Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zhege...he nege...Financial Crisis

My MBA group is in Financial Management class right now. Good professor, interesting material. The class is approximately half Chinese, half expats from around the world.

I love listening to the different discussions. It's now breaktime and I just told the classmates sitting and chatting behind me how much I enjoy hearing long streams of Chinese broken up by financial terms in English.

Zhege..(Chinese, Chinese, Chinese) discount rate....(Chinese, Chinese, Chinese) financial crisis....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cold and Colder

Winter is here, and Beijing has been cold enough to keep all but the hardiest and most well insulated Beijingers indoors recently. My apartment is well-heated (thank you to the Soviet building engineers and builders who put up the five story complex in the 1960s), and I can sit indoors in a tank top and shorts while watching people shiver in their jackets outside.

Tomorrow morning I'll leave my warm cocoon to head further north, up near the border to Siberia, to Harbin - a city known for its brutal winters. My friends and I plan to see classical Russian architecture, visit a Siberian tiger preserve, drink vodka and take part in the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, an annual event featuring full-sized buildings designed out of blocks of ice lit from within.

Hand and footwarmers are already packed. Several are located in my carry-on bag so that I can access them easily before we leave the plane on our arrival.

Girl Kill Girls and Sainkho Namtchylak

Girl Kill Girls are an all-girl Chinese rock group, and Sainkho Namchylak is a 50-something singer with a seven-octave range who is a world renowned throat singer from Tuva. Last night Girl Kill Girls opened for Sainkho at Yugong Yishan, a popular Beijing nightspot where I've gone in the past for film screenings and parties with DJs I know, to a crowd made up mostly of Chinese fans.

Girl Kill Girls have a strong stage presence and play well with and off of one another. The three young women are all professionals, their music has a lot of energy and it was easy to imagine them filling larger houses. Lyrics were in both Chinese and a heavily accented and at times difficult to understand English. Their music has influences of Boston area girl-groups the Breeders and Belly, and at times they were reminiscent of the Bangles or Shonen Knife.

With a career spanning decades that has taken her around the world, Sainkho is a down-to-earth matriarch in whose glow the entire audience basked. She started her performance with some traditional throat singing, reminiscent of what you've heard on NPR in the past, then moved into a blend of throat singing and vocalization using her entire vocal range, with instrumentalization provided by a young male accompaniest/DJ working from a MacBook and a turntable. At times her music felt like it came straight from a rave hall, at other times it was out of a dream. The crowd loved it and demostrated their appreciation through enthusiastic applause, which is rare here.