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TV Giants are Hoping Rock Bands and DJs Will Give Them the Next “Rap of China”

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Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we’ve been wondering what it’d be like to see a Rap of China-like show emerge to tackle other music genres. We’ll soon have the answer, as two new web series taking on the indie rock and EDM worlds are set to hit prime time in the coming months courtesy of streaming giants Tencent and iQIYI.

No company knows how a video platform can benefit from an original, runaway success like Rap of China better than Baidu-owned iQIYI, the show’s producer. Having received billions of views from RoC alone, iQIYI is doubling down with a new program aiming to bring semi-underground genres like rock, folk, punk, jazz, and indie rock to a mainstream audience. The platform’s new gambit is called 乐队的夏天 (The Big Band), and is being co-produced by MEWE Media in collaboration with Modern Sky, Taihe Music and Caotai Music — three of the biggest indie labels in China.

MEWE CEO Ma Dong; iQIYI CMO Wang Xiangjun, Modern Sky founder Shen Lihui, and Taihe CEO Xu Yi at a recent press  conference

A list of names that was shown during iQIYI’s press conference reveals a deep roster of indie bands from these labels, quite a few of which — e.g. Miserable Faith, New Pants, Carsick Cars — will already be familiar to fans of Chinese underground rock:

According to iQIYI and MEWE’s introduction, the bands will come together and compete for the top 5 “idol band” spots in the show, which will air in the summer of 2019 (the show name’s literal translation is “Summer of Bands”). Though some of these bands have already achieved some level of popularity, this will undoubtedly be an opportunity to perform on a much bigger stage, and in front of a much larger audience. Will they be ready for the new crowd sitting in front of screens let alone the reality show format? And are fans ready to embrace a different, less hype-oriented genre of music? We’ll find out next May.

Well before that, Chinese DJs will get their shot to hit a comparable level of mainstream recognition when 即刻电音RAVE, an electronic music-themed competition produced by Tencent Video, begins airing in December. Former contestant on reality show Super Girl Laure Shang, former K-pop star LAY, and former pop rocker Zhang Wei are on board as “star presenters,” along with “special presenter” Alan Walker, the Norwegian EDM star.

There are also several electronic music professionals behind the scenes, including Zhang Youdai, one of China’s pioneering radio DJs, and Simon Robert Napier-Bell, an old industry hand who previously managed Wham!

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In photos posted on the show’s official Weibo account, we can see Sichuan DJ Anti-General dropping under a rap by Fat Shady, as well as Tsunano from Taiwan  and Panta.Q from Beijing.

“[The production of] RAVE has been met with huge controversy,” Panta.Q wrote on his Weibo last week, adding:

My first reaction was just like everyone else — questioning and worrying. I was worried that the scene and the atmosphere that took so much to build up would be ruined by the infusion of capital and increased traffic. But I went to the competition because I didn’t want these worries to hold me back when there is [questionable] information spreading online, and I can do nothing but curse at my computer. Obviously we cannot decide who gets to be the mentors or the guests, nor stop these reality show-like narratives, but what I can do is strongly offer the public a correct answer, based on my own opinion, to the multiple-choice question about electronic music by giving my best work and performance.

We’ve seen the crazy ups and downs that hip hop has gone through in China since Rap of China first took off last summer. As for how things will play out after indie bands and DJs are dragged into the limelight, we’ll have to wait and see.

Cover photo: Tsunano (Sina Weibo)

Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van