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The Chinese yearn for the simple life

The Chinese yearn for the simple life

Plus, the voice of the Venezuelan diaspora and South African house music

Plus, the voice of the Venezuelan diaspora and South African house music

June/July 2018

The grass is always greener
Misty-eyed reminiscences about the countryside are popular in China now that over 250m migrants have moved to cities. Little wonder then that when the Rainbow Chamber Singers (above) announced their latest work, a choral suite called “Baimacun youji” (Travels in White Horse Village), one of their tour dates sold out in six minutes. The amateur choir, many of them graduates of the Shanghai Conservatory, is beloved for its humorous lyrics and social commentary. This latest tale describes the creeping realisation that city life can be unfulfilling. Plaintive melodies, with lyrics about lakes, mountains and banyan trees, had audiences reaching for their hankies. Urbanites may shed tears for a simpler life but, for most, the lack of opportunity and back-breaking work in the fields keep them from ever returning.

The exodus song
Nearly a million people have fled Venezuela since the economy took a nosedive last July. Now, that diaspora has found a voice. “Me fui” (I left) tells the story of Reymar Perdomo, a singer who made the agonising decision to leave her family and country, and travel by bus thousands of miles to Peru. When her suitcase was stolen she was left with little other than her guitar. She recorded the song in a park in Lima, her new home, surrounded by other immigrant Venezuelans. With her soulful voice and trenchant lyrics (her “head full of doubts”, she leaves home, branding President Maduro a “motherfucker”), the folksy tune went viral. For most of the 19 years that the leftists have ruled Venezuela, they have dominated the art of the catchy political song. “Me fui” is a powerful riposte.

Gqoming of age
South Africa’s house-music scene is dominated by gqom – raw, thumping electronica that emerged about a decade ago from the townships of Durban. While South African hip-hop often mimics its American counterpart, gqom sounds distinctly local. Young producers make the music on home computers, layering repetitive Zulu lyrics over polyrhythmic beats (the word gqom sounds like a drum being hit). Now the sub-genre has gone global. Durban gqom stars DJ LAG and RudeBoyz perform regularly at European festivals and in New York clubs; even the soundtrack for “Black Panther” features self-appointed “gqom queen” Babes Wodumo singing over the spare beats of two gqom songs, “Redemption” and “Wololo”.

To listen to a selection of songs from these pages, search “spotify: user: 1843mag” on Spotify