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Zean Talks Giving UK Bass Music a Platform in China + Exclusive Mix

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Shanghai-based DJ Zean first launched party night Gully Riddim with ALK (aka Kilo Vee) back in 2017, after he noticed a lack of bass music parties in the local Shanghai scene. The feted party nights Push & Pull were no more, and fans of dubstep, drill music, and more needed a space to call their own.

“Me and Kilo Vee (aka ALK) started holding Gully Riddim parties at Elevator in the fall of 2017. The main reason that we wanted to hold the party is that we lost Push & Pull and there was no UK bass music-based party in the city,” Zean tells us about the genesis of Gully Riddim, while adding, “The bass music scene in Shanghai is gradually disappearing, but it does not mean that no one cares about these sounds. We have many excellent but underrated local producers who need more attention and support.”

Over the years, the party has evolved and — like many party nights throughout China — has become its own label. Earlier this year, Gully Riddim launched its first compilation album, featuring local producers like Radiax, Swimful, and 3ASIC, among others.

Now, Zean and ALK can capture the sounds of some of Shanghai and China’s best bass DJs on their label, giving them new life online for a wider audience.

 

Born in the northeastern part of China, close to the border with North Korea and Russia, Zean grew up in the coastal city of Qingdao, and arrived in Shanghai around nine years ago, equipped with a passion for drill music, dubstep, and grime. 

He tells us, “I have been trying to make UK dubstep since 2010; that’s the type of music that influenced me in the early days. But it was more like messing around the DAW (digital audio workstation), I couldn’t figure out anything about producing until I met a few British friends in 2012.”

Since then, Zean has published music with the likes of Push & PullFunctionLab and Out of Fashion Boys, and while he’s stayed committed to bass music, his tastes have diversified. 

“I put more time into making new or non-clubby stuff, so I will listen to some African music, Arabic rap, noise music, ambient music, or jazz and percussion music,” he says. 

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This diversification is something that he sees in the Shanghai club scene as well.

“In the past, we would have a whole night of drum and bass, a whole night of grime music, a whole night of dubstep music, but now the content of the club has become richer, and you can hear many different sounds in the same night,” Zean says. “You can even enjoy visuals or dance-themed performances, which shows that people are no longer confined to one frame. This is a good thing.”

To celebrate the launch of Gully Riddim’s first compilation, Zean put together a mix for us, which you can hear below:

Cover image courtesy of Zean

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.