Music is a catalyst for the interconnection of souls, you beautiful souls you!, rounding up groups of people across all genres to communicate the journey of life. With the necessity for a common language more prevalent than ever in today’s world, music strings humans together across the globe. From China to New York City, Temper goes Rolling Stone as we sip an artisanal brew or two and tell the tale of Concrete Concrete band members Andi and Pei. Unapologetic and unabashed, just the way we like to move.
It sounds all oh so very hippie and spirituahl to say this, but undeniable fact has it that watching people connect with music is an incredible and undeniable force. Watching people find solace in the words of others that so deeply connect with their otherwise indescribable feelings, is pretty cosmic in my opinion. Poke fun all you will, music lovahs; perhap that’s not how you would describe music, but there is a point here.
The complication with music being a vehicle for connecting humanity, however, can be a huge problem for people living in parts of the world where access to such free-range art forms and ideas is prohibited.
China is not a cultural hodgepodge — there is a rare source of diversity; everything artistically comes from other corners of the world. Once you block off foreign information, you’ve blocked off everything.
The Freedom of Sound
In true Temper groupie cool girl capacity, I sat down with Concrete Concrete, a rock band that formed here in the United States of New York City, but whose band members (well, two of them, that is) hail from the Mothership. Aka China. Their musical exposure, or lack thereof, were not quite as fruitful as that of, say, someone who grew up with the freedom of speech. Although reported to be an emerging and progressive society, the fact of the matter is that traditional custom and Party theory to this day heavily impact the sounds people in China can hear.
At the risk of repeating oneself ad nauseam, and risks we at Temper do love to take, with one infamous and massive firewall firmly cemented within and surrounding the country, the Chinese government controls what information people can see and read on the Internet. YouTube, for example, is completely inaccessible. Now, just think about all those times you’ve sat there, firmly cemented behind that lit-up laptop/ iPad/ mobile screen exploring new music videos or discovering new masterclasses. You too have undoubtedly delved into the depths of pop culture through YouTube and without even knowing really how you got there, you ended up on a video of a golden retriever running into a wall, repeatedly. And it’s just too late to get out.
A journey of “discovery” through Westernized media is unfortunately – we use the word with much debated and curated care — not a daily reality in China. Although a VPN can be used to circumvent this issue of c*nsorship, uploading information moves at a glacially slow pace.
Concrete Is Soft On The Ears
The Concrete Concrete big bang happened when two guys from China and two from Japan in 2017 together picked up their instruments. It was love at first jam. The band name stems from the solidity and permanence of “Concrete”. From a typographical perspective, when written in all lowercase, each letter forms a circular shape — the underlying meaning of which is commonly known.
Although music does not constitute their full time careers at the moment, one may as well base the word “career” on how much time these guys have invested in establishing their musical presence. The two Chinese band members, Andy and Pei, are software engineers by day and although they do enjoy their day jobs, a large reason for choosing this rock ‘n punk career path is a pretty relatable one for many Chinese millennials.
The market for music in China may very well be small, but demand is huge. Artists can excel in China, establishing a very stable lifestyle for themselves. We call this the big fish small pond syndrome.
Stick To The Classics
Chinese parents are notorious for pushing science and mathematics-based jobs, for their lifelong stability and financial certainty assets. The creative arts, as they are in most countries unless you make it into the big leagues, are not as well-known for their lucrative incomes. However, the pursuit of creative careers is one considered more lenient in other countries. Chinese parents on the other hand remain, shall we say, not quite so forgiving (generalizing here, please note). Politically speaking, Beijing to this very day pushes for mainstream music to focus on soft pop and classical genres.
Deep down in the ever-intriguing and artistic underbelly of Chinese society, things are swaying, raving and punking. Art brings freedom. Nevertheless, the gut feeling rumbling at the governing center of it all (i.e. Zhongnanhai), despite the internationalization and globalization of the China that we see on the 8 o’clock news, is one heavily afraid of Western infiltration and the destabilization of its society.
At present, many of the Middle Kingdom’s millennial musicians come to the West, realize their true passion for music and opt to pursue it as a side hustle until they hopefully one day can catch that once in a lifetime opportunity to turn the hobby into a career. Nevertheless, visas are incredibly difficult to come by and in order to sustain a work visa, you require the sponsorship of a legitimate company. As a result, many Chinese artists, who are decently talented and regularly play to a nice size audience here in the States, take their band back home to China and instantly hit it WAM BAM big.
The market for music in China may be small, but demand is huge. The aforementioned musicians can excel in China, establishing a very stable lifestyle for themselves. We call this the big fish small pond syndrome.
The members of Concrete Concrete are nowhere near abandoning their pursuit just yet; not yet succumbing to the pressure. If anything, they are bringing the heat. The band practices and performs as often as possible, juggling all of the necessary parts to one day make it into the world of record deals. It’s all punk; nothing daft.
Concrete Concrete has a record coming out in the next months and you can find the band on every music platform: Soundcloud, YouTube and Apple Music; the one who seeks finds! Whether it’s about the music, the solace or the record deal… Let’s stick with the concrete words and gut feeling of Ms. Patti Smith:
“To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.”
Edited by Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine
Featured Image: Courtesy of Concrete Concrete, 2018
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Copyright@Temper Magazine, 2018. All rights reserved
Laiter went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Chinese Studies and Communications Rhetoric at The University of Pittsburgh and a Master's Degree in Translation at NYU. Immediately after college, she moved to New York City and since then has worked in a number of different industries such as branding, manufacturing, fashion, public relations and real estate. China always acting as the common denominator.
Inspired by her career, Laiter launched a website called Chinese Graffiti, on which she features emerging Chinese designers, talks about the intersection of tradition and modernity in China, as well as the evolution of society and business culture. As time went on, she sought out like-minded businesses individuals who were interested in a similar market, which is how she became involved with Temper Magazine.
The China market is creating a whirlwind around the glob and it’s only just getting started.
The world can be a small place with a dash of mutual understanding and Laiter loves to be the storyteller who helps to bridge that gap.
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