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On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong Kong and Shenzhen

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Abstract

This chapter analyses the emergence of the Electro Dance Music Culture respectively in Hong Kong and Shenzhen through the emergence (and demise for one) of two clubs in Hong Kong and its neighbouring Shenzhen. These clubs offer a place for alternative electronic dance music cultures to develop. Despite some common points between the two EDM cultures, Hong Kong and Shenzhen have distinct Electro Dance Music Culture that warrants further explorations.
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© e Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021
S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities,
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_14
14
On theFence: Electronic Dance Music
Cultures inHong Kong and Shenzhen
AlexYiu andDamienCharrieras
Introduction
e objective of this chapter is to study, through the analysis of two ven-
ues, this emergence of two distinct Electro Dance Music Cultures (here-
after EDMCs) in two dierent city contexts. e two cities are only
27km apart, but are very dierent from political, social, cultural, and
spatial perspectives. EDMC refers in this chapter not only to a group of
non-mainstream electronic music genres such as drum ‘n bass, trance,
and some marginal streams of techno/house but also to a set of cultural
practices (at free parties, in nightclubs, and at festivals) (Till 2009,
p.170). As we will explore in this chapter, EDMC is taking a specic
form in relation to the characteristics of the Hong Kong and Shenzhen
urban contexts.1
Electronic music has a long history in China. Important historical art-
ists based mainly in Beijing, like Weng Weng, DJ Yang Bing, Elvis T., Shao,
A. Yiu () • D. Charrieras
City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
e-mail: dcharrie@cityu.edu.hk
224
Zhang You Dai, Pei (Bye Bye Disco), and Shen (Ran Music), all contrib-
uted to dene the budding Chinese EDMC.Shanghai (with Dada Club),
Chengdu (Dojo, Club TAG, the Poly Centre) and Kunming have already
established vibrant club scenes catering to non-mainstream subgenres
essential to EDMCs. Over the past 15 years, festivals of electronic music
have been rapidly developing in several cities: Intro in Beijing, Strawberry
in Chengdu, the psytrance festival Spirit Tribe in Kunming. Foreign DJs
eager to play in China laud the free spirit of Chinese EDMC.
In the Pearl Delta River, the rapid expansion of Shenzhen and the
multiplication of the links with Hong Kong (through the fading border
and the Macau-Zhuhai-Hong Kong Bridge) oer an interesting ground
to study the contemporary reconguration of EDMC in China. Hong
Kong has been hosting since 2017 the Asian edition of the famous pio-
neer music festival from Barcelona, SONAR. Venues like XXX Gallery
fostered for many years the underground Hong Kongese electronic music
scene. eir recent closing due to stringent regulations governing the
lease of music venues in Hong Kong led several event organisers to
migrate to the other side of the border in the rapidly expanding metropo-
lis of the Pearl River Delta, feeding the rise of a Shenzhen electronic
music scene. Clubs like Oil are emblematic of this new trend. We will
explore the recent recongurations of these respective scenes in Hong
Kong and Shenzhen.
We conducted ve interviews with seven electronic music performers
and event organisers from both Hong Kong and Shenzhen (most of them
operating simultaneously in both cities). e interviews were transcribed
and analysed through Atlas.ti qualitative analysis software. e themes of
“community building” (how the audience, performers, and promoters
share the same passion for non-mainstream forms of electronic music?),
“audience(who attends the EDMC events at these clubs?), and “music
genres” (what subgenres of EDMC are played in these clubs?) surfaced in
the interviews and were signicant in helping to describe the similarities
and dierences between Hong Kong and Shenzhen in regard to their
respective electronic music dance culture. e rst author, of this chapter
under the moniker Alexmalism, is personally involved in this electronic
music dance culture as a DJ and performer of electronic music in Hong
A. Yiu and D. Charrieras
225
Kong. He has played on several occasions both in Hong Kong and in
Shenzhen. In order to ground our study in the empirical specicities of
both Hong Kong and Shenzhen, we focus on two EDMC spaces: XXX
Gallery and Oil Club.
