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JIHU Bridges East and West with Contemporary R&B

Rising singer-songwriter fuses Yi language, Han lyricism, and sounds of nature in new single

Slathered in silky harmonics and cavernous reverb, “No Wifi,” a gorgeous new single released by JIHU (吉胡) on July 29, seems to plant the up-and-coming singer-songwriter firmly in the contemporary R&B world.

With a voice that wouldn’t be out of place on a K-Pop record, JIHU’s penchant for cinematic risers and deft penmanship, combined with tasteful production by producer duo Derrick Sepnio and Fergus Chow (the team behind such names as Sandy Lam, Karen Mok, Khalil Fong, and A-Lin) already puts his single “NO WIFI” in a class above most contemporary pop in China.

And yet, what truly sets JIHU apart from others in his field is his wide-reaching musical aesthetic: his work often includes select spoken word and even the tribal singing of his cultural heritage, the Yi people of Liangshan, Sichuan province. Indeed, his widely-acclaimed first feature length album Part of JIHU (《彝部分》) released in May of 2020, is a cinematic ode that stretches and fuses together styles and worlds beyond the scope of what popular music would normally allow. Part of JIHU is a treat for the ears that both sparkles and teases with its playful melodies and interspersed casual conversation, while still packing a sonic punch with liberal use of the 808 electronic drum kits most often found in trap music.

“With Part of JIHU we were very much obsessed with the idea of fusing the natural and the popular," JIHU writes in an email to TWOC, explaining that "natural" refers to the environment and "popular" refers to music. "Whether urban R&B, folk, hip-hop or even cinematic film scores, we would try to integrate those ideas with the Yi minority culture and the sounds of nature.”

NO WIFI by JIHU

“NO WIFI” by JIHU (Douban)

“No Wifi”  finds itself leaning further towards an international contemporary Urban style of composition and writing than some of his previous work in Part of JIHU. More atmospheric and wide open, JIHU maintains a firm footing in Mandarin-language pop. It is a song that bridges worlds:

There’s no WIFI here, only a sort of romance;

这里没有Wifi, 只有一种浪漫;

Set apart from the noise, it’s where love is free to be.

隔绝噪音事外,爱在这里才自由自在。

Forgetting the frustrations of the world in the gentle night of the mountains,

大山温柔的夜,忘掉烦恼世界,

Love lasts here in any season, unchanged.

无论哪个季节,爱在这里才恒久不变。

While certain underground musicians and artists aim for non-conformity to any particular genre as a goal, it’s clear that JIHU is interested in just the opposite. His musical vision is all-encompassing, aiming to bridge disparate or even opposing concepts within his music: Han Chinese lyricism coupled with the pastoral Yi language, the natural with the metropolitan. When it all comes together, his elegant pastiche of influences just might give new life to the age-old cliché of “East meets West.” “Even though the city and valley are far apart,” JIHU writes, “there is most definitely a way for them to come together, and in my musical world, they do indeed coexist.”

"No Wifi" is a single off JIHU’s new 12-song follow-up album JIHU Story(《彝人彝事》), slated for release on all platforms this October.

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author

Terence Hsieh is a writer, musical producer, and band leader formerly based in Beijing, now Taiwan due to COVID restrictions. Formerly an editor at TWOC, Hsieh now is a freelance musician and producer in the Chinese pop music industry. He has toured with Karen Mok (莫文蔚), Tia Ray (袁娅维), Alin (黄丽玲), and Tan Weiwei (谭维维), and leads the five time Golden Melody Award-nominated, instrumental deathpop band The Spice Cabinet (五香放克乐团). His interests include culture, music, art, philosophy, and all things culinary.

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