Welcome to the Jungle: the local event brand shaping China’s flourishing electronic music culture

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Welcome to the Jungle: the local event brand shaping China’s flourishing electronic music culture8

The air at China’s Electric Jungle music festival is rife with more than just thick blankets of meandering cigarette smoke. The untethered Chinese electronic festival goers beam with the enthusiasm of a culture not yet jaded by the “put-your-fucking-hands-up” of it all. 

China’s sprawling electronic music scene, while invariably unique (despite Western influences), follows the traditional counter-culture-becomes-the-culture plot. Among the local efforts to secure dance music widespread recognition, Jungle Events is most notable for working, not just to throw sensational, world-class festivals with the most sought-after electronic acts, but to promote camaraderie among its supporters.

“Jungle is one of the only domestic festival brands in China. The team is made up of Chinese ravers who want to establish a community of ravers in China, not just throw festivals,” says Chinese trance titan and perennial Jungle billing, Luminn, echoing the company’s distinct ethos.

Signed to Armin van Buuren’s army of global trance talent, Armada, Luminn (real name, JunLiang Fan) speaks ambivalently towards the influx of foreign festival brands embedding themselves in the Chinese market. As the first Chinese artist to secure a clean sweep of spots on the Ultra, EDC, and TRANSMISSION lineups, he posits with authority: Jungle stands out. 

It’s simple enough. The Chinese want to go to raves thrown by Chinese ravers. That’s not to say international muscle hasn’t amassed a robust following in recent years. Ultra China’s first swing in 2017 drew over 40,000 awestruck attendees to its inaugural weekend in Shanghai. The goliath outfits also make an effort to book domestic talent. EDC China’s official flyer from last year sprinkled the hometown heroes alphabetically alongside Alison Wonderland, Disclosure, and the lot—same-size font and all. 

“Rave:” an antiquated term on US or European soil. But inside China’s cocktail of fresh-faced organizers and authorities privy to the most arbitrary whims (event permits count for little), the tired term has earned its wings here. Even the most meticulously planned festival is an inspired act of valor for the Chinese—clandestine warehouse setting be damned. 

KSHMR, born Niles Hollowell-Dhar, reckons he’s performed in China more than any other country outside the US. Resting on the upper-most echelons of both the international big-room scene and Jungle’s most recent lineup, the California native revels in the laundry-fresh feel of China’s developing dance scene.  

“They are probably the most enthusiastic of any fanbase that I have around the world—showing up at the airports when I arrive, and even at the hotels,” says KSHMR. “There’s a vigor and a zeal to the Chinese people that I feel it’s a shame that a lot of the world doesn’t understand.”

Once the effects of the awe-inducing elixir comprised of Skrillex, REZZ, and Martin Garrix, (just a few of Jungle’s other active ingredients) subsides, we remember Jungle 2018’s auspicious undercard. Radiating sweet heat akin to her effervescent live sets is DJ Lizzy. Chinese-turned-New-Jersey-native, Lizzy Wang was the first female Chinese DJ to book a slot at Ultra. Inspirited by Newark’s omnipresent hip-hop culture, Wang started making music to relate to her more rambunctious American peers. Like a video-game heroine, she began unlocking levels of newfound confidence with every DIY production skill acquired from days spent poring over YouTube tutorials.

Wang attributes Jungle’s loyal following to its keen and ever-domestic ear. 

“[The Jungle Team] cares about what the Chinese ravers want to see on a lineup,” says Wang. “It’s about more than selling tickets.” 

Both the Jungle founders, a collective of former University of Southern California transfer students, and Chinese EDM at large, owe at least their root infrastructure to dance music conventions from the states; though what’s evolved since their most nascent notions of EDM world-building is unmistakably domestic. Luminn observes the recent rush of Chinese producers opting to include Mandarin and Cantonese lyrics in their tracks. 