The City: Hong Kong
A former British colony, Hong Kong became a special administrative
region of the Peoples Republic of China after the handover in 1997 and
enjoys certain levels of autonomy granted by China. Hong Kong retains
its own international status under the promise of “One country, two sys-
tems” from the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and its legislature, gover-
nance, economy, society, and culture are marked by a dierent historical
development than China. According to the HKSAR’s Census and
Statistics Department (C&SD 2020), the population of Hong Kong is
7,500,500.
Central, and more specically Lan Kwai Fong (often abbreviated as
LKF) have often been the focus of the discussions on Hong Kong’s night-
life by both academics and journalists (Cheng 2001; HK-Magazine 2015;
Jankowski 2018; Yeung 2014). LKF is sited at the heart of Central, one
of the busiest and more westernised nodes of Hong Kong Island. In a
small square of streets beneath the hill and surrounded by the nancial
district, it is one of the most vibrant nightlife areas in South-East Asia.
While the percentage of expatriates in Hong Kong, including those who
originated from the UK, USA, and Australia, consist of only 0.9% of the
population, more than half of them live in Hong Kong Island, and almost
40% of them are living in the New Territories (By-census Oce 2017).
Cheng (2001) depicts a cosmopolitan consumption and social multiplic-
ity in LKF where expatriates, tourists, and middle upper-class locals have
traditionally dominated this part of the city.
However, the studies on Cantopop Electronic Dance Music Culture
(hereafter EDMC) by Chew (2009b, 2011) have depicted another side of
nightlife in Hong Kong. Following a general international trend at the
time, rave culture arrived at Hong Kong in the 1990s, and was hybridised
with local Cantopop music through local musical acts, such as B2, MP4,
14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong…
226
and JAMASTER A. eir music was danced to by young lower-class
locals in raves, which took places at “disco clubs such as 838 Disco,
CYBER8, Italy, France, Japan (󰨆󰌖), Night Eagle (󳬪), and Gam
Dou (󲼂󲸮) during the 2000s’ (Apple-Daily 2017). ese “disco” clubs
were mostly located in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok, far from the wester-
nised LKF and Central area, and on the other side of Victoria Harbour,
which seperates Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon peninsula, the
main urban area of Hong Kong. is period of EDMC in Hong Kong is
also known by locals as ‘rave’, and it spanned from the late 1990s to the
mid-2000s. e term was used in the context of ‘rave’ from the UK, well
known for its association with drugs especially ecstasy. erefore, the
study of rave culture in Hong Kong suered from stigmatisation, and
most studies discussing this cultural phenomenon tend to speak about
the drug usage by the youth (Cheung and Cheung 2006; Leung etal.
2006; Loxton etal. 2008). Eventually the police’s crackdown of those
spaces and the tightening of the liquor licence law led to the decline of
Cantopop EDM throughout the 1990s.
An Overview oftheContemporary Electronic
Scenes inHong Kong
e focus on LKF in studies of Hong Kong’s nightlife, however, repre-
sents only a small part of Hong Kong’s electronic dance music cul-
tures: LKF has evolved from a nightlife area to a corporation brand.
Lan Kwai Fong Group is a property company which owns and oversees
the buildings of that area as well as selling other cities’ nightlife as a
brand with its target of up-market consumers. Such a neoliberalist
approach to the management of nightlife does not constitute the whole
picture of Hong Kong’s electronic dance music cultures. EDMC in
Hong Kong covers a diverse landscape of non- mainstream electronic
music genres (drum ‘n’ bass, trance, techno, house), venues, social
classes, cultures, and even races.
In Hong Kong, LKF represents Western club culture in the city’s
social consciousness, maintaining its prominent status due to its
A. Yiu and D. Charrieras
227
commercial success in tourism, food and beverage, and consumerism.
Music that is being played in LKF is dominated by Western popular
music. e music played in LKF over the past ten years has incorpo-
rated elements of commercial EDM, House, Techno, and even Hip-
hop and Trap while other genres such as Drum’n’Bass, Psytrance and
Hardcore are being marginalised in Hong Kong, partly due to their
similar position in Western mainstream electronic music on which LKF
club culture is based.
