Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Stratification of Jazz Listeners in China
After playing jazz here in Chengdu for nearly a year I've noticed that there are three general groups when it comes to the appreciation of jazz music. The first, and admittedly most fun group to play for, is the Lao Wai, or foreigner. Although meeting an actual jazz fan is rare amongst this group, I imagine the music induces a feeling of nostalgia or at least an escape from the nauseating Chinese pop music that can be found in most establishments. The second group is the educated, middle to upper class Chinese. This group is the most confusing to me. They usually still love their Chinese pop, yet are willing to tolerate jazz, although they don't necessarily understand or even like it. Some however will say that the music makes them "comfortable." The final group is the middle to lower class Chinese. Some of the "Lao Wai" gigs we play are targeted towards this group, and it's amazing how quickly jazz can take a smile off a person's face. I have a picture I will try to upload of the audience at one of these particular shows. Every single person has either a digusted or perplexed look- and that's the few people who remained after the music began. Why are we continually hired to perform this type of gig? I'm not so sure. Of course there are outliers and exceptions, such as the jazz-loving music student, or the nescient foreigner, but for the most part interest in jazz is pretty stratified along these lines. I've heard that different personality traits will lead a person to be more inclined to like particular types of music, but I find the reaction to jazz interesting. The divide along social lines, and the wide spectrum concerning level of interest seems pretty unique. I guess I could see this applying to classical music as well. I haven't put too much thought into the implications- anyone have any ideas?