Words by Bohan Qiu
混迹于巴黎，北京和香港的DJ Oshi， 来自法国常驻大理平日是法式糕点师夜晚是电子乐魔法师的DJ Siku 和各路北京上海的地下电音玩手都会时不时做客Phoenix。
的确，这么一想，全世界地下音乐盛行的地方，甚至具体到夜店酒吧，从巴黎东京宫地下的YOYO, 柏林的Berghain, 阿姆斯特丹的Ontrouw, 香港的XXX, 到上海的Shelter, 全都弥漫着一股性别模糊自由放荡的气味。到最后，到底是先Gay再电子，还是先电子再同性，早已变得模糊不清。
Yunnan—Talking About Mountains, Rivers and Electronic Music Under the Colored Clouds
Words by Bohan Qiu
The headbands of the minorities’ women reflected the transparency of the blue sky.
The clarity in the air heightened the senses of the spring blossoms.
Yunnan in March is the most charming splash of verdant paint in the western part of China.
What lingers in my heart is the kind of solitude being surrounded by the vast mountain ranges that appeared as merely a silhouette. What stays on my lips is the kind of dryness that continues to remind me of the altitude.
Spending a large portion of my youth overseas, I have rarely been traveling around inside China. Even though I have been here in Yunnan twice before, the kind of intertwined feeling never faded away. The shallow impression of Yunnan intensified and deepened after this trip.
The golden rape flower field on the foothills of a grand snow mountain shines the glorious love for nature of these different minorities that live in this region. And the infinite universe filled with sparkling starlets aluminate the thousand-year-long respect of the creatures beneath them. Yunnan is filled with pleasant surprises. From the Nord-Marais like buyer store in the ancient town of Baisha, to these adorable French Bistros in an alleyway hidden in the town of Shuhe; from the techno club in Dali that transports one to the center of Warschauer Straße in Berlin, to the dark blue skyline of breath-taking ocean-lake in Shuanglang that reminds one of the Turkish Bosphorus. I was mind-blown on a daily basis.
What also surprises me is the unique fashion scene in the Yunnan province. Here, the design is inspired by the local culture and dress codes, while adding a hint of modernity that makes it international. The line between the world and the locality is blurred. One could say that there is no clear identity or label directly related to these clothes, accessories and artifacts, but the stories and origins behind them are what make them worldly yet ethnic. The patched bloomers with ethnic prints hand-made by a Bai minority woman could be from Commes des Garçons, while a sleeveless ankle long linen coat with brocades and damasks that could compete with that of Dries Van Noten. Due to the natural mountain barricades, whenever we arrive at another town, the style sense varies. The light, practical and human-conscious clothing in Lijiang is much more tender than the smoke-infused, rebellious and statement pieces at Dali. They are all using clothing as an art to convey themselves, in variously different methods.
Into the night, I was wandering around the old town of Dali after a strangely delicious hand-grab Dai minority meal that is more of less a fusion between South Asian and Chinese cuisine. At a turn of a street, a subtle yet unbelievably toxic techno music came from a small house where green, red and blue disco beams are shooting out from. This space teleportation dragged me into this mystical place, where I found the kind of sounds that has been missing from my life in Hong Kong for over 6 months. On a Wednesday night, with a few alcohol-infused crowds, this small bar/café is a smoky loose atmosphere, searching for some lost souls. The DJ, with an unlit cigarette in his mouth, is spinning some minimalistic tunes in a nonchalant gesture. Each tall tables is filled with countless bottles of the local Fenghuaxueyue (direct translation would be wind, flower, snow and the moon. Later on refer to those flowery language that has little true meanings to them) beer. Some ambiguous homosexuals hold hands in the dark, carelessly swinging to the beat.
Dongdong, the owner of the bar, is a young Dali local, who returned to his hometown after being an ethnic dancer touring around the country for years. On the road, he met people who are into music, fashion, art and dancing, and eventually gathered a few mates who are share the same passion at the foot of the snow mountain, waiting for those nightwalkers that understand and appreciate. It has almost been ten years since this place—Phoenix is open, and it has injected a shot of rebellious blood into the old town of Dali. He invites DJs from Beijing, Shanghai, Paris and London to travel to this mystical little town and introduce their view of fun and good music to Yunnan. There is even a French DJ who is a Pâtissier by day, and a techno DJ by night.
“Yunnan is a great place to nurture good DJs. Even as early as 15 years ago, there was already a party scene. They would organize raves in the mountains, or in an old town, and invite people from the bigger cities nearby such as Kunming and Chengdu to exchange and communicate. Our music is diverse also, and pretty much in sync with the global crowd.” Speaking about the music culture in Yunnan, Dongdong is more than proud of his hometown. “But the problem is that Beijing is the culture hub of China, so most people would go there to pursue a bigger audience. This results in the underdevelopment of Yunnan, which is also understandable.”
When I asked him about the gay-friendliness of Phoenix, Dongdong replied, “Since we do not charge for entrance here, we welcome anyone who appreciates our music to come in. Those who do not understand this culture would never step inside. We did not intend to make it a gay-friendly place, but an open and limitless place. But you have to know, without homosexuals, there would be no such thing as the electronic music as we know of today.”
Indeed, to think about it, almost all landmark underground electronic parties in the world is filled with an ambiguous environment of sexual liberation. From YOYO at Palais de Tokyo, Berghain at Panorama, Ontrouw in Amsterdam, XXX in Hong Kong and Shelter in Shanghai, we can all smell the air of gay energy. Today, we can no longer tell which came first.
“Maintaining this place in Dali has been difficult”, says Dongdong, “Especially in recent years, Dali has experienced the gentrification that changed the cultural scene. More and more ‘pseudo-artists and pseudo-intellectuals’ flushed in, opening basic bitch cafes and shops, raised the housing prices and forced those true artists to leave this place. The minorities have a higher standard of materialist resources now, but are also pushed to sell their properties and move to towns further away to give way to the developers.”
When I was traveling in Yunnan, one thing we always tried to avoid, and are sometimes petrified of, is the ugly Chinese urbanization. The constructivist architecture, the bland tasteless concrete blocks, the garbage that flows down the rivers and the overly developed tourist spots are all like slaps of reality. Most of the province is semi-autonomous, managed by the local minorities. They have had a tradition to respect the nature that nurtured their culture for thousands of years, and have implemented many rules and regulations forbidding the destruction and pollution. A Tibetan guy once told me, lives when faced against nature are all equal. But this simple rule of nature has been long forgotten by urban citizens. Perhaps one day, they will also be forced to let in the horrid, ruthless money making machines and diminish the picturesque unreality in front of me.
I did not interpret the theme of this issue—“GREEN”, as solely sustainable fashion. What touched me even more was the adaptation and admiration of human beings towards nature, and the balance between obeying and reclaiming our motherland. Many people I have met in Yunnan, all showed to me their passion and their respect towards the mountains and the rivers, and taught me a powerful lesson to pay it forward.