Up the Yangtze is back at the AMC during the Olympics

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Sur le Yangzi / Up the Yangtze

If you didn’t see Canadian-born Chinese Yung Chang‘s film Up the Yangtze (Sur le Yangzi, en version française), here’s your chance:

Back by popular demand, Up the Yangtze will return to theatres this Friday August 15 for an open run at Montreal’s AMC Forum. The epic documentary provides another face to China not shown during the Olympic Games, exploring the lives of people living along the Yangtze River, forced to deal with flooding from the massive Three Gorges Dam.

The movie is presented in English with Mandarin subtitles. Dolby 5.1, 95 minutes, 35mm.

Beijing’s Blue Screen of Death

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Blue Screen of Death @ Beijing Olympics opening ceremony

From Rivercool, via Hecaitou’s blog, via EastSouthWestNorth.

Comme les Chinois typically tries not to just re-post news published somewhere else, but this is just too good to keep for myself. There has been talk about the fake singing, the sequences that would’ve been added in case of rain, but the geek in me (and IT specialist by trade), insists that this is the best part of the opening ceremony to pick on.

Yes, what you see on the picture, as torchbearer Li Ning is flying in, is Microsoft’s signature blue screen of death!

Sulumi – 10 Billion Times / Trembling Stars / Your Lips

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Semaine du 12 août 2008 / Week of August 12th, 2008

Cette chronique hebdomadaire sur la musique indépendante chinoise est diffusée à Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM), les mardis entre 22h30 et 23h30. L’émission complète est disponible sur ce fichier MP3, à partir du lendemain de l’émission.

This weekly segment on independent Chinese music is broadcasted every Tuesday between 10:30PM and 11:30PM on Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM). The full-length show is available at this MP3 file, starting from the day following the show.


1. Trembling Stars (see artist website)
2. 10,000,000,000 Times, remixed by USK (see artist website)
3. Your Lips

It’s the Beijing Olympics, so I’ll be playing another artist from the Chinese capital. After presenting a number of rock bands, here is something different. Sun Dawei is better known as Sulumi, a chiptune artist living in Beijing. Chiptune, quésséssa? It’s basically the music of 8-bit, of Gameboy, the NES, and the rest of the so-called Third generation video consoles. In fact, Sulumi’s music often sounds like the soundtrack of your favourite Gameboy game…

I particularly like its very energetic songs. It’s perfect for a high-octane programming drive. I tried finding his latest album, “what has happened to me in this world”, but couldn’t find any place online selling it (there must be, because he’s one of the major names in Chinese electronic music circulating within my networks). Its first song, which I am playing tonight, is very good. Unfortunately, you can’t even pirate his CD, if you are desperate. One thing you can do is buy his 2006 album Stereo Chocolate on iTunes. (I really should’ve looked for it in Beijing…)

What I managed to buy in Hong Kong was his collab with Japanese chiptune artist USK, called “As Vivid As Your Lips”. The last song, Your Lips, is from it. It’s a slow saucy song, that feels like a French-kissing session.

Sulumi started Shanshui Records, a record label, which recently organized a tour with Chinese and Japanese electronica artists across East Asia in May and June 2008. It stopped at Videotage in Hong Kong, a venue/art space that was run by Ashley Wong, the next after next guest on Regarde les Chinois (I am moving this week, so don’t expect the next for until later next week…).

Hats Off to Jujie

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Luan Jujie

Nope, Canada hasn’t won a single gold medal yet. One of the feel-good stories for Canada prior to the Games has been Luan Jujie, the Chinese-Canadian fencer who won Olympic gold in Los Angeles in 1984, while defending China’s colours (see article and video on Radio-Canada.ca).

