Beijing may be the center of China’s music scene, but Shanghai holds its own, with fresh bands, artists, and DJs consistently popping up around the city. It may take some searching to find a local musician that fits your style, so to make it easier for you, Culture Trip has rounded up our top picks from several genres. Happy listening!
Shanghai punk band Dirty Fingers started off in 2013 as a group of college kids just messing around on their instruments, but after the addition of guitarist Xiao Hai and Brazilian drummer Zhao Zilong, the group became a “legendary, immortal rock n’ roll band,” as they so humbly call themselves. The band have gained a reputation for raucous, unpredictable live shows, and towards the end of 2016 were frequently playing two a night. Around the same time, their odd brand of peppy angst attracted the attention of Beijing-based record label Maybe Mars, and Dirty Fingers fans are now anxiously anticipating a studio album. Give them a listen over on their Douban.
Before the Daylight
Formed in 2011, female-led metalcore band Before the Daylight spent their first few years playing live shows in Shanghai in order to build a reputation for themselves. It worked, and the band started being invited to music festivals across the country, where they consistently won honors such as “Most Influential Band.” Vocalist Moli brings an unyielding vivaciousness to the group, and it is truly her charisma that has kept the band in the spotlight for the last few years. Check out Before the Daylight on Douban.
The Molemen are a seven-piece, ukulele-led ska and reggae band formed by a group of expats after what they call a “substantial subterranean drinking session in late 2014.” Yes, you read that right. Using a variety of instrumentation from guitars to trombones, bass to drums, the Molemen create original songs on well-worn themes (see: internal battles with oneself) and the not-so-well-worn (see: handbags and the state of the advertising industry). Like several other bands on this list, the Molemen are known for their unique live sets, which are highly theatrical and may or may not feature spoken word interludes on any given night.
Even if you don’t count yourself a member of Shanghai’s active EDM tribe, it’s unlikely you haven’t heard of Conrank. A drumstep producer originally from London who gained national recognition through a viral fried rice cooking video, Conrank has his own recording studio in Zhongshan Park, a brand ambassador deal with Urbanears headphones, a spot on several European record labels, a stint as the host of his own MTV show, and accolades like “Best International DJ” (WaaKao Magazine, 2010) and “One of China’s 10 Hottest Celebrities” (Baidu, 2011). But Conrank remains humble, playing local shows for his fans who’ve been with him throughout his wild journey to stardom.
Another recent signee to Beijing’s Maybe Mars record label is all-female indie rock band Dream Can. The band’s name comes from a desire to share their most beautiful dreams with the masses, and they do so through ethereal sounds reminiscent of American band Best Coast. Keep an eye out for their first full length studio album this summer. And in the meantime, catch them at one of their many live Shanghai shows or take a listen to their old EPs on Douban.
Lao Ayi, meaning Old Aunties, is one of Shanghai’s newest bands, and they’re one to watch. While the three female members are certainly not old by most standards, they want to prove that age and upbringing are not barriers to being punk. Throughout Shanghai’s live music venues, and even a Brazil tour in 2016, Lao Ayi are mixing post punk, industrial, and shoegaze to brilliant effect, building a name for old ayis everywhere, one song at a time.