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Shanghai-Based Music School Opens the Gate for Underground Musicians

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Into the Night is a monthly series exploring China’s vibrant nightlife scene and the roster of young people that make parties in the country so damn fun. This month, we introduce Gate Music — an institute grooming Shanghai’s up-and-coming DJs and producers.

Located in a basement in one of Shanghai’s busiest districts, Gate Music brings the art of underground (literally) music production to the people, making access to the creative form possible for anyone eager to learn. It’s known in local circles that if anyone wants to study DJing and electronic music production, Gate Music is the go-to choice.

We meet the managing couple, Hank Yang and Amber Wang, on a Thursday afternoon while they’re not tied up in the office. Most students have jobs or school commitments during the day, so they usually come to learn and practice at night or on weekends.

Yang and Wang founded Gate Music back in 2018, a facility comprised of a music training center, studio space, and an event brand, among other business modes. At the time, they wanted to create a company that they both loved and could also genuinely help people.

“I have students in all age groups, a lot of whom are unhappy teenagers,” Yang tells RADII.

Of course, he doesn’t see himself as someone who can single-handedly change the situation for every person that steps through Gate’s doors (or gates, if you will), but he does think the efforts he makes are rewarding.

“I want everyone to learn something that they can keep for a long time after leaving Gate Music. I would be especially happy if teenagers can find their faith, and it might be music,” he says.

The company’s music education arm teaches DJ techniques and trains students using Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation software used for music production. Training institutions must have Ableton-certified instructors to teach the software professionally, and Gate boasts two.

gate music

A classroom at Gate Music, where students learn how to use Ableton Live to produce music. Image via Gate Music

They offer classes both in-person and online, so musicians don’t have to commute to Changning district — or live in Shanghai for that matter — to enroll in a program. Creatives can even apply for free trial lessons through the company website before investing money in the courses.

“If you are just beginning, then there’s no need to buy anything; just bring your notebook and passion for learning,” said 14-year-old Zero, who is by far the youngest student to have attended Gate Music. 

Gate’s teachers are professional musicians, DJs, and producers (many famous in the local underground music scene) who work part-time at the school. Their academic roster includes Zeanydd (Hank Yang), Di Bingyu, Giulio PerinelloGao Jiafeng, and many more.

For some students at Gate Music, it was the talented instructors who sparked their interest in the program. According to a WeChat post from Gate Music, a student identified as ‘NSM’ connected with the school because he was a fan of Gao Jiafeng. 

“The first time I went to Gate Music’s event was to learn from them and meet the musician I love,” said NSM in the post. 

zean gate music

One of Gate Music’s many teachers, Zean is a producer and DJ based in Shanghai. Image via Weibo

For years, Gate Music has served as an educational institution and a hub for music lovers. They maintain an online forum for teachers and students to discuss music and hold events periodically to foster a sense of community among those involved.

Yang thinks DJing requires more social skills than music production, which can be done in isolation and doesn’t necessarily require a performative component. Based on individual preferences and styles, Gate faculty advise students about what approach to take in their learning and help them get jobs in the field whenever possible. 

In addition to classic production courses, they also teach specialized sound production, which is used in more practical ways, like in games or movies.

Gate Music’s studio already has several achievements under its belt, including music featured in Jaguar, Acura, and Nike advertisements. 

gate music

Image via Gate Music

And, of course, Gate’s catalog of live performers is constantly expanding. Liao Xiaonong and Guo Tingxu nonope are two of the many musicians who count themselves as proud students of Gate Music. 

In Shanghai’s diverse club scene, you can always find teachers and students associated with this magical basement — if you come across a DJ with a crystal-like USB drive that has a ‘門 (Gate)’ on it, there’s a good chance it’s one of Gate Music’s many alumni.

Cover image via Gate Music

Tian Tian
    Tian Tian is a RADII staff writer based in Shanghai. She has been writing out of love for her whole life and has previously worked for GQ and Dazed. She tries her best to understand different perspectives and absolutely loves music. In fact, she is practicing to perform a piece by John Cage (not 4’33’’) while writing this bio.
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