New No-English Mix by DJ Sal – Samba, Latin Bass, Kwaito, Cumbia


New tunes from our good friend DJ Sal aka Skinny Brown, that time-traveling, ethnically ambiguous global mystic who hosts on Shanghai’s English TV channel and DJs from time to time at a party called Popasuda. Well he’s finally put together a mixtape for his night at Dada Bar tonight, and it’s free and a must grab.

There’s a million house music nights in China, but there’s only one Popasuda. This monthly party sounds like a mixtape that never leaves the player at a youth shelter in some post-colonial island in the tropics. His music policy is simple – no English lyrics. Patois doesn’t count as English in Sal’s world. Expect anything from Dancehall to Cumbia to some burgeoning African genre. Far from a culture vulture taking the best bits from distant lands, Sal grew up or lived in Brazil, Toronto, India, Japan, and lots of other places and he’s got a good understanding of this music. This is reflected in his mixing style – FAST mixing, lots of drops, lots of mic control, and a sampler for drumming out country names like “BRAZIL!!” in a Street Fighter II voice.

Sal describes the mix and the night as such:

“I’m dropping strictly tropical-global shit, with nothing in english. The mix starts with Brazilian Samba-type stuff, then moves into kwaito, cumbia-edits, random African stuff, global-trap, latin bass, and a whole world of international sounds”

GO GET IT. And check out the Popasuda party this Friday, November 15th.




Remember when DJ Sal the global mystic, AKA Skinny Brown, dropped that guest column about pop music in China a few weeks ago? He’s got his monthly party Popasuda this Saturday at Dada Shanghai and at Dada Beijing on May 31s, both with yrs truly, so I asked him to share a bit of the night’s vibe. Here’s five tunes from the man who speaks at least five languages
– 热狼
Some dope dancehall Bass Remix 
Popasuda is literally the Brazilian Portuguese word for “phat booty,” so a bit of hard bass driven digital dancehall is certainly in order. Don’t expect the clichés, we’ll definitely try to keep it classy with some cool remixes much like this one, as well as some trappier-bassy shit that you can wind something proper to. After all we don’t want girls to rock up in a pair of short shorts for nothing. Let it drop…trust me!

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Toca Pra Mim (Deize Tigrona-Brazil):

This track’s from one of my favorite Brazilian Baile MC’s Dieze Tigrona. It exudes the Popasuda motif, with a driving Brazilian percussion line that bangs hard alongside a rugged female Portuguese vocal, exclaiming with attitude the need to fucking Get Down! Pretty raw, nothing fancy – just a bad-ass piece of Brazil.

Jesse Rose – Toca Pra Mim

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Some Indian Flavor: (Daniel Haaksman Remix of Todha Rashem Lagan. Germany-India) 

There’s nothing I love more than a well-sampled Indian Vocal. This track right here’s set on a nice BPM, it’s got that international vibe that I’m trying to increase in Popasuda, and it’s cut from one of my favorite (and probably the most famous) Indian classical singers Lata Mangeshkar. Hopefully you won’t be hearing too many English vocals from the Popasuda sets, unless it’s really worth it. I’m really trying to keep shit as foreign and diverse as possible.

Latah Mangeshkar – Todha Rashem Lagan Hai (Daniel Haaksman Remix)

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Old School Acid Gems:

This is one of my favorite acid-trance tunes from way back in 1995. It was one of my first records, given to me by a fellow DJ back when I was in high school. While making me feel old as shit, it’s undeniably one of the dopest classic acid tunes reminiscent of that early Daft Punk sound that was just beginning to emerge back in the mid-nineties. It actually predates Homework, but certainly draws along the same line. Wicked 303 line about halfway in (1:53). I’m so happy that acid is making a mild resurgence, so I can finally have a chance to play this oldschool shit now that I’m a “seasoned DJ”. There definitely won’t be a full acid set (or a full set of anything for that matter), but when you least expect it, 303 lines will be tweaked.

Snitzer vs. Humate – Oh My Darling I Love You (Heavy Mix Cut)

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You Go Kill Me (Sarkodie and EL-Ghana)

If you haven’t already seen some Youtube footage of Asonto from West Africa, it’s a weird little dance on it’s way to being a flavor of the month. For all those cats out there who are all “whaaaat, that’s shit’s last year”, stop frontin it’s not like you were in the back allies of Lagos railing lines and getting low… dick!  Either way, though it’s most likely a passing fad, the movement did produce a few very dope, grimy, ass-to-the-floor dance tunes, like this one.

