ChaCha Yehaiyahan, one of China’s top turntablists.

Music to get you through social isolation, from Chinese jazz to hip-hop

Apr 03, 2020

A selection of chill music by Chinese artists, curated by our team of writers and producers.

If you’re like many of us, you’re probably working from home and trying to stay productive while your cat tries to climb on top of your laptop.

But whatever your home environment is like, one way to get through this coronavirus crisis is chill beats.

Our team of writers and producers have compiled Spotify playlists of music by artists we’ve covered on Goldthread.

From the smooth sounds of Chinese jazz—inspired by the soundtrack of Crazy Rich Asians—to the latest in Chinese hip-hop, here are some tunes to get you through these tough times.

East Coast: The Best of Chinese Hip-Hop

China’s hip-hop scene has exploded in recent years, with artists like trap juggernauts Higher Brothers breaking into the West.

We did a seven-part series about Chinese hip-hop called East Coast last year, and our producer Hanley Chu has compiled a playlist of music from the featured artists.

There are some of the Higher Brothers’ biggest hits, as well as bilingual tracks by Chinese-American wunderkind Bohan Phoenix and low-fi beats by homegrown legend Jony J.

By the way, if you’re wondering why the playlist is called East Coast, read about the series here. And if you haven’t seen the videos, check them out on YouTube.

Crazy Rich Jazz: Retro Hits Inspired by the Motion Picture

Remember the jazzy opening in the 2018 rom-com Crazy Rich Asians? The song that plays over the opening credits is Jasmine Chen’s performance of “Waiting For Your Return”—which was originally a traditional Chinese folk melody, but arranged in a big-band swing style for the film by veteran composer Christopher Tin (of “Baba Yetu” fame).

There’s a lot of Chinese jazz in Crazy Rich Asians, and it’s what gives the film its distinct flavor.

Jazz first came to China in the early 20th century and quickly became popular in cosmopolitan cities. American expats performed jazz in Shanghai in the 1920s, and all-Chinese bands began emerging in the 1940s.

For more about the history of Chinese jazz, check out this piece by Cherie Hu. The playlist of Chinese jazz was also curated by her.

The Best of Chinese Electronica

Some of today’s most exciting electronic music is coming out of China.

Big cities are home to thriving underground scenes, and independent labels are sending artists to festivals around the world.

Core to the identity of Chinese electronica is the country’s rapid economic development. Songs interrogate the contradiction between nostalgia for the past and embrace of the future.

Cherie Hu has compiled a playlist of some of the most innovative electronic music from China.

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