My friend Rob Parungao used to fence, and his coach in Vancouver is a good friend of Luan, who now resides in Edmonton. He met her when she came to town for workshops. Rob has a new blog called When we see the Ocean, and he wrote about his encounter(s) with the fencer:

As I’m pretty good with kids I remember playing with her two daughters and son a lot back when they were kids since Paul, Mike and Jeremy were pretty much content hanging out in her basement listening to music and chatting. I remember her six year old Jerrica was rally outgoing had a crush on me which was kind of cute and her other daughter Jessica had Down’s syndrome. Her son was kind of quiet, but I won him over by giving him most of my Halloween candy which made him open up to me a bit.

Here, go check out the entire article.

Rocking it in the Chinese capital

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Guai Li
Beijing band Guai Li at D-22

Ceci est une traduction d’un texte que j’ai écrit pour le blogue de Bande à part, publié le 8 août 2008.

Last April, I was in East Asia to attend a rock music festival in Kenting, Taiwan, and then made a stop in Hong Kong, where I discovered small record stores.

During the same trip, I also spent two weeks in Beijing. My musical adventures started off quite ironically, as my hosts, an American-Chinese and a Briton, took me to see a concert fronted by You Say Party! We Say Die!, a party punk band from Vancouver, that happened to be touring China at the time!

The venue was called the D-22 and is located in the area close to Beijing University, where its founder, a Newyorker, also teaches finance. We were probably a crowd of a hundred-something people, half of which were foreigners, and the other half, presumably locals, on that Friday night, to fill the D-22, a bar just slightly larger than a closet (at most 10m of width).

Steven O'Shea of YSP!WSD!
Steven O’Shea of YSP!WSD!

YSPWSD, who played on the previous evening at the Mao Live, a venue located at the heart of Beijing, told me their amazement in front of this overcrowded, ever-changing megalopolis, and the fun they had performing in it. “Crowds are very receptive here! We didn’t have to prompt them to mosh: they took care of it for us!”, said Stephen O’Shea of YSP!WSD! before the show.

The opening show only started after 10:30PM, and the main act only came to stage after midnight. The local bands opening for YSP!WSD! were Candy Monster, Guai Li (see top photo), and Ourselves Beside Me (sic). Judging from the exodus of Chinese spectators from the front of the stage, after Ourselves Beside Me’s performance, we quickly took note that they were probably more well-known to locals.

After some research, I realized that one of its members, bassist Yangfan (see photo), was once a member of Hang On The Box, an all-girl punk band, and one of the most well-known to ever come out of China. Separated since their last album, in Fall 2007, which Yangfan already wasn’t part of, HotB was one of the bands followed in the documentary Beijing Bubbles. The German production also introduced us to other well-known bands of Beijing founded between 1996 and 2001, such as Joyside, New Pants, Sha Zi and T9.

Zuoxiao Zuzhou - Tiananmen
Poster of Beijinger Zuoxiao Zuzhou / 左小祖咒‘s 2001 album (左小祖咒在地安门), Overseas version. Seen at the Sugar Jar, for 100RMB.

The scene’s history cannot be told without mentioning Cui Jian, the one dubbed the godfather of Beijing rock. Cui, whose songs were once chanted by the students of Tian’anmen Square in 1989, fled to the mountains of Yunnan, in the country’s Southwest, slightly after the events of June 4th, like many other rockers at the time. Since then, he has been rehabilitated, and now gives concerts in sold-out stadiums around the world, like in San Jose, California, in early May. Tang Dynasty and Black Panther are other well-known names from this period of the 1990s. Other bands in the meanwhile, like Brain Failure, regularly toured Europe and the USA.

Local bands touring around the world: not too rare (when will they decide to make a stop in Montreal?). Lee Clow, an American expatriate, who lived in Beijing for 8 years, explains that the rule is that if they are popular in the West, generally, they would be in only one country! “Joyside, it’s in Germany, and Brain Failure, good for them, it’s in the US!” Clow has himself been part of a band called End of the World, practically the only ska band in Beijing, because of longevity.