Sarkodie and EL-Ghana – You Go Kill Me

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I’m really trying to take the night in an international direction. There will be no hour of straight anything, it’ll be easy on the English vocals, we’ll be fucking with BPM with very selecta style drops and quick transitions. Rewinds, horns, a fucking amazing MC from Ghana (The Mighty Junior Revelation), and shit ton of different languages. Expect reggae, dancehall edits and bassy shit, vocal inspired Trap shit in Spanish to Jamaican or Swahili, Crazy digital Soca, a little bit of cool old-school Acid, perhaps a few underground reggaeton bangers from our favorite rapper Tego Calderon, some moobah inspired African stuff, Crazilian Shit (see what I did there), Indian vocal shit salt & peppered in, and just generally dirty vibes built for some community-center dancehall in some third-world country with rhythm.

Words by DJ Sal aka Skinny Brown


Thoughts on Music in China Part One: DJ Sal


[photo by Cecilia Chan]

Last month I wrote an article about Shanghai’s music scene for Vantage Shanghai, a luxury lifestyle magazine for luxurious people like yrs truly*. During my research, I interviewed some old-heads in the scene to discover why most pop music in China sucks and where the music scene may be headed. Due to space considerations, I wasn’t able to use any long-quotes; a shame because I got some really insightful answers.

*Speaking of luxury, I’m DJing on a boat this Saturday night from 8 – 11PM. More on that right here.

I’ve decided to share some of these interviews here, starting with my friend DJ Sal. Perhaps you’ve seen him on Shanghai’s International TV Channel, where he hosts CityBeat, on his scooter around town with his girl, or behind the decks at Dada for his Papasuda parties. He’s a global mystic who’s lived everywhere from Pakistan to Toronto and Brazil, and one of the realest dudes I’ve ever met.

Question:  What is the state of mainstream music in China? How would you describe it to someone who’s never visited China? How does it compare to other countries? *Why* is it like this? Please share your experiences and examples.

DJ Sal: Like many pretentious DJ’s before me, I was quick to criticize China for being over-saturated with redundant, clichéd pop. Songs about holding hands, ballads exclaiming the sorrows of lost love, and an army of adolescent boy-bands reign supreme on the airwaves, Internet, and television.

But unlike countries like the United States, Brazil, and much of Western Europe, who grew and expanded alongside their pop music since the 1940’s with icons like Elvis Presley and the sounds of the Jazz era, China (especially mainland China) began it’s exposure to popular music in the late 80’s to 90’s. That said, China’s pop scene came predominantly out of Hong Kong, so even though the sounds of Jackie Cheng and movie/music sensation Andy Lou were immensely popular in Hong Kong, they didn’t actually reach the mainland until the early nineties after China’s opening in 1982 solidified. While much of the West and South America (and many DJ’s) see their golden age of pop music set somewhere between the 60’s and 80’s, the golden age of Mainland Chinese pop remains the early nineties. Point being, it’s a very young scene. The stars of “mainland pop” like Leo Qing, Ai Jing, Teresa Teng, and Na Ying, who were all both singers and songwriters, steadily rose in popularity throughout the early nineties, then came to sudden halt, replaced by the idol-based pop groups we see today. But what happened, where did they go, and how did a uniquely Chinese form of pop music turn into a sound-of-the-month, lesser-produced version of cliché western pop?

In the mid-nineties Chinese mainstream music underwent a drastic change. With the initial opening of China came the world’s largest multinational corporations, including music monolith Sony BMG. They absorbed the local labels and dismantled much of the Chinese music industry infrastructure, in exchange for a far more western industrial chain. That meant drawing focus away from the older one-man-show acts like Leslie Cheng (who ended up committing suicide) and Teresa Teng (who also died of a heart attack in 1994), and focusing their attention on saturating the market with factory-line-produced cash-crop idols like Mayday, Top Combine, and Jungle Ex Child.

If you were a DJ in the mid nineties, you would’ve also felt a similar change in popular music in the west, from the gangster attitude of early nineties hip hop and the self-loathing sounds of grunge, music became more formulaic to fit into the changing industry structure. In the west, pop literally went from the Roots, Beck, and Sound Garden to Brittany Spears, the Back Street Boys, and N Sync. That’s not to say the early nineties didn’t have its fair share of boy bands and pop idols, but there was certainly a drastic shift in the way the music labels began to push and market music.

