Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hip Hop makes its way into south China

In north China, groups of brightly clad grey heads can often be seen performing graceful and lovely Yangge dance, a popular folk dance native to northern and northwestern China, to the accompaniment of high-pitched drumbeats and cymbals in parks, on squares or open grounds along roadside is ubiquitous.

In south China, however, the streets are often full of youngsters listening to popular hip hop music and "break dancing," an athletic and dynamic style of dancing favored by black teenagers in US cities in the 1980s.

At the stage erected in Chaoliu Plaza on the Tiyu East Road, Guangzhou city of south China's Guangdong province, under the scorching summer heat in the afternoon, 22-year-old Liao Zhiyang and two other young men danced fervently, rolling and headstanding, to the sounds of vibrant hip hop music, drawing applause and cheers from the crowd time and again.

The plaza is also a regular venue for weekend competitions among young street dancers from Hong Kong, Macau and elsewhere on the Chinese mainland.

"Hip hop is a cultural form that caters to young people, and it makes me feel energetic and carefree," said Liao, a sophomore at South China Normal University. Offstage, however, Liao seemed shy, gentle and graceful.

Liao said he had danced to hip hop for three full years. "I love the strong rhythm of hip hop music and the state of self appreciation," noted Liao. "Hip hop makes me sunny, confidant and full of vigor."

Hip hop has evolved from urban street singing in the United States into a larger culture that encompasses not only music, but clothes, basketball, skateboarding and other activities, said Chen Jijing, deputy head of Guangzhou Municipal Institute for Research on Juveniles in Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macau.

Hip hop culture spread to Asia in 1990s and has become very popular in Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Taiwan. Considered an embodiment of fashion and representative of consumption trend, hip hop has also taken root in China and quickly found favor with young Chinese under the influence of cultural shock from ROK.

Wearing yellowish hair matched with a baseball cap, and sporting a variety of jewelry, including several necklaces, bracelets, a baggy T-shirt and a pair of sports shoes, Peng Jingtong, a member of the Guangzhou Youth Cultural Palace and also a hip hop dancer, is eye-catching.

"I am not a typical member of the 'hip hop generation,' as I do not have pierced my ears, nostrils or navel," noted Peng, who acknowledged that girls often got hurt in learning street dance.

"But it is indeed a challenge. We would like to mix Chinese Kungfu into hip hop during the process of study and practice, and we will have a sense of accomplishment whenever we master a difficult move," added Peng.

Deng Ying, a woman graduate student of medical sciences, said that on the surface, hip hop is just a combination of several trendy elements, including wearing trendy garments and stylish make-ups, but she was attracted to it for it is innovation and free spirit which are difficult to find with the conventional life.

Along with several of her friends, Deng operates a street dance center named "All Steps" in Guangzhou where youngsters can learn street dance including hip hop. The center also stages street dance shows outside Guangzhou on invitation.

"As long as we don't bother others, we can express ourselves by indulging in hip hop openly in disregard of others' supercilious looks," said Deng, who has danced hip hop for five to six years.

Chinese society seems to be more tolerant of new emerged things such as hip hop thanks to the opening-up drive over the past two decades.

Li Minghua, chairman of the Guangzhou Federation of Social Sciences Community, holds it is natural for young Chinese to embrace hip hop in the wake of economic globalization.

Zeng Jinhua, head of the Guangdong Provincial Juvenile Research Center, said the emergence of hip hop among young people showcased a development in cultural diversity and would surely exert influence on the country's mainstream culture.

Chen Jijing, deputy head of Guangzhou City Institute for Research on Juveniles in Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macau, said that as a sub-culture for young people, hip hop meets youngsters' wish to challenge tradition and pursue the ego, and offers a unique stage and opportunity for young people to express themselves.

"Young people resort to hip hop to vent their dissatisfaction with the adult society, the family and the school, alleviate psychological pressure laden on them, and to fulfill the aspiration that cannot be realized in formal occasions," Chen said.

While acknowledging hip hop's positive impact of injecting vitality and life onto the mainstream culture, Chen urged the hip hop generation to show restraint toward personal spending in dressing themselves up and to avoid extravagance.

Source: Eastday

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