Friday, December 24, 2010
Here's Side B, hope you enjoy listening.
Good news - Lucky Cat Series 5 will be on air from Saturday 15th January 2011 15:30-16:30 UK time. You will be able to listen live on Resonance FM or wait until I podcast the shows.
Seasons Greetings, why not try some wasabi mayo in your turkey sandwiches? :-)
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Apologies for the delay in posting my review, life seems to be slipping by of late.
As mentioned in my earlier post I was very keen to see the new film installation by Isaac Julien Ten Thousand Waves, showing at the Hayward Gallery as part of the Move: Choreographing You exhibition. As usual at the Hayward the entrance price is offputtingly expensive, but I urge you to shell out to enter this celluloid dreamworld that Julien has created.
I wasn't that keen on the rest of the exhibits but my real focus was always to see Ten Thousand Waves and I was not disappointed. You enter a large dark room with large screens all around and two in the centre (images shown on both sides) - the viewer is immediately immersed. Different images show on each screen at different times so I did not remain stationery but moved around in the space, trying to figure out the best position and also placing myself somehow inside the narrative. And yes there is a narrative structure even through you may enter the room at any point in the 1 hr screening. In fact this is my only criticism, I feel that the viewer benefits from seeing the piece in its entirety as the context is given from the outset. Some people wandered in for only ten minutes and did not perhaps get to make all the connections, the interwoven stories and journeys of past and present.
The opening shots are of the dark black sea and we are played the audio of a woman calling 999 and reporting the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers that are stuck out at sea when the tide has come in (Lancashire 2004). I think the footage is the actual footage too. This was very upsetting and to see the rolling black waves all around you on the screens and hear the panicked phone call is quite chilling.
We move from these images of a tragedy for Chinese immigrants in the UK back to an unspecified past time in Fujian province in China (Fujian is where the 23 cockle pickers that died came from). Maggie Cheung is ethereal and serene as the goddess of sea travellers Mazu. This section is based on the fable The Tale of Yishan Island - the tale of 16th Century fishermen lost and in danger at sea. At the heart of the legend is the goddess figure who leads the fishermen to safety
The harsh reality of the present is juxtaposed with the mystical safety of the past.
Throughout the film the viewer is encouraged to make connections, to think, to question ideas of identity, diaspora, traditions and culture. It is also beautifully shot and aesthetically wondrous to watch. Later on footage of the Cultural Revolution and Maoist celebrations are spliced in to the story. The Technicolour newsreel seems eerily unreal and yet so familiar, so far away and yet so close to us (both geographically and historically).
Silent film star Ruan Lingyu is also referenced in a section in which actress Zhao Tao plays her in a reconstruction of her most famous film The Goddess. Slow lingering shots and beautiful mis-en-scene contradict the harsh reality of the subject matter which is actually the cruel life of a prostitute in 1920s Shanghai. Zhao Tao has starred in the films of Jia Zhangke and interestingly I was reminded of Zhangke's film Still Life when I watched (or should I say experienced) Ten Thousand Waves.
I couldn't quite believe I had been in the room for an hour when I emerged. Time seemed to go by very quickly and ever since I have been wanting to return to that space. If you are in London do not miss this.
Ten Thousand Waves is showing at the Hayward Gallery until 9th January 2011.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Pictured: Maggie Cheung Man Yuk in Hero : "Rashomon in colour" - cinematographer Christopher Doyle
The Q&A I did for the Electric Sheep Film Club at the Prince Charles cinema is now online:
Here you can listen to me discuss Zhang Yimou's wuxia epic with Alex Fitch, Assistant Editor of Electric Sheep Film Magazine and presenter of the weekly show on comics, Panel Borders, on Resonance FM.
Monday, November 08, 2010
The first UK‐wide festival devoted to Japanese film starts later this month. Zipangu Fest will introduce works new and old, previously unseen by mainstream UK film audiences, to demonstrate the many identities of Japan as depicted by some of the country’s most exciting and revered talents.
