When it comes to Chinese music, it’s hard for a foreigner who has hardly any prior exposure to Asian music to discover new bands to add to their repertoire of music. The point of this post is to hopefully help people who have a general interest in Chinese music that has no connection to the Mandopop and Cantopop movements. It’s not that I find these genres of music to be terrible, I’m just ready to broaden my horizons when it comes to Chinese music in general, and think its time for the rock scenes in China to get a little bit more exposure. So, with that said, the purpose of this post is to help someone learn how to search for Chinese rock, indie, punk, and other forms of musical entertainment that hardly get any exposure on mainstream western websites.
I’ve broken the ways of finding music into different categories in order to help you scroll through steps and advice that you may or may not need to hear.
–The wikipedia way: Wikipedia
Most people who first discover a band or a genre of music find themselves looking at Wikipedia in an attempt to try and find more information about the music. What one ends up discovering is that the information is very limited and only brings attention to the founding bands that have helped contribute to a particular style of music. Furthermore, the underdogs of genres are completely left out, resulting in a short list of Chinese bands that most likely hasn’t been updated in quite some time. Here is a link to the wiki page that has Chinese rock bands listed on it. Now, this is a good starting point for someone who doesn’t know a lot about Chinese music, because the list isn’t really overwhelming since it’s more concise. However, the reader will soon realize that most of the bands don’t even have a Wikipedia pages, which makes it impossible to find further information about any interesting bands. There is no discography section for each of these bands, or just a few created by dedicated fans who took the time to write a short summary of the band. This is where my next site, something that is the bible of Chinese Rock, comes into play.
–The Holy Grail (RIC): Artist Page
The site is known as RIC: Rock in China and it is a great tool for discovering new bands while learning a little bit more than just seeing a listing of bands, as the site offers a brief summary of each band, the tours each has partaken in, and the most important of all the information, related discographies. The site is pretty good at keeping up-to-date, and anyone can contribute to it, so the list keeps on growing and more information is added as time goes on. The amount of information varies from band to band, but browsing the site is a great way to learn about the bands that have influenced other bands, which is essential to finding new music.
I found myself using the site as a database to look things up. I often had multiple browser windows open, one on the Chinese Rock wiki page, and the others on Wikipedia, using the other site as a means to look bands up on RIC in order to find out more about them. This way I could figure out what CDs bands have out besides the one or two I already knew about. RIC has a huge list of bands, which can be quite daunting for someone who wants to try out every single band that is listed, but its well worth your time. RIC also has a wordpress page, which you can find here.
Another website that is a no brainer and which most people who are avid users of the internet have at some point in their life have used is Myspace. Myspace is great because a lot of indie record labels use it, so that means if you can find a band’s record label on Myspace there is an almost guarantee that those bands will be listed on Myspace as well. This way you can listen to the music and discover more bands before making any attempt to go onward with your searches.
Although a lot of these record labels on Myspace might not be located in China, a lot of them most likely have a Chinese band signed to them. Also, if one has a general interest in Asian music, these record label sites can be a gateway for finding out about other bands of different nationalities.
–Internet Radios: Pandora – Grooveshark
Websites like Pandora and Grooveshark are becoming more and more popular as people find themselves using them on a daily basis as background fillers. Pandora is nice because one can type a band name into the search field and Pandora will configure the radio station around the perimeters of that band.The only problem with Pandora is that it doesn’t necessarily add Asian related music to your list, but if you are a music junkie, its a good way to broaden your musical awareness.
Grooveshark is similar to Pandora in the fact that you can stream music, but instead of being a radio it’s more like a CD aggregator that carries entire albums (depends on the band), which is a nice way of listening to an entire album without purchasing it. You can also make play lists and things of a certain nature if you want to stray away from listening to one band.
How do you get the music?
Now that you have found these bands, where do you get the music? This question can be answered in many different ways depending on the methods you wish to take. Some people are against illegally downloading or obtaining music while others don’t really care as long as they have the music.
–The iTunes way:
Buying most Chinese music is difficult because there is no steady aggregator that will sell every single Chinese band that you have discovered on the internet. iTunes is hit or miss and tends to only offer more mainstream bands, but every once in a while it somehow has something that no one else has. I wouldn’t expect for you to find a lot of these smaller Beijing rock bands in the mix of iTunes. Still, iTunes does, surprisingly enough, have albums by Lonely China Day, a bizarre indie, experimental band that hails from Beijing.
–The Russian way: MP3fiesta
Another way you can go is the Russian way, which consists of the Russian MP3 pay sites that are legal (depending on who you ask), but kind of shady. MP3fiesta is a one of the bigger ones. Just search for “mp3 Russian” and you’ll get a ton of them, but I’d recommend using a different system if you have the choice. The MP3s cost a fraction of what iTunes asks for a CD, but the problem is it’s really hit or miss when it comes to finding the bands you are looking for. As an example of this, one of the Russian sites happened to have my friend’s punk band available to download (and let me say their band is not a well known band), while other sites did not. On other occasions, I’ve been completely surprised that they didn’t have certain bands that are more well renowned (like Mayday). It is also near damn impossible to even search for a genre-specific band. If you want Chinese rock, there is no search button for that, so you have to know what you are looking for (though you can rely on other sites for discovering bands and their genres).
–The Asian website way: Yes Asia
Another alternative is using sites like Yes Asia. However, these sites are extremely expensive because they require the CD to be mailed to you, which means if you live in America, shipping and handling is insane, and on top of that it’ll take near a month for a CD to arrive. Yes Asia is nice in the sense that they categorize the music by country, which is a nifty little feature that can help one look for new music in addition to purchasing what a user already knows. It’s also great for separating dialects if you are more interested in Mandarin more than Cantonese.
–Myspace and official website way:
If you are really interested in supporting a band, there is always the possibility that their official website or even their myspace has a pay option for available MP3s or CDs. However, I must warn you that some bands will not ship out of their country, while others will almost do anything to make sure their band is discovered. I’ve heard of some people who have gotten in contact with a band saying they have had no luck locating their music and then the band turns around and emails them their MP3s. I’m not saying you should go around and beg bands, but it is a possibility that if you contact them asking for help locating their music with the intention of buying it, they can help get the CD to you. This is the best way to go for really small garage based bands that you know its impossible to buy their music on any major mp3 website or store.
–The illegal way:
Obtaining music illegally is your choice and I’m not about to link to any site where you can find files of music, but places like mediafire, megaupload, filestube, and rapidshare are well known by underground music junkies for having a lot of files to choose from. Any of those upload sites might have some of the music you are looking for, but a lot of these files are community-driven, meaning that you need to be a part of some sort of blogging network to get access to the files. There are some ways of searching for them on Google as well, which I’d recommend looking up on the internet at some point if all else fails and you can’t find a legitimate way of buying the music you want. I hate to say it but these sites usually have the most music to choose from and its the fastest way of obtaining it.
I hope this article has helped broaden your horizons and that you are able to go out and find new music. If you need any help or have anything you think that needs to be added to this article, let me know. I’d be glad to add additional information to the page.