Yangliping

User profile: Marc0746

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  • RegisteredMarch 22, 2007
  • RegionChina
  • VerifiedNo
  • RegisteredMarch 22, 2007

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Forums > Living in Kunming > Dear Foreign Musicians

I am not ranting, just as anyone else on Gokunming who voices opinions about the inequities they encounter in life are not ranting. They are speaking the truth to people who have the ability to comprehend it.

I'm constantly on Douban, Weibo and QQ speaking to Chinese musicians from all over China about the scene in Kunming. I've been doing it for years and I'm friends with many of the Chinese musicians in Kunming that you mention are playing the Chinese version of the monkey show in the Chinese bars. The controls put on them are beyond belief as they tell me the details of it all. From the bands that are not allowed to leave a club until midnight because the owner is afraid they will go to another club to play (to add a little more money to their pocket), to the solo guitar player who has to play rhythm to drunks as they sing "The Moon Represents My Love For You" and fall down drunk against him and his guitar, I've seen it...

Here's the reason why the Chinese monkey bar circuit is not a version of the Commercial monkey shows: PRICE. The musicians have to be in there 7 days a week either by contract or because if they don't, they won't have enought money to survive. The Commercial monkey shows are WAY WAY overpriced and to add to that...discriminate against their own country's musicians. Let's look at it even at a more common level. Just take 2 musicians of more or less equal ability, they have several hours of material under their belt and can entertain an audience. If the musician is Chinese, he probably plays 2-4 different bars every night after he/she gets off work, each club pays 50-200 yuan depending on the price he negotiates. I think it's rare for the bar singer to even get 200 unless exceptional, more like 150 and less in most of the little beer bars. TOUGH TOUGH work, it is HARD as you play for an hour straight then jump on your bike and run to the next bar, and you better not be late or your pay gets docked by that next bar. But if the musician is Western, the situation is entirely different. That musician maybe will opt to play the bar circuit for a period of time, but he/she also has the choice to play commercial gigs as well. His gig fee in Kunming as Rocket stated here is 600-700 for just 1-2 hours work. This is why Western musicians can be picky about what commercial gigs they take, but Chinese musicians, in this case anyway cannot. For sure they dump old gigs and pick-up new ones, but prices don't vary greatly. There are definetly exceptions to all of this. There's fair and unfair everywhere and just because it's unfair doesn't mean it will ever change, but...Can we justify to ourselves in our minds being ok to participate in this, especially for long periods of time? I don't know? I can't justify it, and I'm guessing there are others in Kunming who can't as well. We accept these gigs under their conditions and the inequities continues to exist. But, the opposite can also happen when we reject these gigs or insist on alternate methods to do the gigs. Boycott is an option, the other option is that the commercial show foreign bands include Chinese musicians and they negotiate accordingly with the commerical entertainment businesses.

It's a bit of a generalization to say that motivating Kunming people is tough. I think there's a little bit of everything going on and it spreads evenly among us all, regardless of who we are and where we come from.

The experience you had with your bass player is a great success story. There is both interest in his part and motivation on your part.

Unfortunately, Chinese musicians are not in a position to start open-mics for the reason they have not lived in the west and have never experienced it. So to start an effective open-mic would be tough for them because they wouldn't understand the ropes of how to manage it. They don't understand how open-mics and jams can stimulate a music scene by creating more opportunties for communication, or maybe they do, but still it would be tough without guidance. However, in bigger cities, such as Beijing they definetly get it, because it's happening there, and in fact all of the jammers are Chinese as I see it in the videos. It can happen in Kunming too and have a mixture of both foreign and Chinese players on stage. It's because of open-mics and jams as well as for other reasons that western cities have music scenes. People who have never met before can meet, play and then form new projects, natural law. Music develops, the scene naturally grows.

So the status-quo of the Kunming music scene right now, at least to my understanding from 2004 to the present is: Foreign commercial shows (tons), Chinese bar circuit (tons), Foreign and Chinese bands (several), Chinese and Western Contract bands (I don't know), but most important: ONE open-mic that provides a drum-kit and is sincerely trying to help Kunming without some notion of financial or gain in face: The Mask. The commercial show scene that has such a high demand for western faces on their stage is priced beyond any reasonable person's comprehension, is out-and-out discriminating against their own country's musicians, and still Kunming only has one open-mic.

Foreign musicians taking initiative either as a group (but should not as a union or a company), as individuals or as bands to start more public music events (ie. open-mics, jams, etc), making efforts to leveling out the current reimbursement pricing structure discrepancies and discrimination issues is absolutely necessary if this city is to ever have a strong and thriving music scene.

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Forums > Living in Kunming > Dear Foreign Musicians

As Rocket stated very clearly, the companies for their own reasons will not hire Chinese musicians. They will not hire them because of their skin color which is racial discrimination. However, in China this is not racial discrimination, it's the accepted norm. This opens up a huge and very lucrative market for foreign musicians to come to China and make loads of money at the expense of the Chinese musicians. This is pure exploitation on our part and clear discrimination on the part of the Chinese entertainment companies. So we continue to do these commericial gigs, and thus support the on-going discrimination of the Chinese musicians. Boycott! make a home for yourself in Kunming, look around at our needy music scene and think about what you can do to make a contribution to improving the situation. Basic common sense.