Importing the factory-line method of producing pop music to China meant pop stars were created piece by piece to maximize potential consumer appeal. Plus, with China’s opening up, advanced Idol culture flowed in en-mass from Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, further pushing labels to emulate the market success of selling Idols as oppose to musicians. If you’ve ever lived in Asia Pacific you know that music is only a small part of being a pop Idol. So instead of writing and singing songs, much of China’s pop stars are instead scouted out through Internet competitions, reality television, and corporate events. Not having to write, compose, or produce their own music, suitable candidates are chosen primarily on looks, vocal range, compatibility, and obedience. The same can be said about Western pop music, but to a much lesser extent, and we feel it less because we’re able to turn to the vast array of musical options that have developed over the past 80 years. China’s young pop scene hasn’t has similar time to develop, and looks towards the West and Pacific Asia for strategies; Asia gave them Idol culture, and the west provided an efficient structure to produce that culture, it’s only natural that the music suffers.
But why is the content so redundant? Songs of love and break-ups seem to consume Chinese pop. Phrases along the lines of “Wo ai ni” and Wo ai ni de ai”, make up a large percentage of pop music in the country. Coming from the west, we sneer at the redundant theme of love in Chinese pop, especially when compared to the sexually charged, rebellion-fueled music of Hip Hop, Rock n Roll or whatever sub-genre of dubstep you’re currently listening to. But factoring in cultural context, it seems appropriate that the Chinese aversion for sexual discussion is also reflected in its arts. Couple that with the regulatory policies of the ministry of propaganda, and you’ve effectively rooted out any potential rebellious undertones. That doesn’t really leave you with too much to expand on. However, when interviewing Chinese pop musicians here at ICS, I’m beginning to come across more indie artists who are distinguishing their music in two categories; “love songs” and “music about life”. The latter could refer to anything from the tribulations of “working a nine-to-five”, to having to “cook their own dinner for the first time”. Admittedly still in the vicinity of warm-milk, it does show an expansion in content in the music of some of the up-coming indie-pop artists like Ellen Lou (Lou Kai Tang), Shanghainese hip-pop group Ding Da, and rock band Double Poom.

I hear Chinese pop everyday, and often voice my distaste for the redundant, formulaic, poorly produced crap that somehow makes it on repeat, playing way too loud in some tiny bookstore in some tiny nook in Xujiahui. But it’s a young scene, controlled by unstoppable giants, with near unlimited money and resources, and incredibly profit-oriented short-term goals that generally don’t involve creativity. Do I blame the artists? A little bit, yes, but I also understand that a lot of zeroes look good at the beginning of a 30 page contract. Do I blame the label? Absolutely, it’s their formula which is systematically eroding the art from popular music here in China, and arguably in most other places in the world as well.




what’s good this weekend in shanghai

i was buying shirts at H&M yesterday and i asked the saleswoman “why are your shirts lower quality than Uniclo but more expensive?”

“hehe..ummm, well, we’re more diversified.”

i dunno about that, but this lady in my hood has diversified her business model for sure.

not only does she sell dildos, rubber vaginas, condoms, bath salts viagra, and personal lubricants, she’s now selling fruit too.

imagine the time you’ll save buying poppers and pomegranates in ONE shop. very next level Ayi right here.

speaking of poppers, there’s a cool rock show going on at the gay bar down the street. my good friends PAIRS are having an album release party at 390. that’s tonight from 7PM – 9PM. all the info here over at Shanghai 24/7.

Shanghai’s first ever beer festival kicks off tonight too. Heard they’ll have sixty different kinds of beer. Hopefully some nice stouts, porters, and IPAs cause that’s what i’m bout. That’s going on all weekend at that concrete place by the fake beach. Same place as DAFF. Sounds good, i’ll be down there Saturday or Sunday.

AND, the JZ Festival. It’s a jazz festival in the nicest outdoor venue in Shanghai and the best thing the Expo gave us (besides Haibao, RIP) – the expo garden. I love this festival and just hanging outside listening to good music in these brief fall days.

Peep the full lineup for that over at SmartShanghai

Finally, [self-promo warning] the Popasuda One-Year Anniversary party at Dada bar tomorrow night. This is the night I have to prep the hardest for because it’s all Latin/Brazilian music. Reggaeton, Cumbia, Spanish Hip Hop, Baile Funk, all that. This party is also gonna be broadcast live at four other clubs in China too. It’s just DJ Sal and I all night, gonna be madness.

That’s it. I don’t think anything else is happening this weekend. Some clubs opening, some clubs closing. Billions of RMB will be spent. Lamb and fried rice will be consumed. I wish I was in Taiwan or Bali or anywhere but here.

Half kidding; love you Shanghai.

My friend Nico made this track. It’s hilarious. I think the samples come from Chinesepod or some kind of Chinese language acquisition tapes.