As with nearly any art form, there is a degree of reciprocity inherent in Eastern and Western influences that travels through the global dance music scene. Just before his Saturday performance at Jungle’s most recent installment, globetrotting English-born, part-Chinese trap talent, TroyBoi spoke of his manifold use of Asian instrumentation in his productions (“KinjaBang” and “Souls,” are two of the starkest examples).

“I like to create a worldly sound, with an electronic/hip-hop backbone to it that will translate wherever I play,” he says. “It gives me an edge when I come to tour in places like China.”

In comparison to TroyBoi, the LA-based Drezo was one of the most unanticipated additions to the 2018 lineup. Sporting visuals suited for a biopic on Satan himself, and a nefariously pulsing electro/house sound to match, Drezo’s performance was certainly liable to send Jungle patrons into a head-scratching frenzy. Instead, Drezo’s prescribed dose of strange was just what Saturday’s Bass Stage ordered, accruing a commendable crowd that was as excited as it was confounded.

“Something about the atmosphere here reminds me of the [US] scene around 2011,” says Drezo just after his set. “They go crazy for everything.”

Repeat Jungle dignitary, Terry Zhong, a recent grad of Boston’s Berklee College of Music cites Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga’s blurring the lines of pop and dance music as a vessel for EDM’s Chinese infiltration. The Insomniac talent began fine-tuning his piano prowess at the age of five—since then cracking a sundry of local lineups, including EDC Guangdong, as well as prominent bookings throughout the domestic club circuit. 

“[The Chinese] are trying to emulate what’s happening in the US,” says Zhong. “But now we’re starting to grow our own dance scene, to find a Chinese PLUR.”

Sound familiar? 


China’s Electric Jungle festival co-founder, Boyi Zhou, talks dance music culture, obstacles, and the wild time yet to come [Q&A]

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China’s Electric Jungle festival co-founder, Boyi Zhou, talks dance music culture, obstacles, and the wild time yet to come [Q&A]9 1 1

For the past few years, Boyi Zhou and his Jungle Events team have been toiling away, trying to carve out a vivacious, unfettered space in the Chinese event circuit for electronic dance music. While Zhou, the event brand’s marketing manager, and his team have tried to emulate a lot of the underground dance music culture they were indoctrinated into while studying abroad in LA, there is much about their nook of the EDM continuum that is inherently Chinese.

This month (Dec 8-9), Zhou and the Jungle Events team will return with another installment of what is now the largest dance music festival in all of China, Electric Jungle, projected to attract over 60,000 attendees. The team is combining its Goliath headliners, Skrillex and Martin Garrix, with a sundry of international, nuanced talent, like REZZ, Drezo, TroyBoi, and Illenium–just to name a few.

Like many electronic fests in the US, the Foshan Chuanlord Tourism & Leisure EXPO resort-residing Electric Jungle will be broken off into meticulously curated stages, including a Berlin-nightclub-themed techno stage, a bass stage, which will receive a one-day Monstercat makeover, and of course, a main stage. Zhou says, that while the nature of the festival may be unorthodox, especially within its respective culture, organizers want to preserve authentic Chinese tradition while on their home turf, wielding ancient Chinese monsters as a motif throughout festival grounds.

Also quite like in the US, festival organizers must fiercely delegate with local authorities to gain the privileges necessary for throwing an event of this scale–though, for Zhou and co., this is a much weightier burden. Standing on the precipice of, what is for the Chinese, still such an underground culture, the local government still doesn’t fully fathom Jungle Events and their counterparts’ intentions; though, Zhou says, that’s beginning to change. Zhou sat down with Dancing Astronaut to talk about not only how he’s mediating these profound obstacles, but also his initial infatuation with the LA “rave” scene, launching one of the first Chinese-language dance music blogs, and his observations of the Chinese electronic festival circuit at large.

Tickets to Electric Jungle as well as additional festival info can be found here.

How did the idea for the festival come about?

