能没有太多这个问题,你能养活你自己,你能健康地自在地成长就可以了。

Actually I think this generation of parents are just hoping their kids grow up comfortably, it’s not like the older generation who were worried about their kids having enough to eat and being clothed properly. Those basic questions aren’t so common anymore, as long as you can feed yourself and grow up healthy that’s the main thing.

你们觉得你们是年轻人,你们去29个城市,可能在这个城市里面没有看过你们这种音乐,你们希望你们能给他们带来什么吗?
On your 29 date tour of China, there will be places who have never heard music like yours. As a young band, are you hoping to leave an impression on other young people?

JI 季:可能有一点我觉得面对这样的事情对我们还是有一点压力,但是这个压力让我们很快乐,然后有动力去做这件事情。

I guess we’ve put a bit of pressure on ourselves in that regard, but it makes us happy and compels us to keep doing what we’re doing.

Photo courtesy of Hiperson.
Photo courtesy of Hiperson.

CHEN 陈:     中国的年轻人应该更年轻化一些,有没有觉得大部分中国年轻人没有那么年轻。他们做着不是他们年龄做的事, 想的也不是年轻人想的事。

The youth of China should act more their age, it’s like a lot of them aren’t really young people at all. They act and think in ways that don’t fit their age.

就是有很多年轻人他们想的事情根本不是我们大家想的这样,喜欢摇滚乐,喜欢很多很刺激你的东西,一些很真实的东西,他们有可能会可以地去回避这些东西和问题,就像去追求一些老一辈的更想追求的,比如说安稳,钱,这样的状态。。。

There are so many in China who think in a completely different way to us, in that we like rock music and things that excite us, real things. They avoid these things and in favour of the pursuits of the older generation, traditional goals like stability, money, that kind of stuff…

LIU 刘:房子,一路顺风。

Buying a house, ‘plain sailing’…

你们的中国巡演之后,你们希望去国外吗?
After the China tour, would you like to tour overseas?

CHEN :当然,我们一直都很想去,但是有一个问题就是我们唱中文。有时候你会想,一个中文的歌,对于一个完全不懂这门语言的人会有什么样的感觉?

Of course! We’ve always wanted to go overseas, but singing in Chinese could be a problem. Sometimes you wonder what a Chinese song would sound like to someone who doesn’t understand the language.

我欢迎你们来新西兰,如果有机会的话。
I welcome you guys to New Zealand if you ever get the opportunity!

CHEN 陈:     我们很想去!我看过《鲸鱼士》电影,特别好看!

We’d love to go! I’ve seen Whale Rider, beautiful!

*Kiwese rant about serving Keisha Castle-Hughes a smoothie at Espressoholic one time*

Tour details to come soon.

Many thanks to the amazing Deng Yani and Faye Zhang for their help with transcription and translation!

感谢邓娅妮与张菲菲的翻译与转录帮助!

When the Chinese Kid Drops Maths for Art: Interview with Allan Xia

Chengdu. An old lady in slippers fossicks about in the bright yellow leaves for fallen nuts from the local ginkgo tree. Bananas on pedicabs roll past mahjong players and open air eateries. Bundled up babies flail about like pudgy starfish on the laps of knitting grannies. The pace is chill, the sun shines, the sky is blue. 

This is the environment where Allan Xia 夏昊禹, the Auckland-based artist and founder of the indie arts festival Chromacon and the transmedia production consultancy company Kognika, spent his childhood years. 

Mintown 明堂
Forgot to take a photo of Allan, d’oh. So instead, this is where Allan sat. Mintown 明堂.

Hey Allan! What brings you back to China this time? 

Hey! I’d originally already planned the trip myself, then was invited to be part of the Screen Delegation with the NZ Film Commission for five and a half days in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

Cool, what’s that about?

New Zealand was the first country in the world to sign a film co-production treaty with China. That was close to five years ago, but we haven’t actually made a co-production yet. Australia are already on their third one… Xi Jinping came over to NZ recently and signed another treaty for television co-production with ChinaSo the delegation is basically a drive to get things happening.

Welcome back to Chengdu! Your own side trip?

Thanks! Yeah, I can see future initiatives going in this direction, seen as we have a Consulate-General here now. Chengdu for me has always been a very creative and artsy city. The overall mood, environment and pace of the city is what I’ve always liked about it. Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing are very business orientated – everything moves at a rapid pace. Whereas Chengdu is full of teahouses – substitute them for coffee houses and its like Auckland.

