Category Archives: Music

Where to buy musical instruments in Shanghai

One of the great joys of being a consumer in Shanghai are the areas dedicated to certain goods. There are tech malls, bathroom fittings malls, camera malls, fabric malls, fake stuff malls, and so on. For the musically minded Shanghai doesn’t disappoint either. There are a few music streets and areas but one of the largest can be found on Jinling Rd (Jinling Xi Lu). Whether it is rock and roll, electronic, classical, or even traditional Chinese instruments this street pretty much has it all.

From observations the prices were pretty good, especially for acoustic guitars – I saw one for 250RMB. Being a really bad drummer at home I found a lot of the kits did look and sound a bit plastic though. However, I’m not sure having a full kit is really something the neighbours in Shanghai would appreciate (or maybe it would be a welcome relief from all the construction going on for the Expo). There are electronic kits from all the major brands though.

For guitarists, bassists, and even cow bellers there’s enough stuff here to arm your band. What you might miss compared to many shops in the west is the ‘vintage’ area. It seems this market isn’t catered for too well here (that I can see).

It’s also a treasure to find some traditional Chinese instruments. Personally, I like the Sanxian(三弦) but there is just about every instrument to buy there.

What: A whole street full of music shops
Where: East Jinling Road (it goes for blocks) – see picture for address in Chinese

Australian musical finds on YouKu

Today’s post doesn’t really have much to do about living in Shanghai but rather some music available on Chinese video site, YouKu.com, which I’m surprised to see.

I’m not much for flag-waving about where a band is from but if you are looking for something a bit different here are some Australian bands which are pretty good and might be worth a listen. I wouldn’t say these are my cream picks from Australia but just a taste of recent music over the past 10 years and worthy of adding to a playlist.

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Tune in: Carsick Cars

Carsick Cars are one of the coolest indie bands I’ve heard since being in China. Their first album I downloaded via Google Music for free (and legally in China). This video below is the new single called Mogu, Mogu. I somehow don’t think they are singing about the Mogu (mushroom) to be bought at the shan dian.

Thanks to http://56minus1.com/ for the tip on the new song.

Embed and share Google Music playlists

The big music news in China last week was the launch of Google Music – a free service allowing users in the mainland to download or stream more than a million licensed songs. Yes, you heard that right – FREE.

Finding FREE MP3s to stream and download isn’t exactly news, right? The difference here is that Google have the authorisation from 140 label partners including the big 4 major labels – Warner Music Group, Universal Music, EMI and Sony Music Entertainment. Google’s revenue model is to sell advertising around the service and split the profits amongst the labels. Presumably, a portion of that amount sees the artists. We hope.

While it’s seemingly a blow to the potential introduction of paid services like iTunes or Amazon in China the move is said to be less about the music and more of a strategic play against search rival Baidu. Google currently trails Baidu as the search engine of choice in China.

The catch? It’s only available to users on a mainland China IP address. For nerds or technically savvy folks this is probably a small hurdle to circumvent.

Get Started

To get started with Google Music you’ll need to get familiar with the interface. The site is in Chinese but its fairly easy to see what’s going on. George Godula from Web2Asia has put together a comprehensive overview of what you’ll need to know to get started:

Embed and share your playlists

Now that you’ve got the basics out of the way there’s a neat trick to allow you to embed and share your playlists to put on a blog, forum, or website. It’s a handy way for others to listen and download (legally!) songs they might like.

1. Find the code

Once you’ve got a handle on Google Music and created a playlist of songs its simply a matter of finding the < embed > tag’s content in the page source. To do this right click on the playlist in your favourite browser and “view source”. Scroll through the code until you find the < embed > tag and copy the whole line as shown below.

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2. Paste the embed tag

Next you’ll need to paste the embed tag on your blog, website, or favourite forum. The code will be rather long but don’t worry. Paste it in and hit preview. If the player is shown with your music then you’ve done it. If the player doesn’t fit quite right you may need to follow step 3.

