Chinese pop music looks for modern sky in LA

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It's something never seen before in San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles, the United States, even though almost every Los Angeles resident knows that there is a heavily Chinese community providing genuine Chinese food.

 Modern Sky Music Festival 2017 is held in San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles, the United States. (Xinhua/Huang Heng)

But more than 5,000 stylish young people showing out for Chinese rock, folk, pop and rap music here is another thing.

For "most westerners, they don't know, maybe only know basic things about other countries, including China, such as great food but most people have no idea about this amazing art and music," Michael Lojudice, General Manager of Modern Sky Music Festival USA told Xinhua, "I call it a start."

Lojudice's made these remarks at Santa Anita Park, where the leading Chinese music festival was held last Saturday, first of its kind in Los Angeles.

His words echoed the speech of visiting Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who said Tuesday that China and the United States should enhance people-to-people exchanges to build stronger ties as it is where the two countries "have the least disagreements and the most consensus."

The park is an 83-year-old horse racing place, famous for the legend horse Seabiscuit in modern history of the United States. Seabiscuit is the first thoroughbred racehorse in the country.

Modern Sky Music Festival has brought some of the most popular Chinese musicians to the stage of the United States this year, the fourth year that it took place in the country, and organizer believed that the festival is likely to continue and grow its influence.

"Modern Sky Music Festival created a great opportunity for us to communicate with Chinese music fans, meanwhile we may refresh foreign people's stereotype," female singer A Si told Xinhua.

Ma Di, an iconic indie folk musician who toured the U.S. including Los Angeles last year, returned and joined the stage last Saturday.

He said since he's back for a music festival this year, he noticed the crowd of audience is much bigger comparing to a live house concert.

"Over the past a few years we're seeing more and more live music goers," Ma Di said. "It's because people are being exposed to indie music, and they start to understand more."

His return excited many indie folk enthusiasts, most of whom are Chinese students. Among the crowd sits He Dahe, a rising indie folk musician living in LA.

He said the live music culture is a significant part of college culture in China, but it seems to be missing for those who study abroad.

Although many students can adapt to the new culture well, He Dahe thinks Chinese's perception for art and culture will tend to stay Chinese.

"If I ask myself, what do I like to listen the most? It'd still be our own music -- something that I can relate to," he said. "So it needs to have Chinese elements, and more importantly, it needs to be Chinese language."

The enthusiasm determines the event to be more than a gathering for Chinese speakers to ease nostalgia. The fact that Chinese artists are performing abroad, signifies a greater exposure of Chinese music to the world.

Modern Sky record label, the parent company behind the festival, is the largest independent music record label in China. It hosts Coachella-sized music festivals in different Chinese cities every year.

After experiencing the explosive passion growth at home, the record label introduced the first U.S. Modern Sky Festival to New York in 2014.

In order to become a global-friendly music festival, Modern Sky invited several recognized western indie stars.

The approach this year is similar; the focus of line-up shifted to Chinese artists and U.S. artists signed to the Modern Sky' U.S. label.

Jordan Corso, frontman of American bands Cotillon, said that the population of Chinese residents in the U.S. is growing, and he thought the influence of the festival will thereby evolve.

"With the artists like myself and The Molochs, we bring out western audience from Los Angeles," Corso said. "Just like bringing western artists to China, the Chinese artists fans are being exposed to those western artists. Our fans are being exposed to the Chinese artists for the first time."

Corso is also the manager of Modern Sky's U.S. label. Although the language barrier is a big challenge for Chinese music's promotion overseas, Corso is optimistic about the rise of Chinese musicians' awareness and influence.

"It's happening currently. With our artist Re-TROS who released a record on our U.S. label this month," Corso said. Re-TROS (Rebuilding the Rights of Statues) a Beijing-based band specialized in postpunk started in 2004, and has been one of the most recognizable Chinese rock band.

"The feedback has been tremendous from western media and western audience. That's been the first band that I've worked with personally that has grown real western volume."

Jason Li, a student who has been living in the state for many years, said that he is also optimistic about the future of Chinese music. "China today has a stronger presence. I think the culture will spread naturally. From the food, to the language, to the thinking... Chinese music and musicians will eventually grow global influence."

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