A regular Saturday at People's Park, Chengdu.
A regular Saturday in People’s Park, Chengdu.

At the China in the Pacific Symposium at Te Papa, you spoke about your experience of moving from China to New Zealand as a kid. 

I moved to New Zealand when I was eight. It was a massive culture shock, really. We moved a lot and I went to like eight different primary schools in West Auckland within three years. So there was the language barrier, plus not having time to really make friends.

I think the lack of social engagement pushed me to become more interested in reading. I read a lot of everything, fiction especially, in Chinese and English. I was reading stuff like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West and all the martial art novels. It definitely helped me keep up my Chinese reading skills.

I read a lot of comics as well: Japanese manga, Tintin, Astrix. I drew for fun, as well. I always liked it. I thought I was decent at it, in hindsight I wasn’t really, but it is good to be ignorant [laughs].

Myths and legends and fantastical worlds with all these interesting charactersmy love for storytelling was developed before visual arts.

Image from Allan Xia.
Image from Allan Xia.

Your ‘Crossed Cultures’ remix of Renee Liang’s poem and Dylan Horrocks’ comic is amazing! I thought I was gonna cry by the end!

I feel like I was an observer in the whole thing – it came together so naturally. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever made. It was for a competition called Mix and Mash, which is all about Creative Commons and the idea of remixing work and generating new contexts for them. Renee’s poem and Dylan’s comic were put up under the Creative Commons License. Cultural identity isn’t something I always think about, but Renee’s poem encapsulated so much of my experience and perhaps even how I felt really deeply. It made me get over some stuff on a personal level, like I don’t think I ever need to make another piece of art about cultural identity [laughs].

READ: Crossed Cultures / Renee Liang x Dylan Horrocks / Allan Xia

Excerpt from Crossed Cultures.
Excerpt from Crossed Cultures. Image from Allan Xia.
Allan has designed the poster for Renee Liang's new play, Under the Same Moon.
Allan has designed the poster for Renee Liang’s new play, ‘Under the Same Moon.’

How did you first go about pursuing your passion for art?

When you are in high school, you are thinking about your career path and that. I was really into indie web comics and games at the time. Once I decided I wanted to be a designer for film and games, I joined a lot of online arts communities like conceptart.org, CGTalk and CGHub, and started learning more and more. In high school, you’ll just get told what you need to do in uni, then the job you need to get. Whereas online, people are industry professionals who skip straight to the relevant information. That was really good for me because I quickly saw this pathway – and to get there I needed fundamental skill sets and knowledge. We don’t really teach drawing fundamentals in New Zealand, so if anything, swapping Science for Design taught me that I needed to NOT do seventh form. I spent a year in Chengdu and Beijing doing boot camp style art tuition classes.

Haha woahhh, how did that go down with your parents?

I was a typical Chinese kid – I had good grades in Science and Math… until fifth form when I decided I wanted to do art, then basically dropped everything else [laughs]. I was just drawing in math class. I went from A+ to D. It was a shock for my dad. Asian parents aren’t used to seeing D’s on reports.

'Greed' Image from Allan Xia.
Image from Allan Xia.

How did the idea of bringing together local illustrators, comic artists, designers, animators and videogame developers in an event like Chromacon come about? 

I did a group show with some illustrator friends at the gallery above Kfm a few back. We had a really awesome opening. The whole “oh its low brow, but let’s try do a show, cos its K Rd!” vibe [laughs]. But after the opening, it was quite empty. I wanted the vibe of the opening expanded into its own event. Cos what’s the point of making art if people don’t see it?

For the first Chromacon in 2013, I thought it could be like twenty or thirty artists who I personally knew, but then word kinda spread and more people signed up. It just grew. It is a free event, but was still surprised with how many people came! Two thousand! Which is like nothing if you tell people about it in China [laughs].

Awesome! How are the plans coming along for Chromacon 2015?

It is gonna be from 18-19 April at Aotea Centre, with two floors this time. We went over capacity last year, which was positive but scary! The good thing was we had another room for talks and discussion panels and we didn’t have to turn anyone away.

Chromacon_website_logo22

How do you see creative outlets in China and New Zealand developing in the future?

