China Welcomes Musical Hegemony
03 Aug 2006
Forgive me for the phrase “musical hegemony”–I’m not sure exactly what to call it. The fact is, foreigners in China routinely affronted with horrible pop music (and I’m talking more about the Western variety than the Chinese variety) desperately want to control the music of the Chinese locales they frequent. The good news is that it’s remarkably easy to do so, and you may even earn the eternal gratitude of a store manager by imposing your musical taste on her.
Brad used to be quite the musical hegemon. He would find a small bar he liked and make it his own. By “make it his own” I don’t just mean he would hang out there a lot and get to know the manager and staff, I also mean that he would make mix CDs for the bar, and the bar would happily play his musical selections (almost) all the time.
It doesn’t work only at bars, though. The last time I went for a haircut, I took a mix CD with me. The staff were thrilled to get it, and yanked their own CD mid-song so they could start playing my offering immediately. I amused myself by creating a ridiculous eclectic mix for the CD, a hodge-podge of classic pop (the decent stuff, i.e. not “Right Here Waiting” etc.) and semi-obscure stuff that most Chinese people wouldn’t know, but all with Chinese musical sensibilities in mind. Some selections:
– Out Hud – It’s for You
– Concrete Blonde – Joey
– Chromeo – Mercury Tears
– Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
– Lisa Loeb – Stay (I think this one was a hit)
– Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69 (his only good song)
– Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun
– Sublime – Santeria
– Gin Blossoms – Hey Jealousy (sadly, I think this song was “too heavy”)
– John Frusciante – Murderers (you can’t not like this song)
– ABBA – Dancing Queen dance remix (this was my idea of a joke that I believe will be misinterpreted as “good music”)
I also took The Album Leaf’s “In a Safe Place” album to SPR Coffee, where the staff was happy to add it to their Winamp playlist. Oh yes, my tiny sphere of musical influence in Shanghai is growing (but I still cower before the might of, say, Brad and Aric).
So if you’re in China, start burning CDs and give musical hegemony a try with one of your local hangouts. You have nothing to lose, and quite possibly the prolonged sanity of many expat neighbors to gain.