November 23‐28 2010 @ several London venues and also nationwide, see the site for details:
There is also a Japanese themed exhibit on at London's Barbican Centre: Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion with loads of events happening.
And the winner is....
Jessica Collins with this poem:
chow yun fat
is the big cat
when he sat
on the kung-fu mat
"i like it like that"
Well done Jessica, a copy of Confucius on DVD is on its way to you. The competition is now closed, thank you for your entries.
(The above picture shows Chow Yun Fat as Confucius with mainland actress Zhou Xun who plays concubine Nan-zi, adding a bit of glamour to the proceedings.)
Sunday, October 24, 2010
We're having a little Halloween soiree next weekend and I've been thinking about scary snacks to make. I had the idea to make some skull shaped mooli slices and pickle them. Turns out skulls are quite hard to do and I decided that these little Pac Man / space invader style ghosts looked a lot better. I peeled half a large mooli and cut it into slices about 2mm thick. I took a small sharp knife and cut little triangles out at the bottom of the circle. For the eyes I used a chop stick and pushed it through hard on both sides of the mooli. For the pickling juice I used rice wine, caster sugar and for a change I used some sushi seasoning (see picture) too, I topped it all up with water. I chopped up a lot of ginger quite finely, 2 cloves of garlic and 3 bird's eye chillies (most seeds removed). For a proper recipe for pickling veg see my earlier post.
Now for the char siew bloody pit with lotus root bones and the centre piece of the bride with white hair (vermicelli noodles)! Nice idea but that sounds a bit too much work; I will let you know what else I come up with.
Friday, October 22, 2010
A podcast in honour of Chow Yun Fat! A Lucky Cat salute to Fa Gor.
- Lucky Cat Theme - Feat The Magic Cat - Connie Chan, Jackie Chan dialogue from Snake in Eagle's Shadow and mainly Bear Cat by Rufus Thomas
- Kowloon Hong Kong- The Reynettes
- Fatty Fatty- Clancy Eccles
- Dying Gambler- Kate McTell
- Playing Mahjong- Le-Ge
- Slot Machine- The Three Tops
- Chu Chui Lian- from 24 Favourite Gu Zheng Chinese Melodies
- Confucius- The Skatalites
- Yu Zhou Chang Wan- from 24 Favourite Gu Zheng Chinese Melodies
- Will The orange Blossom Smile- Rebecca Pan
WIN a copy of the Chow Yun Fat movie directed by Hu Mei Confucius:
To enter please email me (luckycatzoe at gmail.com) your Chow Yun Fat poem. The best entry will win the Confucius DVD and I will publish all entries on this blog.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
British artist Isaac Julien's Ten Thousand Waves is a 9-screen installation shot on location in China which aims to weave together stories linking China’s ancient past and present. The work looks at immigration, diaspora and the journeys that people make across continents. The installation premièred at the Sydney Biennale in May and was then shown at the Shanghai Expo. Now it is here in London at the Hayward Gallery (with still photographs also on show at the Victoria Miro Gallery).
Filmed on location in Guangxi province the film has many interesting collaborators; most exciting of all the mighty Maggie Cheung Man Yuk! The soundtrack is by Londoner Jah Wobble and The Chinese Dub Orchestra (an artist who has become interested in fusing digital Dub Reggae with Chinese sounds and traditional instruments, as heard in his CD Chinese Dub).
I haven't been to check it out yet but am dying to go, I will report back asap. I am a fan of Julien's work and of course I don't need to declare my love for Maggie Cheung again! Watch this space for a review of the installation....