While LKF and Cantopop EDM represent two signicant electronic
scenes in Hong Kong, since the early 2000s EDMC scenes catering to
smaller genres of EDM have been struggling to survive in the context of
high rents,2 lack of space, noise complaints, nancial pressure, and licens-
ing issues. Hong Kong has legitimate electronic music festivals targeting
both underground and mainstream electronic music audiences. Music
festivals such as Creamelds, Road to Ultra, Dragonland Music Festival,
ALTN8, Shi Fu Miz, Outlook Festival, and Sónar Hong Kong have been
held successfully in recent years, and there are many clubs playing more
mainstream EDM such as Tech House and commercial EDM in
LKF.However, outside of this quasi-institutionalised fringe of main-
stream electronic music, less mainstream pop-up parties and raves in
Hong Kong are being held illegally to avoid attention especially from the
police. Many of these events usually take place in industrial buildings or
country parks, away from Central and from the high-density urban areas
of Hong Kong, and are under the risk of being raided by the police
because of noise complaints, drug usage, and the absence of proper
licences.
Only a few non-mainstream clubs, with a focus on Techno music—
such as Mihn, Social Room, Yumla, and OMA—are in the vicinity of
Central.3 Social Room and OMA are located in Central, and Mihn in
Sheung Wan (12 minutes away by walk from LKF). ese clubs provide
alternatives for club goers tired of mainstream, unsophisticated music
and who transition to more ‘underground’ experiences while staying in
the ‘safe zone’ of the established genre of Techno (Techno, as a genre has
a predictable sound and a regular audience). It is worth noting that, many
clubs in/near Central such as e Golden Stupa, CE-Top, Gecko, Basement,
14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong…
228
Sammi Kitchen, and XXX Gallery used to be part of the EDMC scene but
have now closed. ese venues, functionally speaking, were dened by
the music the event organisers programmed. One of the reasons that
these organisers would try to bring dierent subgenres of EDMC to these
clubs can be explained by the lack of specic venues specically dedicated
to one subgenre. Eventually, Drum‘n’Bass will share the space with House
or Techno in this scenario. XXX Gallery similarly cultivated a scene with
a diversity of electronic music genres (von Seggern 2013).
EDMC inHong Kong: XXX Gallery
asaCase Study
is section studies the creation, management, and evolution of XXX
Gallery, a club that maintains an unique position in the landscape of
Hong Kong EDMC. XXX Gallery was one of the most prominent venues
in the Hong Kong underground EDMC as it provided, from 2011 to
2018, a relative stable venue for non-mainstream labels and crews of
players/performers/event organisers to perform and establish diverse sub-
communities of EDMC (Drum’n’Bass, Deconstructed Club etc.). Not
only did this space serve as a music venue for a diversity of subgenres of
EDMC, but it was also a movie club, a classical music listening club, and
a performance art venue which curated several art exhibitions. Over the
course of its seven years of existence, XXX Gallery relocated from Sheung
Wan to Sai Ying Pun/Sai Wan, and nally settled in Tai Kok Tsui in
2015, a neighbourhood located at the opposite side of the Victoria
Harbour. Cassidy Winston, a DJ and event promoter who co-created
XXX Gallery, stated that there’s a need for spaces so Hong Kong EDMC
can develop in all its diversity: “[XXX Gallery] is not a specic venue that
caters to one crowd and only with one style of music, we never do that
but a lot of people do that” (Interview with Winston & Acey, 18/01/2020).
According to Winston, the three dierent geographical locations occu-
pied by XXX Gallery all had a distinct positioning in the nightlife econ-
omy of Hong Kong. e original location of XXX Gallery in Sheung Wan
A. Yiu and D. Charrieras
229
took advantage of its close proximity with LKF.However, it started
receiving noise complaints due to its close proximity to residential build-
ings. eir second location in Sai Wan/Sai Ying Pun was located far west
of LKF—ten-minute taxi ride from Central. ey opened this new venue
in 2013 two years before the MTR metro system had reached that area.
At this second location, Winston attempted to apply for a proper liquor
licence to be able to prot from bar sales, but it was opposed by council’s
representatives from the conservative party Democratic Alliance for the
Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). Even though XXX Gallery
nally successfully acquired a liquor licence, they decided to apply the
Bring Your Own Bottles (BYOB) policy since they realised that XXX
Gallery was known as a BYOB venue as opposed to other clubs in Hong
Kong. e licence attracted the attention of the police, who started
checking their licence frequently. As the rent tripled within a few years,
XXX Gallery decided to move to its last location across the harbour to an
industrial area called Tai Kok Tsui.
