CHINABOT, Pan-Asianness in experimental music
Formed out of necessity, Chinabot is a growing platform and collective with a mission to change the dialogue surrounding Asian music within the experimental music genre. With a lack of exposure of Asian artists pursuing contemporary experimental music, Chinabot is a testament to the growing number of Asians who are entering this world. Starting with just four members (Saphy Vong, Jae Ho, Sabiwa, Pisitakun) the platform has grown to over 30 artists experimenting in sound from all over the world. This rising number of growth has been a result of
Although many artists in Chinabot identify with their Asian heritage that does not mean they are completely isolated to Asia. Artists such as Saphy and Jae Ho are of Asian descent yet choose to have their HQ in London. As Chinabot has rallied around the familiar sense of community among Asian artists, Chinabot has become an exemplar of minorities representing the avant-garde. Especially concerned with the portrayal of the Asian culture and Asian identity, Chinabot does well to bring a diversity of musical experiences and go against feeding a single image of what Asian music is or can be.
Often within the backdrop of a glitchy aesthetic, many of
Although Chinabot is, in essence, a group of friends and like-minded individuals who are keen on collaborating with each other, somehow their effect seems to leaves a much larger footprint than just that. Chinabot challenges the paradigm that globalized music, even in the underground scene, does not need to originate from a Berlin, London, or Paris, and that music with cultural roots (not borrowed) have a place to stay. Looking toward the future, Chinabot seems poised to become a beacon for those interested in pursuing experimental music from all over Asia, and that in itself is exciting.
Words by Tony Cho
CHINABOT is a platform collective created to change the dialogue surrounding Asian music. For those that are not familiar with the platform, who is behind CHINABOT? What are your background and interests?
Saphy Vong: We are a group of friends, a lot of people are involved from a different part of the world, the main members are me Saphy (Lafidki) from Cambodia based in London, Jae Ho from South Korea based in London, Sabiwa from Taiwan based in Berlin and Pisitakun from Thailand based everywhere.
I founded the label 2 years ago after shutting down my small venue in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) a few years before. My first idea was to make more connections with neighbouring countries like Thailand or Vietnam, bringing them to Cambodia to introduce them to the contemporary sound of Asia. After touring a lot in South East Asia, it made more sense to collaborate together and help each other because the scene is so small.
What are your main aims behind CHINABOT?
Saphy Vong: The label seeks to challenge conceptions of “Asian Music” and to make the experimentalists from the continent less isolated. Putting things together that don’t have the platform they deserve between Asia and the West. It’s crazy that how Asian people have been like pigeon-holed for years. We try to make it feel normal, not like a human zoo or circus because it sounds exotic for the predominantly white club or festival.
What have been the main challenges you have encountered developing the platform?
The main challenge was to understand the complexity, history and relationship between so many countries in Asia, tensions still exist and we can’t change the mentality of some artists who don’t want to work or being related to other artists from a specific country.
It’s also hard to bring Asian artists to the UK due to visa restrictions and big costs. Touring as Asian or brown people can be tough with border controls, unjustified long checking which is nothing we can change with the platform.
In your opinion, have you felt the perception about Asian culture changed in a positive way since you founded the platform? What are your main reflections on this?
Jaeho Ho: Absolutely! Since I came across Chinabot, it led me to find out lots of talented artists and good music from Asia that I didn’t know before. I think it would be the same to someone who came across Chinabot or came to parties and live events organised by Chinabot. I’m so grateful to be part of this
Saphy: It’s changing slowly but yeah in a positive way. We’re working more locally and had the chance to collaborate a couple of time with amazing A
What directions do you see taking
CHINABOT work into?
Sabiwa: making a big platform and world connection for an Asian artist to spread their works out of A
Saphy Vong: It’s already a lot of work with the events, radio show, booking and releases but I really want to experiment more, probably with less digital and more printing, I want to keep it exciting and not boring. I also need to be more often in Asia.
What is your chief enemy of creativity?
Sabiwa: My moodiness and self-satisfaction.
Jae Ho: Doing too much brainstorming.
Saphy Vong: Boredom.
You couldn’t live without…
Sabiwa: Air, water, sunshine, food, happiness.
Jae Ho: Feeling creative.
Saphy Vong: 2 kidneys.