3. Resize the player

The player is rather big and might take some tweaking to fit properly on your website. They key is to change a few paramaters at the end of the < embed > tag code. At the very end of this tag, past all the gobblygook code is the following bit of code you can change:

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Simply change “noscale” to “scale”, then change the height and width of the player in % or pixels. For the example below I’ve chosen a pixel height of 450 and a width of 550. Change around with those settings until the player looks right on your site.

4. Rock

As God, Bon Scott said “Let there be Rock!”

Update: I have a feeling the content in the player might expire after a week or two.

Neocha – indie music from China

News Corp’s MySpace might be the place for bands to promote themselves in the US and other english-speaking countries but it hasn’t taken off in the middle kingdom. In fact,David Feng posted earlier this year that the MySpace team in China has recently been culled.

Inside the firewall other options exist for bands to upload their content and users to find cool, upcoming bands – my personal favourite being Neocha. The site includes most genres you’d expect from other parts of the world with some surprise mashups of traditional Chinese instruments with modern rock/hip-hop/pop/dance.

Below is a nifty widget that showcases just a portion of the music on the site. Click on a song you like and it will take you through to the artists page.

Warning: Major source of distraction ahead.

Tune in: Beijing’s underground music scene

I’ve recently been tuning into local Chinese sites like NeoCha to listen to bands from Shanghai and China and found some really cool gems. I’ll share some of these later – when 9-5 work isn’t so pressing. But for now, sit back, relax, and watch this video on China’s underground rock scene by CNN. It’s a good primer of what to expect.


Daft Punk secret gig in Shanghai

According to the Shanghaiist earlier this week Daft Punk were set to put on a secret show in Shanghai on Friday 13. Yes, Black Friday. To get tickets one had to line up at a disclosed location and pay $500RMB ($90USD). The social web went into a frenzy and according to reports many lined up and purchased tickets.

Unsurprisingly, after someone actually asked Daft Punk’s management it was found out the gig was hoax. Some are still holding out that it’s a trick to make sure it’s still a secret show, however, a bunch of foreigners are currently grabbing their digital pitchforks and looking for those responsible. Funnily enough, they are looking for a guy with red hair.

As there are probably only about a dozen fanta pants in the Shanghai I’d like to state my innocence and hope that the gig is on or those who got scammed will get their money back.

Video: The Laowai busker

I’m partial to a good busker and happy to give a few clams for entertaining street art. But what happens when Mark, a self-proclaimed ‘crazy Kiwi guy’ decides to take the mic from a Shanghai busker singing his best version “Wonderwall” by Oasis for passing tourists next to the Pearl Tower?

Mark says “Move over Rover, and let Laowai take over” so he can sing about…..chronic masturbation, of course!

Judging from the crowd, the solo performance about solo performances didn’t go down like a Jay Chou concert but good on him for having a go. And for that, I won’t mention a token joke about Kiwis and the Little Sheep restaurants in Shanghai.

Without further ado, here’s that guy singing about Shanghai salami slapping (Blister in the Sun):

Sanxian Hero (三弦)

During my last trip to Beijing I was walking the back streets of the city in search of something more authentic than Chinese students wanting me to buy their artwork. Walking the twisted lane ways I ran into a gentleman playing this plucking instrument which looked like an oversize bass but sounded a little like a Banjo. With my wee bit of Chinese I conversed with him a little and he showed me inside his house and was keen to show off the instruments he could play. From what I could understand from the conversation his Baba (father) was a performer and he learnt the ways of the musical force from an early age.

After the trip I did a bit of Googling and found out the instrument is called a Sanxian(三弦). I won’t bore you with the details on this blog because that’s what Wikipedia is for.

So, without further ado, here is the first of 3 videos I took with my point and shoot camera. It’s not the best quality but worth sharing:

Empire of the Sun film clip shot in Shanghai

A few months ago Luke Steele (Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore’s (Pnau) who make up the band Empire of the Sun shot a film clip for their first single in Shanghai.

The song is called “Walking on a Dream” and is pretty cool. Don’t take my word for it, check it out below:


Empire of the Sun, “Walking On A Dream” from Benjamin Technology on Vimeo.