Tai Kok Tsui is relatively isolated but still close to the busiest, over-
crowded central part of Kowloon peninsula (Mongkok) and one of the
poorest districts of Hong Kong north of Mongkok (Sham Shui Po). In
comparison to the former locations in Hong Kong Island where most
audiences were still predominantly expatriates, Cassidy noticed the
change in demographics after the move to the last location in Tai Kok
Tsui, an industrial area next to Mongkok, which is the urban centre of
Kowloon side. Local audience numbers rose (as opposed to foreigner/
international numbers), and the audiences became more mature since
most of them only travelled to XXX Gallery for the music. Cassidy
explained that the decision to move to Tai Kok Tsui was due to the
increasing rent on Hong Kong island, but also provided the opportunity
to oer a “real warehouse party vibe … closer to real Hong Kong culture”
(Cheung 2015).4
While music genres such as Techno and House were popular in Hong
Kong, other genres of EDMC have been developing slowly but steadily.
Crews and labels such as ROBOT, Bass Music China, Heavy Hong
Kong, Magnetic Soul Hong Kong, Sessions HK, Ecstatic Bass, 15
14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong…
230
Grams, Absurd Trax, Mean Girls Club, Wildstyles Records, Neoncity
Records and even XXX Gallerys own crew have fostered a vibrant and
diverse underground EDMC in Hong Kong. Some of the older crews
such as ROBOT were based at CE-Top (a now closed club in Central),
and Sessions HK organised events at both e Golden Stupa and XXX
Gallery (Jay 2012; von Seggern 2013); other crews were organising
events either at their own secret venues or at XXX Gallery. Many of
these crews consist of small groups of people who usually share similar
interest in music, and working together to organise events according to
their taste under a crew’s name. While it is common to have DJs in a
crew to provide music for the events, a crew might not necessarily con-
sist of only DJs but also people doing artists’ booking, ticket sales, and
event promotions. For most of the time, a crew might work with clubs
to stage events and book artists in order to prot from bar and tickets
sales. Sometimes a crew could also work as a label to put out music
under the crew’s name. As the premise behind XXX Gallery was to
develop a diverse community in Hong Kong that cuts across dierent
music genres and social groups, the music at XXX Gallery was signi-
cant for its diversity. Psytrance, Acid House, UK Bass, Hip-hop, Future
Funk, and even Deconstructed Club could be heard at XXX Gallery.
Such diversity reects Cassidy and Acey’s view on music: they seek to
surprise the audience. As Acey puts it, “revenue, vibe, attendance” are
the chief concerns when they are collaborating with event organisers.
Some of them paid more attention to the audience while some paid
more attention to the vibe, that is, a pleasing atmosphere that does not
necessarily cater to a large audience but contributed to the experimental
and “avant-garde” reputation of XXX Gallery in Hong Kong (Interview
with Winston & Acey, 18/01/2020). Even if its managers admit that
XXX Gallery always suered from nancial pressure, at least they main-
tained an image of being both “avant-garde” and promoting a diversity
of music genres at the same time. is supports the practice of com-
munity building promoted by XXX Gallery managers.
A. Yiu and D. Charrieras
231
Community Building atXXX
For both of them, the main interest in running the venue was about com-
munity building. A diversied crowd would eventually lead to a more
sustainable ecosystem in the underground scene of Hong Kong, which
helps places like XXX Gallery to maintain and develop their niche.
Community building at XXX Gallery was marked by the close relation-
ship between individuals, as the audience and promoters usually knew
each other. DJ Just Bee recalls being approached by a member of the
audience after DJing at XXX Gallery. ey exchanged social media,
became friends and started sharing music (Interview with JustBee,
15/11/2019).
As Cassidy emphasises, it is essential to build a good relationship with
event organisers. He also perceives the respect of the audience for the
venue as an important house rule. It was reected in the exible approach
of XXX Gallery management team towards the behaviour of its audience
and the attempt to not resort to the police to handle situations arising
from normal club activity. e only thing Cassidy insisted on was a strict
closing time, with all events nishing at 4 a.m.—any transgression and he
would turn the lights on and the sound system o to remove the crowd.
