By Dagny Zenovia
It is said that music is a universal language. As relations between Chinese and Africans continue to deepen and evolve, music is becoming the language to bridge the gap between them. As of 2019, China’s music industry estimated revenue was $1.1 billion. Looking at musical genres that are popular in China, one can infer that Chinese people listen to and are open to a mixture of music, from Pop, to Hip Hop, from Classical, to Movie Soundtracks, and from Kpop to Country. Directly and indirectly, the music and the stories behind these genres is influencing the perspectives between cultures.
Regarding artists diversity, one of China’s most notable foreign singers is Hao Ge, a Nigerian born engineer and astrophysicist. He started performing in hotels and bars in China in 2001. Later, a music producer discovered him and he grew in popularity while performing on TV. Now, he travels all over China to perform and do TV shows.
History of Hip Hop in China
Hip Hop in China has had a colorful journey. From 1993 to 2015, it grew in talent and popularity as various rap groups produced music and performed underground while the national sports TV station started broadcasting NBA games. The first push back against underground Hip Hop artists occurred in 2015 when the government’s Culture Bureau wiped the group In3’s songs of the Chinese internet due to what authorities considered as “vulgar and violent content.” Later, in 2017, Hip Hop regained popularity and access through the reality show The Rap of China. Now, it is not only Chinese who are producing and participating in Hip Hop culture in China. It is also being used by African immigrants in China to redefine the stereotypes about African immigrants in China. The documentary China Remix tells the story of 3 African Hip Hop artists in Guanghzhou, China, dubbed as “The Chocolate City” due to its vast African immigrant community. The artists are using music to showcase the African community and its contribution to the city.
Everyone Loves K-Pop Now
K-Pop is booming in popularity globally and that is no different in China. That success is also tied to its influence of R&B music. In fact, for almost 10 years, seasoned R&B songwriters, including Teddy Riley and Priscilla Renae, have been traveling to South Korea to write for K-Pop groups. The visuals and choreography by most of these groups are also inspired by R&B, Hip Hop, and Afrobeat.
Ties Between Music and Social Issues
Due to these ties and influences of Black music and nuances of Black culture through such music, the question of support and understanding of the Black American experience in America and the African experience in Africa and China among Chinese in China is no surprise. Some have asked why China’s hip hop artists are seemingly remaining silent over the current Black Lives Matter movement. This same sentiment has been asked of those who participate in Hip Hop culture through out Asian countries. Regarding China, there is a nuance to this perceived silence. Originally, in America, Hip Hop was born as music of protest. Some argue that China has no need to revolt through music. On the other hand, PG One, a Chinese rapper, blamed the influence of Black culture in response to criticism of his sexist lyrics. It seems that these nuances will continue to evolve as more education and conversations on and off line take place.
Overall, music is directly and indirectly contributing to filling the gap of understanding between Chinese and Africans. As Black music continues to influence China’s music industry, the stories and culture behind that music will influence their relations too.