I was attending college in the US living in LA for six years and I went to a lot of raves. So I started a blog, Jungle EDM, one of the first all-Chinese electronic music blogs. Soon I had over 10,000 followers. Back then there were no blogs about electronic dance music in China. And there were no Chinese materials for translation. So I was the first one to translate all of the English dance music materials to Chinese. When I graduated, I came back to China and started my own festivals.

Can you compare the underground dance music scene you were indoctrinated into in LA to that of China?

I wouldn’t say it’s the same at all, but it’s growing really fast. In America basically, dance culture is the pop culture. But in China it’s a sub-genre or subculture of all other music genres.

Who are some of the biggest influencers in growing China’s dance music scene?

I would say the newer festivals, and the nightclubs. The nightclubs are doing really well. They’re hosting a lot of foreign artists bringing the culture to China.

Tell me about your Jungle team?

So the original founders are all from California. We all went to the same school. We met there. We all went to the community college first in Santa Monica and we transferred to different schools, but when we all came back to China, we decided to make the festival.

What do you predict your greatest challenge to be in executing a successful Electric Jungle this year?

Probably getting certain permits. It’s really strict in China. You can not go ’til after 10 pm, the curfew time. And the production is limited. You can not use certain effects like fireworks, or any variation of fire. Also, the audience capacity limits are very strict.

How are you guys working to mediate those issues?

Well, when we first came here to do this in China, the government didn’t really understand us. It’s getting better now. We are taking special precautions and working with the government to try to clear up the discord. They are trying to work with us and are working on giving us a little more room, so that we can ensure the production and safety are up to our standards.

Can you tell me about what your intentions were with lineup curation?

A lot of them fit the marketing needs. We selected a lot of the artists from the data analysis, from the stream players. In addition to them and the artists the founders selected for personal preference, there is also a lot of local talent. We are trying very hard to promote them. Those artists have a great advantage with the local demographic because of the language. A lot of the local artists are using Chinese language to make their songs, and they have their own fans.

Can you tell me about the theme and location of the festival?

It’s right next to Guangzhou. It’s the center of the Guangdong area: just one province in China. The benefits would be that it’s not the biggest city, so the restrictions are less. It’s close to the two biggest cities in China. Transportation and hospitality are a disadvantage, less hotels and trains, etc. It’s a small city to us, but would be relatively big in the US. I would say it’s something like Seattle. The festival will be held at a resort, complete with a theme park, mini zoo, and a hotel with a restaurant. We’re doing the festival in the parking, given its considerable size.

*This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.

Electric Jungle Music Festival unveils full lineup for 2018 edition, featuring headliners Skrillex and Martin Garrix

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Electric Jungle Music Festival unveils full lineup for 2018 edition, featuring headliners Skrillex and Martin Garrix1 1

With weeks of building anticipation, China’s inaugural Electric Jungle Music Festival has released their full lineup, calling in international favorites Skrillex and Martin Garrix to headline the fourth edition of the annual festival. Hosted within the province of Guangzhou, the festival has found its home within the Chuanlord Tourism & Leisure Expo Park, where attendees can expect an indulgence of top-tier talent and a tailored carnival experience.

With an estimated 60,000 attendees set to flood into the park over the course of December 8-9, Electric Jungle is set to transform the park and readily offer an influx of sights and activities like amusement rides, sensory mobile games and an exotic zoo. In working towards creating an unforgettable experience, the founding team has promised three unprecedented themed stages with the help of Skrillex’s production team for the respective main stage, bass, and techno acts.

While placing a heavy emphasis on the lineup curation, Electric Jungle dually focuses on hosting a vast selection of artistry, along with creating outstanding, inaugural experiences within Asia’s dance music community. The 2018 edition will see hardstyle duo Project One‘s first slated show in China and a first-time Monstercat-hosted stage, amidst a multitude of special touches to enhance the overall atmosphere.

Electric Jungle Music Festival unveils full lineup for 2018 edition, featuring headliners Skrillex and Martin Garrix11

GA and VIP tickets are available online.