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Forums > Living in Kunming > Dear Foreign Musicians

I hosted an open-mic in Kunming from 2006-2012 at the Halfway House Bar, did well over 100 open-mics. It was the first and longest running open-mic in Kunming, after the shutdown of the Speakeasy. I started this open-mic because at that time there was NOTHING happening musically in Kunming, notta, zero, not a single laowai band and you were lucky to see a chinese band at all. At that time, due to the popularity of the open-mic, the mobs of patrons and musicians that come to the open-mics (sometimes 15 in one night!), the Movie Bar owner asked me to host an open-mic at that bar. I did not do that, stayed put where I was and concentrated on the Halfway House. The Movie Bar offered a free drink to all participants and as a result, the Halfway House open-mic participation dwindled. It was obvious what was happening, competition. The Halfway House did not give free drinks, which we did on purpose. So maybe it was more attractive for players to go elsewhere where extras were added. That's fine, cool another place has an open-mic. This is historical fact. I lived those years, I know, I saw it all happening before my very eyes. Yes, we would often get foreign musicians playing on stage. But the problem was, one - they were often drunk and unable to control themselves on stage, patrons were disgusted by it, or two - after they got comfy making the dough in the monkey show circuit, they no longer would come to the open-mic. Or, the open-mics were used by them as a way to practice songs for their monkey gig shows. But never once did a single one ask me: "Hey. Marc, I like this open-mic idea, and I like Kunming, I too want to help out this place. Where can I go to start up an open-mic? What can I do aside from setting up my own band, to help this very music deficient city?" No one ever once asked me this question. They just continued to establish their band and play monkey shows. Open-mic was exploited for their own interest, it's a clear exploitation, just as clear as monkey shows are one of the reasons why Kunming's music scene has not been given a fair chance to develop.

The concept of a truly multi-style jam sounds interesting, Ian, but in fact never works. It's been proven time after time. And like David says, it's has to due with level of musicianship. These types of jams within a few minutes of startup usually lead to meaningless loud noise usually caused by musicians' alchohol overconsumption and as a result, patrons leave and musicians don't come back. It would be great if musicians could prepare a little something in advance before joining a jam, but they never do. I go to the Mask on monday nights very late after I get off work for the sole purpose of taking our rehearsed material on stage for trial runs in preparation for gigs. This is how I view the purpose of open-mic, a middle ground between the rehearsal room and an actual gig. THAT is it's benefit to the musical community. If there is an opportunity to actually jam with other musicians at the open-mic and it seems like good music can be made, then I'll do it. But I for sure won't do it if it's just a themeless wall of noise. I'm am so thankful to the Mask for giving musicians this stage. Whether it be to jam or work on pre-arranged material, the purpose of the event is fulfilled, patrons stick around and listen to the music and the event thus continues to live.

We all have the responsibility to give back to the city what the city gives to us. Aside from one musician going to some other musician's gig as a show of support for local music, the already established musicians of Kunming must take the initiative to find new and innovative ways to cultivate musical talent in this city. If others feel that what I say here is offensive and considered self-righteous, then I

have no other way to explain myself and will forever be misunderstood.

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Forums > Living in Kunming > Dear Foreign Musicians

Somebody, anybody, please startup a new open-mic. or jam., and then after that one is started, go start another one. Cancel all the precious band gigs, cancel all the stupid monkey shows, and get people who've never met before on stage playing. Forget who can play good or bad, or likes or doesn't like jazz or rock or blues or whatever. This is what Kunming needs more than anything right now. As a guy already stated, it is just a matter of time before they crack down on us anyway. To be honest, I'm kind of looking forward to that crack down. Maybe some serious positive changes will come as a result.

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Forums > Living in Kunming > Dear Foreign Musicians

Start an open-mic Ian, I promise you, I will definetly come. I am not joking, I am serious. Go to the Bridge, Camel, Nashville tomorrow and start negotiations with them. Will you do that? The band will come and play tunes, will work hard on our music at your open-mic. This is what defines a music scene. Chinese musicians, they are the ones who work the toughest. It is only fair to force the commerical enterprises into accepting them, not the foreigners giving into the commerical enterprises and therefore excluding the Chinese. This is their country, not ours.

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Comments

Hey, no problem, I really am only joking...definetly an interesting video. It's just sometimes my stuff gets booted off here for no obvious reason, so I thought I joke about it. Makes me feel like I'm living in America, home of the free and the brave and all that good stuff, hehe.

It's nice to see somebody finally getting angry for a change. However, bet he really lost some major face over that one...Well at least his companion got her 2 cents in at the end. Yet by national standards, this is still all too tame. How bout the Youku video of the traffic incident where one lady gets pissed at another? 1st party gets out of the car to quarrel with the 2nd party, 1st party is too slow on the draw, gets caught in her own opened door as the 2nd party proceeds to bulldoze the two of them into oblivion. Or wait, how bout the Youku video where there is a child laying in the street, in Guangzhou I believe? "Unbeknownst" to passing pedestrains proceeds to get run over several times by a myriad of different vehicles, eventually died in the hospital due to injuries. Or wait, how bout the pictures taken of a rebel town administrator after being "hit" by a dump truck? His body plummeled into the ground and broken at the neck...Or wait...Jimi had it right when he spoke "big deal" as his guitar screamed out the melody to "and our flag was still there". Better take care of your own in this world, sure as hell no one else will.

Reviews

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The Mask gives musicians a stage to work on their music, this alone is worth it's weight in gold. But to add to that, The Mask attracts an audience that is interested in listening to music, so it is absolutely a musicians sanctuary. That audience includes both Chinese and non-Chinese, wonderful, fantastic, digging the music! When the stage is quiet, they are spinning a variety of different records, also very cool. Convienent location, open very very late, great drinks. Let's burn down all of the Karaoke joints and neighboring cheap beer bars and convert the city into one big Mask franchise, finally...the music would have a chance to survive in Kunming and life would be all too good.