I’m still trying to figure that out. It is also why the Kognika website is still quite empty. I want to co-develop a cross-cultural collaborative model with China, a strong and meaningful bridge between creative industries in New Zealand and China. One that is sustainable.

I think the most important thing at this point is to not make too many assumptions. Even I have. The more I engage with China, the more I realize I need to learn.

Thanks Allan! 

Check out more of Allan’s work here! As well as Chromacon and Kognika.

Allan_Xia_Chroma_poster_forweb

New Love for Litang

An entry from a travel blog about a two-month long backpacking trip around Shaanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan and Hainan during the Chinese summer.

8am: Feeling a little bit stuck in a rut, I know that once I leave this place the Tibetan vibe will gradually fall away as I move south, but it is imminent and essential for me to do so (dwindling funds, altitude etc). However, Litang is not really inspiring me. It’s a rough round the edges town, dirty and trying hard to be a bit more modern… What will the day hold?

The day my perspective on Litang completely changed.

The Litang Horse Festival rumour mill was churning out different tales each day, this was the day it was allegedly meant to ‘restart,’ but of course, it did not. I’d been in daily contact with Dan (the US photographer I met in Kangding) via Weixin [WeChat]. He had gone up north to check out Ganzi for a few days and wait for the festival. There was an uncertainty in the air, a tension. The amount of military vehicles rolling round the dirt roads of the town seemed to drown out the small number of chilled residents, most of whom would pass the mornings and afternoons laxing streetside, rolling prayer beads methodically around their fingers. I relayed to Dan that Meduk the purple-contact lensed Tibetan hostel owner said it wouldn’t be on this year, but also mentioned it may start the 10th or 11th… shén me yī sì?? [什么意思, what does it mean??] I didn’t have that much time to wait around for it. Dan, on the other hand, said it was great for him, as the road back from Ganzi to Litang had crumbled apart and he was having to head all the way back to Kangding, then back over that huge rocky road to Litang.

In addition to the Tibetan mother tongue of the masses, I discovered differences in the Mandarin used in Garze. What I knew to be a plate of boiled dumplings, [水饺, shǔijiǎo], was always served as a spicy dumpling soup. The 8th. Needed to be in Lijiiang, Yunnan by the 14th. Early morning characters floated past the little restaurant and as I pondered whether to stay or go, an old man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth meticulously arranged several long strings of mushrooms on a wooden chair outside the front door of the restaurant, angling them in the optimum position for drying. Stay.

Met the Aussie guys in the lobby in the middle of Joel’s financial crisis. There are no international ATMs in Garze, apart from one in Kangding. They were the second victims of this technological deficiency that I’d met in the lobby during my time at Potala Inn, and like the French couple before them, they had to scrape together their remaining cash to buy bus tickets to Kangding before being stranded cashless up in the mountains.

Warmly welcomed the return of my camera battery from a French dude that had come from Tagong and set out to explore the town on foot. The dirt backroad to the monastery was full of ‘tashi delek!’ [བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས།] greetings from old Tibetans with their flap hats and eternally spinning hand held prayer wheels, big pigs in rubbished rivers, squashed square structures adorned with mantra flags and sunshine bursting through the rapidly retreating clouds. Lovely, warm and fascinating people. I climbed through a rectangular gap in a blood red wall topped with golden ornaments and clambered up a dirt hill, navigating around a small maze of narrow paths that stemmed off to the communities of stone brick houses, eventually reaching a quiet street that led to the monastery. It must have been a particular time for refreshing and repainting as teams armed with paintbrushes and durries created fresh murals and several gold statues were being resprayed in the cool air outside. At the front entrance to the monastery area, I encountered Roland the Austrian guy from my dorm and a German couple. I mentioned that I would be walking out of the town down past the Gold Arch (not McDonalds) in search of a dance and biǎoyǎn [表演, performance] in some tents that Meduk had vaguely mentioned to me in Mandarin and English. Down the back streets to the main town, I bought a banana from a wonky eyed lady in a snack shack and threw the peel to a ravenous hog by the grassy waterway. Saw a crew of scruffy young kids hatching a plot to frighten a a pack of stray dogs lying on a grassy plain; sneaking out from behind a large white prayer statue, firing an array of stick and rock ammunition then fleeing away with laughter as the barking dogs chased after them in revenge. A game tailored to their environment, kids can find fun in any situation. The kids out here are fearless!

