It is undeniable that China’s electronic dance music scene has been gaining a lot of traction in the last few years. Though plateauing elsewhere in the world, in China EDM is definitely on the rise, with the emergence of new festival brands like Looptopia in Taiwan, Road to Ultra and Creamfields in Hong Kong.
Although electronic music is still a niche market, in 2016 four out of twenty of DJMag’s most popular dance clubs were located in China. Between 2011 and 2015 the electronic music event capacity in China has almost tripled.
Beneath the flashing lights of the EDM circuit, China's underground scene has simultaneously been taking root, with clubs like Oma in Hong Kong, Arkham in Shanghai and Korner in Taipei recognised across the globe. Sonar Festival’s debut in April 2017 and the upcoming Delta Open Air, which has Antigone and Francois K featured as headliners, shows a discerning taste for more nuanced electronica has developed in China.
Like many parts of the region, China’s underground scene emerged in the late-90s. Despite early exposure, however, industry took quite some time to develop, with certain cultural, legal and economical barriers obstructed all that potential. Nevertheless, with the continued efforts of its underground artists the scene eventually flourished. We’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest acts to have influenced the whole of China’s growth.
April Red led by top producer DJ Code and vocalist SHAOSHIH are just tip of the iceberg of Taiwan’s electronic music scene. RED mashes up Chinese classical instruments with avant-garde electronic arrangements and super slick vocals to create something truly unique. The band's single ‘Olive Tree’ nabbed them a Goldie Indie Music Award nomination for Best Electronic track and Love Da Records released DJ Code’s official remix of the single ‘Almost Home’ from Moby's album Innocents. They also represented Taiwan at the Canadian Music Week in 2014.
From small beginnings to a future of endless possibilities, Mickey Zhang was one of the pioneers that helped shape the Chinese dance music scene into what it is today. He made his debut at Club Orange in 1999, Beijing’s first and premier techno club, securing the city’s position as the epicentre of Chinese dance culture.
In no time he became a fan favourite for his funky techno rhythms and minimal-techno beats, and his style over the years has progressed to harder techno and minimal house sounds. He has shared the decks with some of the world’s pool of amazing DJs including Laurent Garnier, Paul Van Dyk, Angela Flame and Ken Ishii. A legend in his own right, Mickey independently produced his debut album that was launched on Modern Sky Records, making him the first local DJ to release an album in China. He was also the first Chinese DJ to spin at Berlin’s original Tresor Club.
Mickey remains a leading figure in Chinese techno today, pushing the industry forward in his roles as producer, DJ, event organiser and underground ambassador.
Long before Taipei's Sonia Calico went solo, she was a key figure behind famed all-female electronic rock group Go Chic! From two acclaimed albums, which includes sophomore Go Chic! record We Is Not Home produced by Peaches to high-profile gigs at major festivals such as SXSW, Summer Sonic and Fuji Rock, the band swiftly became one of Taiwan's premiere musical exports.
Sonia went solo to pursue her musical journey as a DJ and producer and discovered her own signature sound, drawing inspiration from bass, hip-hop and chill trap. She continues to be a household name in the underground circuit across East Asia, thanks to her continuous journey of musical experimentation. She was part of the ill.Gates - More Tea Remixed EP last year on Muti Music and continues to exemplify her diversity with her latest offering, a remix of SHYQA’s “Bleeding”. Sonia is an emerging talent in bass music, and was also featured on Asia’s and Taipei’s first Boiler Room event in 2016.
Here’s a little lowdown on Malaysian born DJ and producer, Tzusing. He has been spending time in Shanghai cultivating one of the city’s best loved parties, Stockholm Syndrome. Signed to New York label, L.I.E.S, he quickly became one of the imprint’s favourites, thanks to his amazing series of EPs called A Name Out of Place. After three stellar releases through the label, earlier this year Tzusing released his latest album, 東方不敗. The album, which translates to ‘Invisible East’, is a reference to a novel by Chinese author Jin Yong, and received positive reviews from all corners of the electronic music world - a testament to his artistic capabilities.
It’s not possible to talk about the underground electronic music scene in Hong Kong without mentioning Jeremy Cheung. His decade-long career has turned him into a household name both at home and in the rest of Asia.
These days Cheung is a resident at one of Asia’s top five underground clubs, Oma in Hong Kong, playing a blend of house, deep house, tech-house, techno and nu disco to create his own infectious sound. Amazingly, he’s only been DJing since 2006, but winning the 2008 Pioneer Hong Kong DJ Quest competition paved the way for him to fully pursue his career as an electronic music artist. Despite Cheung’s impeccable DJ skills, he’s always wanted to produce, and last October, he finally released his debut EP, The Butcher; a collaboration with Fresh Funky S, released via Typhoon8 Records.
BB Deng was born in Hong Kong and raised in Taipei, where she kicked off her DJ career at Roxy in the year 2000. A university student when she first started out, Deng found herself booked for a string of gigs whilst she pursued film studies in mainland China. Performing at the gigs wasn’t the only thing that was on her plate. Deng also organised events in most of the sought after clubs in Beijing and Shanghai.
Her stellar reputation also bagged her an invitation to perform at the 2008 Beijing Olympic After Game Party. She eventually launched her own independent event outfit, DISOBEDIENCE Movement and organized a stage at INTRO in 2013, also performing on her own stage. Music and the arts aren’t her only passion. Deng’s never ending creativity led her to combine fashion and music to launch PATHX DENG with a German fashion designer friend.
Born in Brazil, half Brazilian and half Japanese, Gaby Endo has called Hong Kong home since she moved there 13 years ago to pursue a modelling career. Today, with tech and deep house running through her veins, Endo has taken Hong Kong by storm with her DJing career and carefully curated events, also appearing as a guest speaker at 2015's IMS China. She is co-founder of the monthly Love & Beats, held at famous Volar in the city’s Lang Kwai Fong district, and one of the heads behind Rewind, a Sunday daytime party series. Endo continuously plays an important role in growing the local electronic scene with her innovative ideas and endless passion for electronic music.
Discover more of what Chinese electronica has to offer at the International Music Summit’s Asia Pacific edition in Shanghai, this September 21st and 22nd. Check out the website for more information.