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Electronic Label Draws Attention to Gender Gap in China’s Clubs

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Over the past decade, Shanghai’s underground club culture has been on the rise, with labels and musicians from the city enjoying global media coverage and appearing at clubs and festivals all over the world. The city has come to be regarded as the center of electronic music in China.

Women have been at the forefront of Shanghai’s music success. Look no further than the producers on the roster of the city’s most famous electronic label, SVBKVLT.

There’s 33EMYBW, a polymath, who released two blistering albums in 2019 and appeared at Aphex Twin’s Warehouse Project the same year. Then there’s Hyph11E, who teamed up with Nyege Nyege producer Slikback for the album Slip B in 2019 and has been at the forefront of the city’s club scene for years.

Beyond SVBKVLT, Yehaiyahan is another of the city’s best musicians, a multi-faceted creative who makes soul, pop, and ambient music. There’s also Cookie Zhang, a DJ and organizer who founded Eating Music, a label focused on RnB, hip hop, and experimental music.

33EMYBW aphex twin warehouse project

33EMYBW

While many of the producers in the local music scene are female, one new label is shining a light on the gender gap in Shanghai’s non-commercial clubs.

Scandal was founded by Elf (who also goes by her artist name Everlast Phantom) at the end of 2019. Her initial plan was to promote artists from Eastern Europe’s club scenes in China, along with her friend Wu Dada.

However, amid the spread of Covid-19, those plans were derailed. After a year of trying to make things work, Elf decided to shift the intention behind the endeavor, and thus Scandal became a female-focused party label.

“I’d noticed the state of gender inequality in the club scene here. I realized that parties [for female DJs] are far from being sufficient. It’s like a non-stop process of trial and error, but I’m this kind of person: Once I realize something is not the right direction, I’ll make changes. Now, it finally seems like we arrived at the right thing to do,” Elf tells RADII. 

Leading up to the launch of Scandal, with its first release, Alexithymia, in January, Elf did a small-scale survey of events held in Shanghai’s non-commercial clubs. Based on her calculations, male performers outnumbered females by 5:2. “This shows a big waste of creativity among our scene,” she tells us.

 

This is, unfortunately, a pervasive global issue. DJane Mag, an online magazine dedicated to showcasing female DJs, surveyed the top 20 international electronic music festivals and found women account for only 7% of lineups.

In a post to their official WeChat account, Scandal pointed to figures collected by the gender-focused online database Female:Pressure, which found that just over 20% of festival acts from 2017-2019 were female.

“I’ve heard pretty unfair talk from guys, such as ‘there are no female DJs who play UK stuff’ or ‘there are only a few good female producers.’ Those are not facts, and it’s time for these guys to change their attitudes,” says Elf.

In the aforementioned WeChat post, she also points to a conversation she had about Scandal in which a male follower said the percentage of female performers didn’t matter. He suggested gender politics was a popular subject in music, leading Western platforms to cover more female musicians over the past few years.

Scandal countered the comment: “For women, please stop being plagued by excessive self-censorship and stop depleting your proactivity. Please believe that this is your time to shine, and the world needs your creativity.

“For men with the idea [that] ‘Asian female identity is popular,’ there is nothing to say [to them]. Please change the subjective assumptions and discrimination with personal emotions and don’t be a dated person.”

Laughing Ears RADII Cover Image

Laughing Ears

On Alexithymia, Scandal brings together some fantastic producers, like Wuhan-based singer-songwriter Shii, Boiler Room alumni Temple Rat, Eating Music affiliated LimboLimbs, Laughing Ears, Gouachi, and more. The first release feels like a statement of intent, and Elf has further plans for the label going forward.

“I think there’s a big waste of creativity among our scene due to gender inequality, and during Covid, we are losing energy by repeating parties with the same lineups. So, first of all, we want to do more releases this year, both compilations and EPs. We will continue to do monthly production workshops so that we can connect with more women who want to be producers. I think parties are not our first priority now.”

All images courtesy of Scandal

Bryan Grogan
Bryan is RADII's former culture editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in culture stories with a social bent. He once correctly guessed all 151 original Pokemon in seven minutes for an online quiz. He also correctly guessed all 100 second generation Pokemon in eight minutes for an online quiz.
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