FIFI RONG’S “AWAKE”: THERAPEUTIC HYBRID ELECTRONICA
“A bit of an alien, but not in a bad way”. This is how London-via-Beijing singer-songwriter and electronic music producer Fifi Rong described the general perception of her at SXSW 2017. (Her trip to Austin was supported by the PRS Foundation’s International Showcase Fund). Her ability to meld disparate influences – traditional and ppopular Chinese music and British electronica – has captivated fans in her homeland and abroad, with each audience latching on to what they perceive as exotic:
“English people understand that hint of something that comes from outside, but essentially my music is very rooted in the British electronic sound … [Chinese people] quite naturally feel close to the sound because it reminds them of some old Chinese stuff, maybe, or some popular Chinese stuff. But there’s a lot of things that they don’t know, that comes from the outside, because nobody else makes this kind of sound. They like the western part of me. ”
After collaborations with trip-hop legend Tricky, grime artist Skepta and Swiss electronic duo Yello, Rong is ready to continue juxtaposing uptempo hybrid electronica with poetic self-examination. The artwork for her upcoming new EP Awake (23rd February 2018) departs from her usual mode of self-presentation (which she described as “a blend of ancient Chinese style, modernized with some kind of twist”) for an edgier modern minimalism. The artistic inspiration she draws from Chinese culture (prior to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, that is) is nevertheless discernible in her poetic lyricism: ‘Loneliness taste good/ Randomly I split in two/ I paint my memories in blue/ No matter what I will get through’.
The message of perseverance in the face of personal adversity is as old as time, creating a spellbinding contrast with the song’s futuristic vocal and sonic effects. The digital ultimately serves as a conduit for the organic (Rong’s delicate vocals and the song’s arresting melody). Rong has described the EP as being about a personal enlightenment of sorts: “waking up to the truth after you have hypnotised yourself and deconstructing the paradoxes of human nature: subordination and rebellion, pain and joy, self-limitation and liberation”. Whether in an avant-garde milieu or not, we all ultimately hope to be in command of our emotional trajectory.
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