80 Wake Up

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Alice Yan, "Singing the praises of mainland rap", South China Morning Post, 10/3/2010:

Rapper Shou Junchao , 24, has become a celebrity in Shanghai – people ask for his autograph and want him to pose for photos – after his performance on the hit television show China's Got Talent last month. His act captivated millions of fans, mostly young men, who liked his impromptu rap answers to the judges' questions. Men born after 1980 had mountainous burdens, he said, including mortgages and car loans, and he got a standing ovation when he said that if the luxury handbag you bought for your girlfriend was not as good as other girls' you would get a "bye-bye" from her.

His TV show appearance is here, I think:

More from the SCMP article:

Q: How many songs have you written?

A: About seven. One of them is called Shanghainese are Excellent. I wrote it to defy a proposal last year for a ban on the Shanghai dialect. In my song I said the idea sounded like asking a monk not to have a bare head and not to burn incense every day. I also wrote: "Is it because Shanghai is so brilliant that you guys dislike everything about it? Shanghai is open to everyone. But it's impossible to change its culture. You have so many negative impressions of Shanghainese, saying Shanghai men are stingy and Shanghai women are picky. You think all Shanghainese are rich, but actually many locals are poor. Shanghainese can't afford the skyrocketing house prices in Shanghai. Shanghainese never look down on outsiders … We should speak Shanghai dialect. Shanghainese are excellent. If you don't like Shanghai you can leave." At the end I said, "I love Shanghai", in English. I rapped in my dialect.

I haven't been able to find a copy of "Shanghainese are Excellent" on the web.

Chinese linguistic diversity has negative aspects for Shou as well, it seems:

Q: Are you in contact with rap fans in other cities?

A: Yes, we chat on the internet. Rap is not so popular on the mainland and most people regard it as a musical form that is used to quarrel and say dirty words. The biggest difficulty constraining the spread of rap in mainland China is the fact that there are numerous dialects and people in one place can't understand a rap song sung in another dialect. I think highly of Hong Kong rapper Jin Au-yang, but I can't appreciate his songs because they are in Cantonese.

For an analysis of a rap performance in Beijing Mandarin, see Victor Mair's "Real BeijingeRs", 2/25/2009.


  1. Twitter Trackbacks for Language Log » 80 Wake Up [upenn.edu] on Topsy.com said,

    October 3, 2010 @ 12:48 am

    […] Language Log » 80 Wake Up languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2680 – view page – cached Alice Yan, "Singing the praises of mainland rap", South China Morning Post, Tweets about this link […]

  2. Will said,

    October 3, 2010 @ 1:16 am

    My comment here has little to do with Chinese dialects or language in general — I have absolutely no detailed knowledge of Chinese or any of its dialects. But I still love how universal Shou Junchao's message is. Even translated, it's obvious that the social language issues that Chinese people face are for the most part the same as the social language issues that Americans face. To me, that universality is meaningful.

  3. SteveT said,

    October 3, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

    Although I don't speak Mandarin, I do know that http://www.youku.com is China's version of youtube. Perhaps a search on there will yield the song?

  4. Fluxor said,

    October 4, 2010 @ 12:41 am

    Googled his name along with word 'Shanghai' (all in Chinese) and the song popped up near the top.

    Here's the song Shanghainese are Excellent. Lyrics are right below the song, which is a combination of Shanghainese and Mandarin.

  5. perspectivehere said,

    October 4, 2010 @ 12:53 am

    Great post and made me think of this:

    Professor of Mambo
    Robert Farris Thompson—Master T—teaches “the black aesthetic of the cool.”
    July/August 2010
    by Cathy Shufro

    Cathy Shufro is a writing tutor and lecturer in the Department of English

    "Imagine what you hear, art historian Robert Farris Thompson tells the students in his course on New York mambo, when you arrive from the Eighth Galaxy to inspect Planet Earth.

    “You hear drumming in Africa, you hear hip-hop in Chicago, you hear jazz in New Orleans, samba in Brazil, and mambo—everywhere.” Thompson ’55, ’65PhD, pitches his voice higher: “Your Highness! We have discovered life on this planet. And judging from the noise they are making, they are baaaad.”

    In short: you hear blackness.

    Thompson as lecturer is “kind of like Jack Kerouac crossed with John Coltrane.”

