Tuesday, October 30, 2012

PitchYourCulture 15 September 2012: The Shenzhen Edition

By Bing Czeng

After organizing four amazing PyC events in Hong Kong where we have had a lot of fun, we decided to take this HK-based event across the border to Shenzhen where we fell in love with an artsy book cafe named Old Heaven Book Store, located in the eastern part of the city, in an 798-ish artsy area named OCAT. Excited, and with some nerves dancing ala Gangnam style, I began to liaison with the book store and started looking for speakers. In the end we managed to find 3 speakers from Shenzhen and 3 from Hong Kong.

We set the date on 15 September. I did not at first realize that it was on the exact date from one year previous (2011) when we held our first PyC event.

I kicked off the event with an introduction of PitchYourCulture and a brief account of the PyC events in Hong Kong. Not sure how the audience would react. I wanted to inform them as much as possible (but not too much) so they would know what was going to happen. I continued the PyC bilingual “policy” and MCing was conducted in Mandarin supplemented with English.

The theme of the night was “The Most Important Song.

#1) Jiayi: Search for the confidence in the campus life

The PyC Old Heaven edition began with the stories of Jiayi. Jiayi is a Year-4 university student who studies music in Xinghai Conservatory of Music. Like most people in their teens and 20s, she found her most important song randomly via the internet.

Her story began as she entered university where she could not fit in at first, as the environment changed and she nostalgically lingered on the happy memories of her and her schoolmates back in middle school. Her song, Umbrella by Eri Takenaka, helped her through these difficult times with its soothing sound and encouraging lyrics of friendship. She gradually gained confidence in the new life and started to enjoy it. While one song may be just a song for some people, it could be a great encouragement to other people who need to be cheered up.

At the time of the event, the relationship between China and Japan was very tense. There had been riots in Shenzhen earlier where some angry mobs had destroyed Japanese-brand cars on the street. Before sharing her story, Jiayi stated that music should be beyond the boundary of countries and that no politics should be brought into this subject. (ah what a crazy time) The audience seemed calm about this, which was comforting. 

#2) Mike and his Bossa Nova

Next we had Mike’s story. Mike is an editor of Mugazine.net. His story is simple yet inspiring: one day he lost his job and he broke up with his girlfriend. Being in very low spirit for a few days, he picked up a CD and found a song that brought his feet back to ground: it’s Mondo Grosso’s Show Me Your Love

This bossa nova song gave him much energy as we could feel it through his energetic talk. The audience was gradually heated up by his hyped mood.

Few days after he heard the song, he found a job he loved and he became a fan of bossa nova. 

#3) Alice and her epiphany

Alice graduated from an arts college in Guangzhou where she studied music. And prior to that she had joined different choir groups. Despite her efforts, she failed her entrance exam to her dream college and ended up in a different one. During the first year she was very depressed, yet it was – again – the music that helped her reflect on her life. Kelly Poon’s Oblivion taught her about how to let go of the past that made her unhappy and cherish what she had now. The experience of letting go was world-shaking for her in her late teens, but through the painful hardship she finally saw the light in her life.

For her, it is exactly the flaws in life that made her see more of the other sides of life. It is acceptable to look back on our past, but we should not live there.

#4) Yi Chen: Struggle as an Indie Singer-Songwriter

As an independent singer-songwriter, YiChen has experienced hardship since he started playing music in high school. Even though he joined several singing contests and had learned to play guitar, he eventually went to Beijing to study law so that he could fulfill his parents’ expectation. 

After graduation, he did not forget his dream about being a singer. Growing up in the dry dessert area in the Northwestern part of China, YiChen was drawn to the scenery of the sea, which he had never seen. He brought a one-way ticket to Shenzhen and started his life here. He has since taken many small jobs, including singing in bars.

Later he quit his jobs and became an independent singer. Through hard work he managed to produce two albums with songs all written, sung and produced by himself. Now he has his own studio and performs almost every day.

The important song for him is Tsai Chin’s Zhangsan’s Song. YiChen first encountered this song when he was learning to play guitar. This song has inspired him to go out and see, especially this part in the song:
I would like to take you and fly away, to everywhere in the world
we would fly to the places far far away and have a look
This world isn’t that sad. It is still full of light.

As a singer-songer, he always performs his own songs. But when receiving a request to sing another’s song, Zhangsan’s Song has to be the one, as he wishes to inspire other people to fulfill their dreams with his love for this song and for music.

Let’s hope his story inspire more people to pursue their dreams.

#5) Yang Jing’s Uygur Identity

YangJing is an editor in a publishing office, yet her sense goes beyond the words. Despite being a Han ethnic, she grew up in Xijiang Province in western part of China, where the majority of the people are Uygur who are Islamic. Yang Jing often endures the stereotype “terrorist” and “thief” against Uygur, and it went as far as her being questioned whether she’s terrorist at the China customs. YangJing showcased the discrimination against people from XinJiang by listing stereotypes and misunderstanding about people living in Uygur: people from Xin Jiang were almost always labeled “thief” by larger cities in the eastern part of China, and most Uygurs were often associated to terrorists due to some riots started by few Uygurs who seek independence.

However, apart from the ignorance/nonchalance concerning the Uygur culture in the rest of China, Uygurs themselves also face identification crisis/confusion. In order to be recognised as Uygur, they even have to dress up as other ethnic groups whose dress resembles theirs. 

The song she chose, Lift Up Your Veil , was a Uygur-style pop song composed by a Han Chinese. This song reminds people of Xing Jiang, but ironically the lyrics show much disrespect to Islamic culture. This song, as explained by Yang Jing, wasn’t her important song, but it is very important to Uygur and (Han) Chinese. The video of the song filled the event with the erotic mood with ridicule of the singer dressed up like a cowboy and dancing in the Mongolian-like grassland. Yang Jing hoped to make people review their perspectives on this long-neglected controversy.

#6) The thunder-stealing present of Hendrix

Our last presenter of the event, Andrew Guthrie, the founder of PitchYourCulture,  made himself the “headliner” by imitating what Jimi Hendrix did at Woodstock: insisting on being the last one on stage. Andrew introduced Hendrix’s journey to stardom which relied on his talent in finding different sounds as well as musical notes. While the popular genres of music in the late1950’s in America were Blues, Jazz and Rock, Hendrix mixed them together and gave life to a new form, and thus became one of the best known electric guitarists. The song started with a dialogue between Jimi Hendrix and his manager Chas Chandler based on the TV show Star Trek. Then the listener was free to travel from outer space into their inner space and through the musical groove and the raw feedback of the electric guitar.In the late 1960’s the movements for liberation were sprouting, and Hendrix’s song Third Stone From The Sun, (according to an account from one of Andrew’s American colleague) complimented two people reaching simultaneous orgasm .