The Shanghai Music Scene

The Shanghai music scene mirrors China’s rapid growth and development over the last few decades. As one of the largest financial and commercial hubs in the world, Shanghai is also a culturally diverse metropolis. From Mexican mariachis to glow-stick waving raves, the city hosts a variety of international music for the entertainment of expatriates and locals alike. The Shelter, a converted World War II bunker, provides a rave atmosphere for unhinging your joints and flailing to Chinese techno. Meanwhile, Zapata’s cervasas and tiki huts offer a relaxing place to unwind after a long day of work.


Famous in SH

Although the city’s entertainment venues primarily focus on the clubbing and dance scenes, several live music bars have gained devoted patrons. One of the best places to find these hot spots is through That’s Shanghai, a monthly magazine that provides a listing of restaurants, bars, and music events throughout the area. This comprehensive guide provides everything you need to please your literal, and creative palate. Music events in Shanghai range from subway singers to local Chinese and expat bands, to international celebrities such as Kanye West and George Benson (performing this September).

Tucked away down a back street near 华山路 (Hua Shan Lu) Time Passage has become one of my personal favorites. Besides having ridiculously cheap beer, there are live music performances almost every night from local Chinese cover bands playing anything from classic rock to modern pop. It is difficult not to be impressed by the local talent. Bands will take the stage speaking little or no English, earning looks of skepticism from most of the first-timers and non-Chinese. The set begins with a strange adaptation of a song everyone faintly recognizes. ‘Something in the Way’ by Nirvana, is sung in perfect English by a Chinese man completely unaware he is singing, “But it’s ok to eat fish, because they don’t have any feelings.” Doubtful that he cares about the fish, or its feelings, the band finishes with an equally impressive Neil Young or John Denver song; they bow and walk off the stage to the sounds of wild applause from former skeptics.

Without a doubt, modern Chinese pop has been tremendously influenced by American culture. Simply turn on the T.V. and you will see Hong Kong rock stars, Chinese pop stars surrounded by an entourage of backup dancers, and Chinese rappers break dancing in front of brightly colored sports cars. Although the music culture resembles that of the U.S., it is also undoubtedly unique to China. These distinctions are partially due to China’s wide variety of cultures illuminated through a blend of ethnic minority music, traditional Chinese instruments and Western influence. Shanghai provides one of the most diverse and interesting stages for continually expanding original music genres. Behind the flashing neon lights of the Shanghai financial district, and down back alleys in neighborhood bars stirs talent just waiting for discovery.

-posted by Mike.

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