In the last days of my stay in Beijing, we talked about the most important music festival in the country, the Midi Music Festival, named after Beijing’s contemporary music school being reported. Usually held around the May 1st public holiday since 1997, in Haidian park, in the universities district, “Midi” gets between 40,000 and 80,000 spectators each year. But this year, as it was the case in 2003 (because of SARS) and in 2004, police asked the organizers to delay their event until the October 1st national day.

Rockland 摇篮 music store @ Houhai, Beijing
Rockland 摇篮 music store and its owner, Xiao Zhan, in Houhai since 2004.

Before leaving Beijing, I went wild at local music shops. More accessible from the city’s centre, there’s the Rockland, established in 2004 in Houhai, a lake around which were built bars and restaurants for tourists and young rich people.

I bought a number of safe bets, like Joyside’s latest, and also the current new hot property Carsick Cars‘ (they were in Time Magazine’s July 17th, 2008 edition) only album. Both were published by the Maybe Mars label. I also picked up an electro compilation, and an album from a folk rock signer named Wan Xiaoli of independant Modern Sky. You might also this type of good self-made albums circulating at 100 copies.

One of the best-known independent record stores in town is the Sugar Jar, located in the 798 art zone, old military warehouses recycled as an art and design zone.

Sugar Jar
Jewel case wall at the Sugar Jar.

Aside from selling CDs, tiny Sugar Jar may also be fitted as a performance room. That’s where Joshua Frank, a McGill student who spends the rest of his year in Beijing, and the experimental rock band Hot & Cold that he completes with his brother, occasionally plays. His brother also happens to be in a band with Carsick Cars’ Shouwang, frequently lauded as China’s new guitar icon.

On the electronic music scene, the name that circulated in conversations and promotional posters was Sulumi (real name Sun Dawei), a chiptune musician. Shanshui, the label that he started, just organized an Asian tour with other Chinese and Japanese artists. Among recommendations in this genre, there was an interesting electronic mix of Yi ethnic minority music.

好听 / 嘘
Pleasant to the ear / Lies!

After throwing all these names at you, what can you do to discover more Chinese indie music? The first thing to do is to look at a Chinese site called Neocha (in English: New-Tea), or listen to its Next web radio.

Random graffiti at 798 – the only place in Beijing you will see graffitis!

Beijing Olympics opening ceremony in Montreal Chinatown

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Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

This morning, I woke up much earlier than usual to watch the opening ceremony to the 2008 Olympic Games in Chinatown.

On montrait les Jeux Olympiques au travail sur écran géant, mais par hasard, j’ai entendu à la radio qu’on les montrait aussi sur écran géant au Quartier chinois…

>> Voir toutes les photos / See all photos

Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

Beijing Olympics @ Montréal Chinatown

Nanluogu Xiang à Beijing: hutongs pour les touristes

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Nanluogu Xiang - Beijing

An English version of this article was published on Spacing Montreal and Spacing Toronto.

Au cours de ma première semaine à Beijing en avril dernier, mon hôte, une Américaine d’origine chinoise vivant à Beijing, n’a cessé de m’encourager à aller faire un tour à Nanluogu Xiang (Chemin Nanluogu or 南锣鼓巷 en caractères chinois), une ruelle étroite (aussi appelées des « hutongs ») typique de Beijing, au coeur de la ville, maintenant bordée des magasins branchés et cafés style occidental. Ça rappelle le Vieux-Montréal…

Nanluogu Xiang est situé sur l’axe central de Beijing. Faisant l’objet d’un article sur le site officiel des Jeux Olympiques de Beijing, ce hutong est parmi les plus célèbres de la ville et s’est vu attribuer un statut spécial depuis 2006.

Nanluogu Xiang - Beijing

Ça n’a été qu’à la fin de ma deuxième semaine à Beijing que j’aie finalement pu m’y promener, et ce, un peu par accident. Après mon repas de jiaozi (dumplings/raviolis chinois), l’ami né en Ontario, d’origine chinoise avec qui j’étais allait me faire faire le tour du quartier où il vivait, qui se trouvait juste un peu plus loin après le Nanluogu Xiang! Étudiant en médecine chinoise, il a commencé à louer une chambre (c’est un 3 1/2, en termes montréalais) dans une maison traditionnelle pourvue d’une cour, non loin de là, pour à peu près l’équivalent de 275 de nos huards.

