Anyone who’s not experienced the time-and-space disruption of jet lag will probably tell you that it’s all in your head and you should just buck up and get back to work. But if you’ve ever experienced massive longitudinal displacement over a short period of time understand that the physical, mental and emotional effects are quite real. Having just returned from the far side of the planet — 12 full time zones away from my natural reality — I can once again vouch that jet lag is very, very real.
So before I completely lose it — it’ll take a few more days for my body and mind to re-sync — here’s what I found on my musical reconnaissance mission through Southeast Asia.
There isn’t much of a rock scene, yet: Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are mostly about pop music, ballads and love songs. Rock scenes do exist, but they tend to be small, insular and confined to tiny clubs. That being said, they’re learning fast. I found several bands, including A Vacant Affair who could find an audience in the West with fans who like Alexisonfire.
Bootlegging is rampant: Indonesia is especially rife with piracy, although there is a legitimate industry there as well. Superman is Dead sounds like a slightly slicker NOFX. (Interesting note: Many Indonesian record stores still stock pre-recorded cassettes.)
There’s no place for big bands to play in Hong Kong: There are some outdoor venues, but stringent noise bylaws get in the way. They once tried an experiment where everyone was given gloves to mute the applause and headphones so that the PA didn’t have to be too loud. Oddly, that didn’t work.
Want alternative and metal? Try Beijing: You’ll find some pretty fierce stuff being played right under the noses of the Party bosses in Tiananmen Square. The music is loud and very, very angry. Many bands sing in Mandarin or Cantonese, but they get the message across.
And don’t forget Malaysia: Call it the Linkin Park Effect. They’re huge draws in places like Kuala Lumpur and have obviously been inspiring to a good number of local musicians.
If you ever find yourself in Hong Kong, check out a store called Rendezvous Records in Star House (right across from the Star Ferry docks in Kowloon). Staff is very helpful and the store’s import selection is excellent.
– The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read more at ongoinghistory.com and exploremusic.com