Nathaniel Davis

Nathaniel Davis

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Sonic Spirituals

Posted by Nathaniel Davis on 8. Mar 2010

Ed: Nathaniel Davis has 12 years in China, is *trying to be* fluent in Mandarin and has been working on both large and small live music events in China for the duration. He stumbled into the music industry in 2001 via organizing a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF. He booked his first Grammy Award-winning artist, kd lang, in 2002 in Shanghai.

Nathaniel cut his entrepreneurial teeth on a Beijing-based event production and technical services company, producing and managing China shows for acts such as Norah Jones, Zheng Jun and Alicia Keys.

He is also an experienced commentator on China's music industry and has been asked to speak at conferences and festivals such as Oya Festival (Oslo 2009) and Transmit China (Beijing 2009).


Ziyo (Free the Birds): It All Starts Going Down

I first saw Ziyo play live in 2004. Since then there has been a demo CD, an EP for Warner Records, the addition of a lead guitarist and a complete reinvention and name change. I have always been a fan: Helen could always sing and Mao Mao is an amazing drummer. Their development has been an interesting one to watch.

Oddly enough, I think it perhaps because of Helen's side project Pet Conspiracy that Ziyo has actually come into their own. Perhaps it was the overflow of energy sparked by the creative tension with Pet Conspiracy's guitarist/keyboardist Huzi that has led Helen and Ziyo in other engaging directions.

The new demos all have great potential. My favorite is this tune and it is 100% better live, where the song often goes off in experimental directions for ten minutes or longer. Do yourself a favor and go see their next show...


P.K. 14: 北方的靈歌 (Northern Spiritual)

Not sure why, but this is one of my favorite P.K. 14 songs ever, taken from their latest album 城市天气的航行, City Weather Sailing. Xu Bo develops a great hook in the evocative intro and the song then devolves into a slow, driving serious rock song with Teacher Yang (pictured above) yelping about we're not sure exactly what -- looking to the sky, going home but getting lost, rays of light and finding your destination.

I spent two weeks on tour with P.K. 14 in 2008 and heard this song every night. Every night I looked forward to it, there is a real emotion emanating from it that causes pause.


Zhang Guonian: 只有我 (Have Only Me)

I discovered this folk singer through MicroMu. I am not sure how they found him, but I am glad they did. He recorded a tidy 4-song EP which was released in March 2009 and available by clicking the above link.

I am not sure which is my favorite song, I listen to them all constantly with equal hope that more songs are on the way. Split Works took ZGN to Tianjin this past summer to play a show, which was mesmerizing. Have a listen.


Kelsang Chukie Tethong: 嗡马尼贝美牛 (Om Ma Nye Bhe Mae Hum)

I first heard this Tibetan folk singer, considered to be the finest folk singer of her generation, in Bai Feng's cafe at Houhai on a winter morning in 2006. Her album Voices of Tara has never left my playlist. An amazing voice.


Kurt the Ripper: YYT (Livehouse Serial Killer)

At the moment I am really into DIY artists who are posting their music on douban.com. Most of it is completely rough and unpolished, but the creativity is there and it is refreshing to see.

Props to Douban for providing this platform for emerging artists. We have booked opening acts for our shows that we found on Douban (Silkfloss, for one). I came across Kurt the Ripper on recommendation from one of our staff in Shanghai. "Kurt" is a friend of his who has thrown up a murderous little electronic homage to the live clubs in Shanghai. Pretty cool.


JUE | Music + Art 2010, a creative festival organized by Split Works, kicks off on Thurs, Mar 11 at D-22. Featuring over 70 events spread over four dozen art galleries, live music venues, theaters and studios in Beijing and Shanghai, it is one of this country's most ambitious odes to independent creative culture to date.

Image: P.K. 14 vocalist Yang Haisong; courtesy of Flickr user gregoryperez through Creative Commons.




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