China's urban scene today is a place where baggy jeans, sideways baseball caps and flashing neon lights increasingly advertise the word “hip-hop,” the popular American-born art that's taking on a Chinese identity.
The backing band is playing Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," but it's clear this isn't the saxophonist's first time around the block. He takes the song's familiar form and makes it something all his own, like a cab driver who knows the destination but chooses to take the scenic route.
I'm in the audience of Beijing's CD Jazz Cafe with no voice recorder, notepad or even a pen. Being a reporter, that's like leaving home with no clothes on.
Fujian opera is one of many forms of Chinese opera, a classic art form with codified and ritual postures, facial expressions, and makeup. I went backstage and stepped directly into the dramatic storm: last-minute preparations for an opera in honor of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
The Foot Style Rockers, a Beijing-based break dancing crew that participate in battles and jam sessions around the city that draw the best nearby talent. China’s growing hip-hop community is still small enough that a local break crew can organize events with some of the scene's top players.
Walking down a main street in Beijing, amid the pungent smells of stinky tofu and car exhaust, bicycles, scooters, and cars (so many cars), I saw exactly what I was looking for: a large sign that simply read “HIP HOP STORE.”
I want to know why hip-hop came across the world to flourish in China’s cities. I want to know why Chinese people have embraced it.