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Chinese artists add more spice to US musical melting pot

By Chris Kudialis | China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-05 10:31
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My daily commute to work in my previous home of Las Vegas, Nevada, used to go something like this:

I'd hop in my car, get stuck in traffic after just a couple minutes of driving, then flick on the radio to pass the next 20 minutes before I arrived at the office.

The music that blared from my car's speakers was almost always the same. It was an upbeat mix of Top 40, hip-hop, country and even Spanish-speaking reggaeton.

Enjoyable? Yes. Repetitive? Not really. There was enough variety to keep my playlist fresh and my ears pleased.

For a while, at least.

About three years after I moved to Las Vegas and started my daily commute, a new sound caught my attention as I scanned through the stations on the FM dial.

It was during the summer of 2018. The chorus hit my ears just as I was thinking I could use some new music.

"Dui ni xin tiao de gan ying;

Hai shi ru ci wen re qin jin."

I didn't understand the lyrics, so I pulled out my phone. I fired up an app that identifies music and turned the volume up.

A song called Ye Qu (Nocturne) by an artist named Zhou Jielun (Jay Chou).

Interesting, I thought. I could tell the song was in Chinese, but I had no idea what it was saying. And no idea that a local audience existed for such music.

Before long, I was part of that audience. The music was catchy and fun. And a welcome addition to my daily playlist.

The Chinese music station stayed on the air for the last two years I lived in Las Vegas, before I moved to Beijing. By the time I left Nevada, I had become a fan of Jay Chou and other Chinese artists whose music flowed through the local airwaves, including Lay Zhang, Joker Xue and Cui Jian.

While driving in Florida over Thanksgiving, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Jay Chou on the radio again. Not in Las Vegas, where thousands of Chinese-born and Chinese-American residents live. But in a rural area called Lake City, where that demographic accounts for less than 200 people.

And then again recently in Marietta, a medium-sized suburban city of about 60,000 people, some 1,500 of whom are of Chinese descent.

I mention this experience because it's fascinating to see how Chinese music has spread across my home country. It has become popular for both Chinese people and US citizens alike.

Until a couple of years ago, I had never heard a Chinese song played on American radio. Now, I hear them pretty much everywhere I go in my native country. It's a great addition to the bountiful options we have in the US-a nice dose of Eastern flavor into our wonderful melting pot of cultures from across the world.

Who knew such cool music came from China? As information and culture spreads faster than ever across the globe, one thing is likely: future generations of Americans will consider Chinese music as normal as my generation already considers music in Spanish.

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