Today we listen to the latest release by ChaCha, a vocalist and music producer based in Shanghai who’s built a steady international following since participating in the 2011 Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid. Originally from Guizhou in southwest China, ChaCha launched her music career in high school, singing for rock bands locally before moving to Shanghai and plugging in with the Uprooted Sunshine reggae crew. Her experiences with that group of MCs, DJs and producers at their home base, the now defunct LOgO bar, led her to develop her vocal talents and dub out her sound.
Today, ChaCha is primarily known for her voice, especially collaborations she’s done with more pop-leaning Chinese rappers and hip-hop producers like J-Fever and DJ Wordy. Her latest musical output, however, showcases her dreamier, trippier, weirder side, in the form of a recently released album under her alter ego, Faded Ghost:
Moon Mad, ChaCha’s second release under the Faded Ghost moniker, distills her last five years of extensive touring around the world, and incorporates field recordings she’s done on the road. At the mid-year point, I shortlisted it as one of my favorite China releases of 2017, writing at the time:
On Moon Mad, she’s clearly dipped deeper into the dark side of the psyche, often building tracks out of little more than ghosty field recordings of distant street sounds and brewing weather. When her voice is there at all, it’s abstracted and fed into a chain of delays until it sounds more like a remembered whisper than something being sung. Elsewhere on the album she conjures deep vibes out of barely-there synth pads, an effect she plans to replicate visually with a series of short videos depicting Faded Ghost as a mysterious, shamanic entity haunting a darkly shadowed forest.
I’ve had Moon Mad on pretty frequent rotation since it came out in May, and felt compelled to throw it on again earlier this week, after ChaCha was featured on the BBC radio program The Conversation. In a short audio segment called “Cities After Dark,” she discusses the deep social and cultural stigmas she had to navigate to make it as a musician, despite the protestations of her parents. She told the BBC:
For many years they [didn’t] understand why I’m so obsessed about this. For a long time, I feel like our relationship became really bad, and we stopped talking to each other, I think because they were thinking I’m not a decent girl because I’m working in this nasty area, in the club… But because I tried hard, I got a chance to work with nice musicians, bring myself to another country to do shows, I think little by little they understand what I’m doing.
— BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice) July 31, 2017
Listen to the full two-minute BBC soundbite here, and check out more of ChaCha’s music on her Soundcloud. If this kind of dark electronica grabs you, dig a little deeper into the catalog of Shanghai-based record label SVBKVLT, which released Moon Mad.
Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly Radii feature that looks at Chinese songs spanning classical to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion: email@example.com.