Good Morning

The main drag of Litang is easily identifiable, lined with a community shops of all genres; curtains, windows, clothing, CDs, kitchen items, Buddhist goods, linen, raw meat and more, hoards of motorcycles and their owners, knick-knacks, prayer beads, doorways revealing handcrafted metals being clunked away at with years of experience (feat. large hammers on tiny metal targets between fingers, heavy machinery sending off sparks near the seated, sandal wearing machine operators), chatterbox ladies on stools out the front doing cross stitch, face masked women frying sausages in oil, stray dogs stretched out on the footpath having a nap, children playing with old car tyres, mamas with vegetable baskets on their backs and babies on their fronts, leather jacketed men in cowboy hats atop long hair braids all sitting on the steps, rolling their beads over their hands and baring their golden teeth. Seeing dudes who look like they are from another world or another era of time, mashing away at the keypads on their cellphones in China Mobile or queuing up at China Post. Military vehicles rolled through. A soldier or two trot down the footpath.

Stopped at the local gompa which elegantly peeked out from behind its stone walls to glorious effect amidst the gravel, rubbish and dogs along the street, inhabited by truly delightful people both inside the gate and out. I greeted the monk who sat by the dilapidated stone arch and his smile radiated such a warmth that I felt as if I’d just been struck by a rainbow beam. Once inside, the vibe was woah. I got my camera out and was immediately approached by two great gals who then leant on my shoulders to look at the photos on the screen, which made it feel like we were friends within the space of about four seconds flat. They were both dressed in very unique clothing, one had a tall yellow headdress and they both wore brightly coloured, ornately embroidered, long wrap-around dresses. We chat for a little while, by which stage several other smiley local gompa goers had gathered around to check out my curious foreignness too, allowing me to take some great close ups and receive a dozen more ‘tashi delek’! A hunchbacked lady gestured for me to follow her around the gompa, a daily ritual where they circulate through the square archways several times and spin the small wooden prayer wheels whilst chanting as they see fit. The hardcore oldies were simultaneously spinning the gompa prayer wheels with the right hand and spinning their hand held ones in the left. The gompa was also home to the ‘world’s biggest prayer wheel,’ which had several people of different ages and sizes rotating it around together, an impressive sight. This was upstaged by the actual world’s biggest prayer wheel in Shangri La, but who’s gonna go kill their buzz? Old, leather skinned men in camo green robes pulled over white shirts accessorized with the mandatory beads and walking sticks. One lovely old bloke out the front of the gompa and I spoke about family history for a while, then he agreed to have his photo taken, laughing and quickly plopping his hat back on his balding head, despite my reassurances that regardless he looked “hěn shuài!” [很帅, handsome].

Litang, Garze, Sichuan

Litang, Garze, Sichuan

The shops began to gradually disappear as I trekked further on down the road, locals would wave from their cars and bystanders would look at me with intrigue. It was a real sign of Litang’s foreignness from China, that even a Chinese-looking girl like me is a somewhat unusual sight. I continued walking down the road until the city fell away, paths became dirt and the only shops were small fànguǎn [饭馆, restaurants] based around a single wok on a gas element, a few steel manufacturing sheds and motorcycle garages and the vast grasslands stretching out towards the mountains ahead. Bought some aqua and a pack of guazi from a small xiǎomàibù [小卖部, kiosk, dairy, usually a sleeping lady behind a counter full of snacks and drinks] and had my walking directions affirmed. An array of vehicles hooned down the road; motorcycles with brightly patterned mudguard tails and long haired Tibetan men, military tanks, three wheeled carts that looked like they might putt to a halt at any moment and pick up trucks with full families perched on the back. Altitude and dehydration were starting to rear their heads as the robed monk that had been walking ahead of me for about half an hour hitched a ride on the back of a scooter with two other monks, widely smiling at me over his shoulder as they sped off with a plume of dust. An amicable tractor full of dark skinned, hat clad, bead rolling men implored me to jump on the back, but I was too slow to catch on and they chugged away into the distance. Soon after, a monk in a 4WD pulled up and gave me a ride the rest of the way down the road. He was softly spoken and had a calming nature about him through the ruminative look across his face and smooth driving style. I asked where he was going, he replied “suíbiàn guàng yī guàng” [随便逛一逛, casually roaming around]. Epic. Answer. Yo. I was speechless with his effortlessly awesome nature and mad sense of peace. I excessively thanked him as he dropped me off by a track which winded down through the grasslands towards a cluster of white tents. Young dudes piled on noisy motorbikes hooned around the fields, while a masked, hatted woman started walking and chatting with me and accompanied me right into the centre of the tents.

