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.
For the curious, a folk song about Baishizhou.
The song is credited to 七弦花 and the lyrics make it clear — cheap housing make Baishizhou the station of choice for young migrants.
The song begins, take a walk with me through where I live. Crowded buildings stretch to the sky and we cannot see the sky. Girls smile like flowers and hold cigarettes in their hands. The kiosks keep expanding and money goes missing from a bowl.
And continues: you see adverts for housing everywhere, and it’s easy to get a room. Old stub and second hand stores and never ending bills. Moving trucks parked on the side of the road and business cards from moving companies.
The heavily accented voices of immigrants saying where they live in Baishizhou.
Smell of beer and charcoal briquettes are burning lives. And the smoke stings our eyes inside Baishizhou. Pop songs permeate the streets here in Baishizhou.
Images and sentiment reflect the mood of many young immigrants who want the shenzhen dream and live Baishizhou reality…