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Chinese Whispers - Oakenfold Takes Beijing

Author: Skruff
Thursday, 9 November 2000
Paul Oakenfold DJed for the first time in Beijing last weekend, in front of a mixed crowd of 1,200 locals and expatriates. Mezzmusic's new

man-about-China, Seb Bayne, (who also works closely with the event's promoters Yum Cha Cha) spoke to mezzmusic this week about his impressions of the event.


mezzmusic: How was Oakenfold's set-

Yum Cha Cha (Seb) :"He came on about 12.30am and played for three hours - he very much pleased the crowd playing, I think, less commercial music than he might have played in the West. Everything was quite fresh. Sometimes you go and see these big DJs and they drop all these tunes you expect, but to his credit he played far more freeform. We told him when he got here, to go for and do what he wants. The thing about the dance industry here is that people don't really know about it, they're not tainted by convention, they just love whatever gets played."


mezz: How well known is Oakenfold in China-

Yum Cha Cha (Seb) :"It might be surprising, since he's well-known for playing to 20,000 people but at last weekend's gig he played at our club which holds 1,200. Lots of people went because of the information that we generated about him locally, then the other half were expats (expatriates) or students who knew Paul Oakenfold's reputation already."


mezz: Is he the first superstar DJ to have passed through Beijing-

Yum Cha Cha (Seb) :"No not at all, there's been quite a few in the last year, Gatecrasher have been out, Ken Ishii was here last month as was Claude Young. Paul Oakenfold, of course, is arguably the highest profile DJ in the world, so obviously that applies in China as well."


mezz : When China is depicted on (Western) TV, the usual image is thousands of cyclists, soldiers and people in identical drab clothes, how close are these cliches to reality-

Yum Cha Cha (Seb) :"All the images that you see are still very much accurate reflections of how the bulk of the population live. The club is in an area with lots of restaurants and bars in, and is also close to the embassy area (ie for diplomats). But you certainly do see hundreds of people on bicycles each day. There are quite a lot of other clubs dotted around Beijing but they cater to the local crowd, and have very little connection to dance music."


mezz: How do the authorities react towards dance music-

Yum Cha Cha (Seb) :"Apart from a few noise complaints we don't have any contact with them. It's not a sterile place here, people do go out and have fun and there are also mechanisms in place for people to start up businesses to cater for that. They can tend to be radical ,though, in Shanghai a while ago they cut off everybody's closing times and forced all the clubs to shut at 1am or something ridiculous like that. There are no religious restrictions here on things like alcohol either, they've got all their own local brews. Chinese people like to have fun."


mezz: Is the vibe in your Beijing club similar to Australian clubs-

Yum Cha Cha (Seb) :"The vibe is at the same stage where it was in the UK or Australia 10 years ago, where there's a whole group of people, all from completely different walks of life, who are all enjoying something that's completely new. It hasn't splintered into any sub-cultures yet with all that inherent rivalry that follows betweem genres of dance music. You might be dancing next to a poor student or a rich businessman - it doesn't matter - everybody's there because they have that common passion."
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