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Following on from my earlier post here is another book that I remember from my childhood. When I was in Paris earlier this year and at the amazing department store Compagnie Francaise de l'Orient et de la Chine I saw a copy of this book on the shelf and my heart fluttered nostalgically. I hadn't looked at the book in years and was pleasantly suprised to find some revolutionary Chinese art cards tucked inside when I opened it (see bonus section below). The book has page after page of amazing acrobatic feats all depicted in glorious Technicolor. Here are just a few for you:
Looking at this picture I remembered being fascinated by an episode of Sesame Street where Big Bird visited China and met some 'lions'. Wasn't there a big dog on Sesame Street who looked a bit like a Chinese lion? After some research (Googled it!) I found this clip where Big Bird and the dog (Barkley) are taught a few Chinese words by a very cute little girl:
Back to the book and another ingenious way of holding a vase:
Bonus Section: Revolutionary Chinese Art Cards
Positive depictions of agriculture and industry.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I was flattered and delighted when I stumbled across this clip on Youtube of an excerpt from my Lucky Cat radio programme. It's on The Styler's Band Channel - the 1960s/70s Singaporean band (who along with the Quests were very big on the East Asian music scene). I am playing their groovy tune I Love Boh Boh Cha Cha and you can hear Joey Leung from Terracotta Film on the clip too (he was on the show to discuss the upcoming Terracotta Film Festival).
Oh, and by the way I wasn't googling myself, I found the clip because I was searching for the amazing Chinese Reggae singer Cha Cha, and I cam across it that way - honest guv!
Learn more about The Stylers:
@ Questing Bandstand
@ Singapore 60s Andy's Pop Music Influence
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
People often ask me when my fascination with Chinese and East Asian culture began and I am still working on a suitable amusing anecdote to tell. There was no great epiphany and as with so many things in life it just sort of happened. It was gradual and accumulative, starting most likely with food. My parents have been eating out regularly in London’s Chinatown for nearly 40 years. I was taken as a baby in my crib and I must have loved the smell of char siew pork and steamed rice from an early age! Another influence were the books I had as a child that were around the house. In particular there were 3 important ones, the first was given to me by some family friends when I was born (“for baby Baxter” is written inside); Pictures by Chinese Children. It’s a wonderful book full of illustrations of everyday life in China, as drawn by kids. I have scanned in some of my favourite pictures for you below.
There are two other books that were also influential; I shall post about them soon. I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures.
There are two other books that were also influential; I shall post about them soon. I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
You can read my article for BBC China on singer songwriter Sophie Yau here:
Here is my text in English:
A Melodic and Spiritual Debut EP from British Singer Songwriter Sophie Yau
By Zoë Baxter
Singer songwriter Sophie Yau launches her debut EP this month - Some Great Union in the Sky. The EP is a culmination of many years of musicianship and is heavily influenced by American folk music.
Sophie Yau was born in London’s Camden – an area famous for it’s vibrant market and live music scene. Sophie’s parents then decided to move to East Anglia, where, like many British Chinese, they opened a takeaway food business. Whilst growing up Sophie also spent some time in her parent’s birthplace – Hong Kong. Her early musical influences were mainly pop – both Cantopop and 1980s British pop music. Later on she was introduced to Christian pop and hymns (both traditional and modern).
Sophie began to play the guitar age 17 and has not looked back. Whilst at university in Bristol Sophie began singing to accompany her guitar strumming and gradually started to write her own songs. It was during this time that she began to listen to American folk music, which would influence her singing and guitar playing style.
Moving back to London after graduating, Sophie has been fine-tuning her music – touring the open mic circuit and playing in many bars and clubs. In 2009 Sophie debuted at the City Showcase festival in London’s Chinatown.
The EP Some Great Union in the Sky is a collection of songs which are all quite paired down – the focus is on Sophie’s sweet lilting vocals and the guitar led melodies. The song with the strongest hook is Even If I Try, co-written with guitar player Jean Guy Sylvestre. Sophie explains the lyrics: “Me and my mate Phil had just watched ‘Independence Day’ at the cinema and decided to walk the hour and a half walk it took to get back to our village. On the way we talked about aliens, and gods and the compulsion to believe in something bigger than ourselves. It’s like a reflex.”
Other songs on the EP are also contemplative and there is definitely a spiritual theme. For example Brothers on a Hill is about a week that Sophie spent at a monastery in France: "They prayed 3 times a day in this massive hall with candles and songs sung in every language. I spent a lot of time sitting in the back with my feet up. It was weird and it was wonderful and I found a kind of peace there that surprised me because I wasn’t aware that I was at war with myself.”