(Interview with Winston & Acey, 18/01/2020).
The City: Shenzhen
Touted as a leader in technology and nance, Shenzhen, a city now
contiguous with the Hong Kong North West border with mainland
China, is a sub-provincial city chosen to be the rst Chinese special
economic zone (SEZ) in 1980. Considered part of Deng Xiaoping’s
experiment with Chinese economic reform, since the 1980s Shenzhen
has transformed itself from a small industrial town into one of the
nancial capitals of the world. Due to this astonishingly rapid rate of
development that triggered an inux of a high number of migrant
workers from other Chinese provinces, Shenzhen is one of the few cities
in Guangdong province where Mandarin is the major language rather
14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong…
232
than Cantonese and Teochewese (Chun 2006). Shenzhen’s population
has grown from 8.7 million in 2008, to 13 million in 2018 (Shenzhen
Statistical Yearbook 2019).
According to recent research conducted by RET, the biggest property
development consulting company in China, the nightlife index of
Shenzhen is also known to be the second highest in the country (RET
2019). e ourishing Shenzhen club music scene has also attracted
attention from the Western media (Forman 2019; Grogan 2019; Lanyon
2014). Reecting the changing population and the inux of outsiders,
the Shenzhen scene is made up mostly of migrants. Shenzhen-based party
collectives and DJ crews that are similar to their counterparts in Hong
Kong exemplify a level of geographical circulation of electronic music
existing in China, as they bring foreign artists to play not only in Shenzhen
but also in other Chinese cities in order to cover the booking and trans-
portation fees. Crews such as Underground Union and Hoodoo are exam-
ples of event organisers who not only focus on Shenzhen but also bring
artists to other cities. However, there are crews/event organisers that are
based in and focus on the Shenzhen’s local scene, such as the Drum’n’Bass
crew Unchained Asia and the Techno crew Silicon Kure.
EDMC inShenzhen
Little is known about the history of EDMC in Shenzhen. Chew’s study
showed that Cantopop and Mandopop were popular with lower-middle-
income Hong Kongers (some of whom were from mainland China) who
partied across the border in the late 1990s (Chew 2009b, p.152). e
overall narrative of Shenzhen’s club culture development aligns with the
Chinese EDMC, where Western club culture emerged in China after the
Chinese Economic Reform of the 1980s (Farrer 1999, p.152). At this
time, the term “disco” in China referred less to a genre of music and more
to the sexualised and fantasied view of Western sexuality entangled with
a certain type of electronic dance music (Farrer 1999). Today, when look-
ing at EDMC-related spaces such as clubs, we have to keep in mind that
these clubs are not necessarily the centre of Chinese nightlife: social dance
A. Yiu and D. Charrieras
233
halls, bars, karaoke clubs, sexual spaces such as saunas and barbershops
are also part of the nightlife map (Farrer 2008).
Since the mid-1990s, more clubs in China have embraced rave culture
from the West, where illegal raves (and their association with the con-
sumption of ecstasy) have emerged in top-tier cities such as Beijing,
Shanghai, and Shenzhen (Chew 2009a). In Shenzhen, the now defunct
party organisation e Real Deal organised events from 2012 to 2016.
Using Psytrance, Deep House and Techno, e Real Deal organized pop-
up raves across the city in a variety of places, from parks to beaches
(Forman 2019). However, their penultimate rave held on 21 February
2016 was raided by local police: 93 people including 50 expats were in
administrative detention, and 2 people, both expats, were arrested
(Mannering 2016). is incident almost eradicated rave culture in
Shenzhen, and it drastically transformed cultural practices in clubs and
venues in Shenzhen in the light of further restrictions on licences and a
more stringent control of drug uses.