Quand il a initialement déménagé dans le quartier, il se rappelle que Nanluogu Xiang ne ressemblait en rien à ce que c’est aujourd’hui (comme me le confirme d’autres amis qui ont vécu à Beijing à l’époque). Sur la ruelle qui s’étend sur un kilomètre entre Gulou Dajie (avenue de Gulou) et la rue Di’anmen, où donne aussi la face ouest de l’École d’art dramatique centrale, (où Zhang Ziyi et d’autres noms du cinéma chinois ont étudié), il n’y avait en fait que deux cafés.

Nine-Thirty - Nanluogu Xiang - Beijing

En 2008, on y trouve maintenant toutes sortes de commerces, comme le Nine-Thirty, un café Hongkongais avec wifi et projection quotidienne de film, ou un bar-salon de thé avec des spectacles de musique (voir photo ci-bas), comme le Sandglass Café, appartenant à ses deux amis dans la fin vingtaine d’origine ethnique mongolienne, ou encore, un magasin de t-shirts concept comme Plastered qui joue sur des points de repère de Beijing (j’en ai acheté un avec un ancien billet de métro dessus).

Mongolian music


La chance a frappé à nouveau, le lendemain, quand je suis retourné à Nanluogu Xiang en suivant ma propre route. Alors que je marchais d’un bout à l’autre du hutong, des t-shirts au design particulier suspendus à la vitrine d’un des magasins ont attiré mon attention. Après le mot de bienvenue standard débutant par « Ni hao », le propriétaire du magasin change à l’anglais pour me dire qu’il était en fait né à Montréal!

Avec ses deux amis chinois d’outre-mer, Raymond Walintukan (lisez l’entrevue réalisée avec eux) a fondé NLGX (l’acronyme de Nanluogu Xiang), un café/magasin de design et de style de vie. Parlant de leur terrasse sur le toit qui surplombe Nanluogu Xiang, il m’explique que la zone entière a été reconstruite et est protégée par le gouvernement municipal, et que le quartier ne changera pas pour des décennies à venir.

Nanluogu Xiang - Beijing

Parmi les boutiques branchées, des gens vivent encore dans des maisons traditionnelles d’une ou deux étages. Lors de ma troisième visite, j’ai pris une photo, sans me gêner, d’un homme qui était en train de se faire à souper. Il faut dire, quand même, que sa porte donnait directement sur la ruelle!

Nanluogu Xiang - Beijing

Un panneau interdisant la circulation automobile pouvait être aperçu à l’un des bouts de Nanluogu Xiang, sauf que, comme celui sur la photo ci-dessus, personne n’avait l’air de s’en préoccuper…

Nanluogu Xiang - Beijing

Brain Failure – Coming Down To Beijing / Call The Police

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Brain Failure - Coming Down To Beijing

Semaine du 5 août 2008 / Week of August 5th, 2008

Cette chronique hebdomadaire sur la musique indépendante chinoise est diffusée à Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM), les mardis entre 22h30 et 23h30. L’émission complète est disponible sur ce fichier MP3, à partir du lendemain de l’émission.

This weekly segment on independent Chinese music is broadcasted every Tuesday between 10:30PM and 11:30PM on Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM). The full-length show is available at this MP3 file, starting from the day following the show.


1. Coming Down To Beijing
2. Call The Police

Maybe I chose these songs because they were sung in English, or maybe because it was the Olympics starting next week… But no, it’s only because they happened to be on my playlist. I am not naturally a fan of loud punk bands, not in English, or French or Chinese. Occasionally, I’ll hear something punky that I like, or be recommended a band, like this week’s Brain Failure, perhaps one of the best-known bands to come out of Beijing (they toured the US and Europe).