Wow.

The sheer mass of people there around a large frameless umbrella pagoda tent thing watching the spectacle style performance, starring a group of performers with long haired wigs and fur costumes. Cross legged monks lined the ground seats on one side, the other sides packed with local nomads, Tibetans, children, oldies with prayer wheels; on rugs, plastic stools, benches or standing on the back of motorbikes, trailors and carts. The performance was all in Tibetan and had a lot of slapstick gags, each time one of the fur clad actors fell over, kicked another or teased an audience member, the crowd roared with laughter from the edges. The children were there by the dozens, so super cute, some with traditional clothes, some with qípáo [旗袍, cheongsam] covered in Apple logos, some scruffier than other, all endearing, curious and warm-hearted. An old lady handed me a yóutiáo [油条, fried breadstick] and I chilled with her, two kiddies and their mama having lunch sitting in the back of a cart, the conversation mainly smiles and nods from both sides, as they didn’t really speak Mandarin.

Rambled around the perimeter of the performance, enjoyed some local snacks from people in carts and got invited into the monk area which had Dalai Lama portraits and offerings of Coke, Sprite and Fanta. Sat quietly with some friendly old monks on the grass outside their prayer tent and drank one of the Fantas that had been thrust into my hand by a chatty monk. Sat with a family by their motorbikes and the gals leaned over to look at my photos. The baba was a champ – long black hair pushed to the side with a bandana, gold teeth and smooth shades. Ate some round, sweet bread balls on a stick with them, which I had just purchased from a jolly fat lady in a three-wheeler.

Grannies on the grass chatting over some noodles, kids doing cartwheels, monks lying beneath umbrellas, lads and beers, families chilling, big smiles and lots of ‘tashi delek!’ Granny on a brick cellphone with a baby in a basket. Newborn baby with mama and papa, all walks of life were here to enjoy the festivities. Though a completely different visual and aural experience than I’ve ever experienced, the prevailing concept of VIBE was the same. Garze’s version of (what once was) Wellington’s One Love. Outdoor get together of the community to share in the enjoyment of local performance, food and company.

IMG_3189

IMG_3113

IMG_3287

IMG_3159

IMG_3107

I spotted Roland and we had some more bread ball sticks on the grass with Mark and Shavaughn a pair of funny peeps from the UK and Ireland who had randomly come across this event. Loads of kids came and hung out with us, getting particularly excited when we let them use our cameras to take photos. They identified all the people as they scrolled through my photos, “zhe shǐ wǒ de péngyǒu, zhe shǐ wǒ péngyǒu de dìdì, zhe shǐ wǒ jiejie… [这是我的朋友,这是我朋友的弟弟,这是我姐姐的朋友, that’s my friend, that’s my friend’s little brother, that’s my sister’s friend] etc. One little dude asked if he could take my camera right into the performance to take photos. At first I said no, then I said “OK, wǔ fēnzhōng” [只有五分钟, just five minutes]. He ran away and disappeared excitedly into the thick of the crowd. About three or four minutes later, I was like “….hold up. WHAT did I just do?!” The crew was like “yo, did you just give your large, expensive camera to a small nomadic child?” I leapt to my feet and went around looking for him, ducking in and out of the layers of people around the performance gazebo (for lack of a more accurate word), but to no avail. Mentality was not good: Camera, gone. Photos, gone. Flashback to when my camera was stolen from a hostel in Ibiza and I lost all the photos of Becky and I with Shapeshifter and Tiki in backstreet Digbeth, Birmingham 2009. Noooo. Upon returning back to the original spot, the kid came running up to me looking as distressed as I was, “nǐ qù nǎr?! wǒ zhào bú dào nǐ!” [你去哪儿?! 我找不到你! Where did you go?! I couldn’t find you!]

Skux
Skux

The harsh sun and thin air tiring us out, we decided to trek back to the hostel over the lumpy grasslands. Spotted a contemplative red-robed figure sitting on the bank of a stream, it was the chill monk who had given me a ride! I asked him what he was up to, he said just thinking and observing. So. Cool. While he was friendly and helpful, he never smiled. We all trekked back across to the main road, traversing over streams, barbed wires and yak turds. It was a long walk all the way back to the Potala Inn, so I was glad to have Roland as company. Only 18-years-old, he just finished high school and was traveling before having to complete the mandatory year of community service in Austria. He chose to be a kindergarten teacher instead of joining the armed forces.