Spaces forEDMC: Oil Club asaCase Study
On 8 November 2017, Berlin-based producer Mechatok debuted at the
opening of Oil Club with supporting DJs from Hong Kong including
Kelvin T, Fotan Laiki, and ASJ.Since then, Oil Club has become a land-
mark of the Shenzhen club scene with adventurous programming featur-
ing both international acts and local musicians. Oil Club departed from
the previous notion of “disco” in Chinese EDMC and has introduced the
well-established Western underground EDMC to Shenzhen’s audience. “At
that point, we’d already started thinking about inviting some artists to
Shenzhen,” said Song Yangyang, one of the founders of Oil Club (Forman
2019). Despite ecstasy or other illegal drugs not being part of its culture,
the founding of Oil Club was inspired by Western rave culture. It was born
out of a necessity: there was a lack of venues to host travelling international
acts (Song and Sun, WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019). One of our inter-
viewees, the Shenzhen-based DJ and promoter Lucy Kwok, also known as
War mch ain ss, said that Oil Club is the only club in Shenzhen providing
14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong…
234
“good music” (Kwok, WeChat interview Oct 26, 2019). is vague formu-
lation reects the eclecticism that characterises Oil Clubs programming,
which refuses to be contained by a specic genre of EDMC and wants to
cater simultaneously to Drum‘n’Bass, Techno, House and Trance music
audiences (Fig.14.1).
Fig. 14.1 Flyer (2019): Events at Oil Club usually take place during the weekends
and public holidays
A. Yiu and D. Charrieras
235
Audiences atOil Club
In previous studies on Chinese nightlife, Farrer describes the audience in
Shanghai from 1995 to 1996 as “less discriminating” and “musically less
sophisticated”. In this context, the popular genre of Chinese disco stands
as “a site of globality rather than as a site for the alternative’ or the
‘authentic’” (Farrer 1999, p.162). Similar conclusions were also made by
Song and Sun, for whom the Shenzhen audiences “don’t know pretty
much about the event they are attending, what kind of music they are
listening … they react to the music really directly” (Song and Sun,
WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019). Another interviewee, Kelvin Tang,
from Hong Kong, known by his DJ name Kelvin T, observed that whilst
it also depends on the event organisers, the crowds at Oil Club are mostly
local (Tang, personal interview Nov 13, 2019). Hong Kong Drum‘n’Bass
DJ Abby Yuen, who is known as JustBee of the Unchained Asia crews,
recalled a night while playing at Oil Club where the audiences were half
local and half Russian (Yuen, Skype interview Nov 11, 2019). Overall,
the audience attending Oil Clubs nights is people from Shenzhen. While
Kwok, a.k.a. Warmchainss, describes the audience at Oil Club as not
hugely dierent from the audience she met in China’s EDM clubs (Kwok,
WeChat interview Oct 26, 2019), Yang describes the character of
Shenzhen people as “practical, young, open, but also hard to stay, only
few choose to dig deep into things … they don’t really see music as some-
thing you should work hard on … it is entertainment business instead of
a profession” (Song and Sun, WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019). It shows
that the Shenzhen audiences are curious and reactive, but also are unwill-
ing to invest time to rene and deepen their knowledge of EDMC.By
contrast, some DJs we interviewed were somewhat obsessive about their
music listening practice, which is often centred around a specic sub-
genre of EDMC such as Drum‘n’Bass.
Music atOil Club
In contrary to most other clubs in Shenzhen, Oil Club is characterised
by a diversity of genres and styles. Music and acts/DJ playing at the club
14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong…
236
are meticulously curated by Song and Sun, who search to strike a bal-
ance between accessibility and progressiveness. Tang/Kelvin T. describes
Oil Club as a place where he wants to bring “new and exciting stusuch
as Deconstructed Club (a recent trend applying avant-garde approaches
to EDMC), while at the same time music that is “relatable to the people”
like “House, Vaporwave, Band Music, Drum‘n’Bass, Cantopop/
Mandopop/K-pop” (Tang, personal interview Nov 13, 2019). For
Yuen/JustBee, playing at Oil Club allows her to explore “darker and niche
stu” in Drum‘n’Bass and she feels her audience has already gained some
understanding of her style. While many clubs have no good sound sys-
tem for Drum‘n’Bass, Yuen/JustBee also describes the sound system at
Oil Club is so crisp and clear that it allows her to appreciate “little details”
in the Drum‘n’Bass music she is playing (Yuen, Skype interview Nov 11,
2019). Specic genre-based collectives such as Drum‘n’Bass crew
Unchained Asia and Techno crew Silicon Kure are able to organise events
regularly at Oil Club and to build up their respective audience
from within.
