Several years before he was champion of the inaugural and influential singing competition 快乐男声 (on Hunan TV), Chen Chusheng 陈楚生 lived in Tangtou, Baishizhou. Indeed, the first stop on his musical career seems to have been Shenzhen, which in the late 1990s, early 2000s was famous for its indie and rock music scene. The musicians lived in urban villages and performed in the city’s many bars and infamous nightclubs.
The above image Shenzhen (2000) by Yu Haibo 余海波 not only gives a sense of what the city’s nightlife was like at the turn of the millennium, but also the frantic energy that characterized that scene. Of course, Chen Chusheng took a more laidback and folksy approach. His song, Baishizhou sounds almost pastoral, in stark contrast to the world outside his Tangtou apartment. And yes, circa 2000, Baishizhou was not yet linked to the urban grid and Shenzhen was still the world’s factory, relying on the highly transient residents of the villages.
As we approach Chinese New Year, do you remember when this was the time that Shenzhen swapped one cohort of workers for another? Out with the old and in with the new. And many of those workers were cultural dreamers, with visions of transforming the country’s cultural landscape through various artistic experiments. In Chen Chusheng’s memory, it was an almost idyllic time.
Below, I’ve linked to his song, “Baishizhou” and a recent interview he gave about his time there.