Collapsing back on my dorm bed, I could hear the sound of Daniel’s dombra from the bar/marae bedroom next door so went to go debrief of the days events. He spoke enthusiastically about how he had stumbled across a Tibetan wedding down a random street —- spontaneous and free-spirited, he offered to take us there! 

Down a few small side streets, in a two-story building marked by prayer flags, the party rolled on! The ground floor’s dancing festivities of the daytime had wrapped up, but still contained dozens of local people smiling, chilling and imploring us to go upstairs where the music and chanting was coming from. WOOAH. The entire community must’ve been there, some in traditional dresses, others in casual vests, all joyful. The place was packed with people, long banquet tables abundant with food, snacks, drinks, alcohol and even cigarettes. Whether everyone actually knew the bride or groom is another question, one that is seemingly irrelevant. Some old ladies gestured for us to sit with them at one of the long benches stretching along the tables, another repeating “sit down! sit down!” in English while pushing us towards the food. Three bowls of yak dumplings were instantaneously presented to us by an unknown woman and the older lady opposite implored us to indulge in the array of unidentifiable meats and dishes in the centre of the table. This was all an incredible sensory overload of new experience and buzzy shit going on. The atmosphere was HUGE. Singing and chanting of Tibetan mantras came from each table, usually led by the group of men circling around and forcing seated men to skull full beers or bottles of water. An all day and night affair, the wedding continued to vibe with high energy, unlike Kiwi weddings which generally result in everyone hammered and dancing to Abba with their uncles by 10pm. Sculling a bottle of water was not considered any less of a feat than sculling a beer, everyone cheering and yelling during and after the ritual of each beverage. Daniel was handed a beer and surrounded by the men, who began to chant and clap him on with huge energy. The New Zealander in me emerged at the sight of a beer sculling challenge and I too was cheering him on with vim and vigour. I love Tibetans. The phrase ‘tashi delek!’ seems to extend beyond just a greeting, and from what I gathered is used freely for ‘cheers!’ ‘nice one!’ and generally just ‘woohoo!’ Traditional songs echoing throughout, content old ladies lining the benches and swaying to the sound, children running around and dancing, cups being filled, noodles passed to and fro. A lady planted her 9-year-old qípáo clad daughter over to speak English with us, a conversation which became far more natural and comfortable once her mother had floated off to socialise. Her older sister and then her twin sister also came to chat with us, their English at an impressive level considering their low exposure. The elder sister insisted on accompanying me to the toilet, a smelly little room of ladies collectively squatting over a central tiled trough, some facing each other and chatting. She continued to speak English to me as I hovered over the trough. Later on, three friendly French brothers and sisters were spouted into the room like water from a whale’s blowhole, proceeding to heartily thrash the paper cup of cigarettes on the table.

IMG_3363

IMG_3424

One of the most bizarre experiences of my life came when we were invited to the bride and groom’s side room which was full of loud, enthused, not necessarily drunk Tibetans, who pulled us in through the crowds towards the happy couple at the back. They had heard word of some foreigners in the main room and requested that we sing them a song in English. Considering our group consisted of NZ, Austria, Israel and France, our repertoire was fairly limited. The room quietened as we were presented to the bride and groom. We then sung the first two verses of Jingle Bells, the only song we could all sing together with some degree of fluency, which was greeted with huge applause from the wildly excited wedding guests and the couple as well. We tashi delek-ed the happy couple, were pushed aside by another group who wanted to sing to them and each had a fresh beer thrust into our hands. The festivities continued throughout the typically Litang power cut that came mid-evening, the throngs of people still filling the entire space, squashing onto chairs and squeezing into the bride and groom’s side room. I started an ‘olaay olay olay olaaaaay’ chant, which was picked up by a cute old woman who I was sitting back to back with on the bench, she was VERY into it hahaha!! After several beers, a shot of báijiǔ, [白酒, white liquor, 50%alc, often compared with hot lava] various meats, spicy noodles, dried sweet crackers, an apple, a bowl of yak dumplings and a mountain of guazi, we returned back to the hostel, high on Litang. ♦