So, the first song, Come Down To Beijing, which is what the world is going to do on Friday. Secondly, Call The Police, because it is a really good energetic song.

(In fact, if you decide to listen to my segment on the radio, you might find, if you comprehend Cantonese, that I don’t say any of that, just because.)

We hope that the first song topic will happen smoothly, and that they won’t need to get to the second (ha-ha).

(Oh yeah, there is also this song called KTV on the same 2007-released album – with Modern Sky. On the album’s sleeve, the lyrics say “He ask me won’t you get some push for me”, whereas on the web – and what you can parse from the song – it’s “He ask me won’t you get some pussy for me”. Identically, someone changed “Won’t you suck my dick in the KTV” for “Won’t you see my daddy in the KTV”…)

À l’heure de la Chine, sur Radio-Canada

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Tiens, tant qu’à parler de Radio-Can… La SRC présentera au cours des Jeux Olympiques, à la télé et sur le web, une série de reportages « À l’heure de la Chine » réalisés par six de ses anciens ou présent correspondants à Beijing.

Ce midi, à la Première Chaîne, Jacques Beauchamp sur La Tribune (lien pour écouter l’extrait à droite) recevait Raymond Saint-Pierre, Jean-François Lépine et Michel Cormier, pour recevoir les questions d’auditeurs. Alors que sur le carnet à Cormier, les commentaires vont dans tous les sens (et c’est peut-être la nature du web), les intervenants à la radio furent surprenamment bien informés et nuancés. La question la plus intéressante, je pense, venait d’un jeune homme qui se demandait, en citant Adbusters, ce qu’en fait la Chine pensait de l’Occident, en inversant le sujet de comment gérer « montée de la Chine » pour parler que des gens pensants en Chine se questionnant maintenant sur le déclin de l’Occident! (vers la 21e minute)

Fait saillant aussi, s’il en est un, M. Beauchamp qui joue à l’avocat du diable en défiant M. Cormier sur le portrait négatif des médias sur la Chine!

Ensuite, je vous suggère fortement de lire le blogue de Catherine Mercier sur Radio-Canada.ca. Recherchiste-chroniqueuse pour Une heure sur terre, elle parle une coupe de langues, dont le Chinois – mieux que moi, pour avoir enseigné l’anglais dans une école internationale à Beijing en 2006-07. Donc, attendez-vous à une journaliste enthousiaste qui connait bien le pays!

Finalement, pour s’auto-ploguer, je viens de remettre un article sur la scène musicale pékinoise à être publié ce vendredi sur le blogue de Bande à part (voir ces deux articles que j’avais publié sur CLC à propos de Beijing durant mon voyage). Pour ceux qui ne le savaient pas, l’histoire de la musique rock dans la capitale chinoise remonte à au moins le milieu des années 80, et est tout à fait un aspect de la ville à découvrir (et on dit que c’est particulier à Beijing, car Shanghai et Hong Kong, il y a certainement une scène, mais c’est pas très fort).

Mise à jour 2008-08-12: Voici mon article publié par BAP sur la scène rock à Beijing.

Le site Internet de Radio-Canada est accessible en Chine (juillet 2008)

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Voici que le site du diffuseur olympique national officiel est à nouveau accessible en Chine. En mai, je rapportais dans un billet écrit à mon retour de voyage en Chine, que Radio-Canada venait de se faire rebloquer en Chine, alors qu’on pouvait y accéder au courant du mois d’avril 2008.

Après avoir remarqué la nouvelle sur le déblocage de BBC en chinois, j’ai demandé à des amis à Beijing présentement de voir s’ils pouvaient charger des pages du domaine Radio-Canada.ca. Après vérification, il semble qu’ils peuvent maintenant accéder au site des nouvelles, à la page des Olympiques, ainsi qu’à la page principale, ce qu’on ne pouvait plus faire depuis la semaine du 4 mai 2008.