Community Building atOil Club
Driven by the potentials of audience growth and cultural development,
all of the interviewees have pointed out the importance of community
building. As Kwok pointed out, Shenzhen club goers tend to go out dur-
ing weekends only; as a result, booking international artists for weekday
events will only create nancial loss. Once a month basis, on Wednesdays,
Kwok runs an event called “󱸮󰩬” (trans.: Only One Can Live),
an open deck section allowing local DJs and apprentice DJs to perform
and practise at Oil Club, providing a space to cultivate a local DJ com-
munity (Kwok, WeChat interview Oct 26, 2019). Unchained Asia, the
collective Yuan/JustBee belongs to, has also been conducting music pro-
duction workshops during their Outlook Festival Shenzhen, where they
celebrate UK Bass culture annually by bringing international and local
acts to Oil Club. Tang observes that Oil Club’s presence on social media,
especially WeChat, where they publish very detailed introductions to
A. Yiu and D. Charrieras
237
club culture as well as artists’ biographies on their public prole (
), has helped promoting club culture to its audience (Tang, personal
interview Nov 13, 2019). For Yang and Yun, the organisers, community
building is a long-time commitment. It could take at least ve to ten
years before they see a viable EDMC community in Shenzhen (Song and
Sun, WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019).
Conclusion
is chapter presents a preliminary mapping of EDMC in two geo-
graphically close cities that nevertheless illustrate two completely dier-
ent political and cultural contexts. e inherent creativity of ‘border
zones’ where diverse cultures collide has been explored here through the
development of EDMC in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. We can see a set
of commonalities and dierences emerging from the case study of XXX
Gallery in Hong Kong and Oil Club in Shenzhen, two clubs dedicated
to the development of EDMC understood as a plurality of practices
(clubs, festivals, etc.) and as a plurality of non-mainstream genres of
electronic music. Both face similar legal constraints (high rents, lack of
proper licences, noise complaints, police checks). Our interviewees
who played at XXX Gallery and later at Oil club describe two dierent
kind of crowds. e EDMC crowd at XXX Gallery was constituted of a
diversity of people but most of them tend to have a strong existing
knowledge of electronic music aesthetics and (Western) history. In
Shenzhen, the audience tend to be eager to discover new electronic
music genres, have less prejudices about music, and are more open to
experimentations that would be deemed to be improper by the EDMC
Hong Kong crowd. Similarly, the community building in EDMC audi-
ences in Hong Kong takes the form of multipurpose club spaces that
double as art galleries, Japanese-like listening bars and movie clubs for
an audience of connoisseurs able to see the link between listening to
slowed down classical music and certain contemplative subgenres of
electronic music. In Shenzhen, the community building is structured
14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong…
238
around a pedagogical approach to EDMC, where each visiting artist/
DJ is clearly presented and situated in the history of electronic music.
Some workshops aim at teaching the techniques of DJing and elec-
tronic music production to a budding generation of Shenzhen-based
young aspiring DJs—with some of the teachers travelling to Hong
Kong to learn new technics in electronic music production. Despite the
restricted access to albums of certain Western electronic musicians, the
role of the internet in the growth of musical culture for Shenzhen-based
DJs appears paramount. Despite the rumours suggesting that the
EDMC crowd would cross the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border to nd
new spaces for underground clubbing, we observed that the two micro-
cosms of XXX Gallery and Oil Club are pretty distinct in terms of audi-
ence, cultural and legal contexts and that Oil Club cannot be read as a
re-enactment of XXX Gallery.
Notes
1. EDMC constitutes the focus of academic journals such as DanceCult.
2. Due to the cancellation of rent control in 1998. https://www.legco.gov.
hk/yr98- 99/english/panels/hg/papers/hg22121b.htm
3. As previously noted outside of the eld of electronic music, non-
mainstream artistic institutions struggle to stay in central areas of Hong
Kong due to a multiplicity of factors beyond high rents (Charrieras etal.
2018:170).
4. Tai Kok Tsui is closer to Mongkok, an important area of Hong Kong
representing its ‘localness’.
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