    “Black music controls the airwaves of this planet. How did that happen? Let’s sample a little of the blackness of the airwaves.” Thompson slides a CD into the boom box: John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass. The saxophone surges, and Thompson calls out: “Say it, Coltrane! Say it! We’re waiting for you: say it, brother!” Next comes samba, then mambo—“¡Ya! ¡Arriba!” Thompson shouts. He begins to dance along, pale and a bit stiff-jointed in his button-down shirt and tie, khaki pants, and cloth belt decorated with nautical flags.

    Thompson roams the lecture hall, microphone in hand. “How do black musicians manage to do this—bing! bing!—conquer the whole planet?” he asks. “It’s because black music has a few secret weapons, among them multiple meter, that is to say, several time signatures at once. It modulates from rhythm to rhythm, just as we change keys.

    “Multi-metric means multi-drums. Now how can you dance to that? The second great secret weapon is that different parts of the body move in different rhythms. Multiple meter demands mastery of self.” Self-mastery requires coolness, not only in the heat of the dance, but as a way of life: “The highest value is reconciliation and generosity, to be at ease, to settle quarrels. Tranquility of mind. To be cool, wet, and silent. When you hear ‘chill,’ you’re in the black aesthetic of the cool.”

    Now 77, Thompson has spent his life exploring the art of Africa and the African diaspora. In his teaching and books, Thompson demonstrates how the traditions of the Yoruba, Kongo, Mande, Ejagham, Igbo, and other civilizations have permeated and enlivened cultural life on this side of the Atlantic, from Brazil to Cuba to New York—the place he calls “the secret African city.”

    Thompson’s central contribution to his field has been his insistence on understanding African art in context, understanding what it communicates on its home turf. Because of Thompson’s keen interest in context, his take on art history encompasses not only visual art and architecture, but also anthropology, language, religion, ethnomusicology, dance history, and philosophy….

    Thompson wants his students to recognize how aspects of African cultures infuse not only the music, art, and dance of the Americas, but also philosophy, religious practice, textile design, everyday gestures, and even vocabulary as quotidian as Uh-huh (yes) and Unh-unh (no). According to David Doris ’02PhD, a professor of African art history at the University of Michigan, “He coined the term that became prevalent in academia: ‘Black Atlantic.’” Says Thompson, “We can’t know how American we are unless we know how black we are.”

    The rest is here:

    "Mainland rap" is another sign that the African "black aesthetic of the cool" is rooting itself in China mainstream youth culture (after having already taken over the youth culture of the Philippines, South Korea and other assorted places in Asia).

    Now that's baaaad!

  6. Nat Hillard said,

    October 4, 2010 @ 1:02 am

    Here's his song "Shanghainese are Excellent":
    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/BUUaQnEGHJE/ (just MP3)
    Its Shanghainese title is《上海宁灵光》. I do not speak Shanghainese (only Mandarin), but from forum comments I discovered that 宁 is the dialectical equivalent of 人 (people). Particularly of note here is "灵光", which "excellent" doesn't really do justice to. It means "marvelous light", and is used to refer to the particular halo of Chinese deities. A more accurate title is therefore "There is about the people of Shanghai a resplendent halo".

    Here is a Baidu MP3 search for his Chinese name, 寿君超 , yielding a few more songs:

    Thanks for bringing him to our attention! Linguistic diversity in China is an always-interesting topic, as is Chinese rap. Together, even moreso!

  7. Fluxor said,

    October 4, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

    @Nat Hillard: I think you're reading too much into 灵光 in this instance. More often that not, it just means "good", "useful" or "effective". Thus, "excellent" is a perfectly fine translation.

  8. Eric said,

    October 5, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    FWIW, Jin's romanized name is Jin Au-Yeung – that article has this sort of horrible bastardized half-pinyin orthography. His name would be pronounced Ōuyáng Jìng in Mandarin.

    And he's not a Hong Kong rapper. He's a Miami rapper who stays in Hong Kong.

  9. Soren Bliefnick said,

    October 11, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

    What's odd to me is that the two songs in the video at the top of the page, and the "Shanghainese are Excellent" song that Nat Hillard linked to are all Eminem songs stripped of his lyrics and replaced with Shou Junchao's.

    The first you can hear is "Just Lose It": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dcVOmEQzKA.

    The second is "Sing for the Moment": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4hAVemuQXY.

    And "Shanghainese are Excellent" is "Lose Yourself": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_FzrqxfZ9U.

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