I asked Sophie if we could expect an album to follow on from the EP: “It was kind of interesting with the EP - by the time we finished recording we were playing a fairly different live set to the songs as recorded on the disc. The album will feature the 5 songs on the EP, plus 5 news ones.”
The Sophie Yau UK tour will hit the roads soon. There are also plans afoot for collaborations with beats producers for remixing some of the EP songs. It will be
interesting to see what effect the remixes have on Sophie’s style – adding more layers and textures will hopefully enhance the musical direction and let her dreamy singing style shine through.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
This beauty is from my vintage film annual collection. I have quite a few as I used to buy them for pocket money when I was a teen (and infatuated with Clark Gable and the glamour of old Hollywood). I was flicking through this British film annual recently and although I have always loved the cover I didn't realise it had some hidden gems inside. The cover features Dirk Bogarde and Yoko Tani from their film The Wind Cannot Read. There is more on Japanese actress Yoko Tani inside in a feature rather snootily titled:
Here are some of the pages from the article that feature East Asian film stars:
The page below shows Chinese film star Li Lihua (credited as Lili Hua here) on the set of Hollywood movie China Doll with director Frank Borzage and co-star Victor Mature (also a teenage crush of mine!).
And an Italian film star going 'yellowface' for The Quiet American. This was common practice in Hollywood films - using a non US star to play many different races (e.g. Yul Bryner's career), just adding extra eyeliner! This has been well documented in the excellent film Hollywood Chinese which also looks at Chinese Americans in the movie industry.
The Picture Show Annual has another article titled New Faces in Films which does feature some East Asian American actresses:
Marie Tsien is at the top of the page in a strange ruffle shirt and floral shorts combo: "Hailing from Hong Kong Marie Tsien went to the United States to study interior decoration in San Francisco. Modelling jobs, however, eventually led to television. One of her film roles has been in 'The 27th Days'
Amercian born Miiko Taka is pictured to the right: Taka has her first engagement as an actress playing opposite Marlon Brando in 'Sayonara'. Black-haired brown eyed Miiko is 5 feet 6 inches tall.
Bottom left is France Nyuen who played Liat in South Pacific.
Well that's all folks. I hope you enjoyed my scanning efforts.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
(Faces of KonKong by artist Xiong Wenyun)
A friend told me about this contemporary Chinese art gallery in Sydney:
It looks wonderful, brilliant web site too. Bit far for me to pop into the teahouse for an Oolong or two though.
I am delighted to have been asked to do a Q&A after the screening of Zhang Yimou's Hero this Wednesday 11th August @ The Prince Charles Cinema.
This is part of the Electric Sheep Film Magazine cinema club; they hold monthly film nights at the Prince Charles with guest speakers.
Please come down and enjoy the film on the big screen (and ask me some nice and easy questions like "which shampoo does Donnie Yen use for his glossy locks?").
Show starts at 8.30pm. Tickets on the door, usual Prince Charles value price!
Facebook Event Page
(Team Green: Maggie Cheung Man Yuk and Tony Leung Chiu Wai pictured)
Friday, July 23, 2010
My article on Lucky Cat favourites Hong Kong in the 60s has been published on the BBC China web site, check it out:
For those of you who cannot read Chinese (myself included, the article was translated by Lily Feng @ the BBC) here's the English version:
Hong Kong In The 60s
Nostalgic Electro Pop from a Cool London Band
By Zoë Baxter
Electronic Pop trio Hong Kong in the 60s have released a brand new vinyl single this month, on the acclaimed independent label Ghost Box. It is fitting that the band are on vinyl – an old medium - as their music is infused with nostalgia. The track Seasons Change is a collaboration with The Advisory Circle (the alias of electronic musician Jon Brooks).
The band, who comprise of Mei Yau Kan (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar), Christopher Greenberg (keyboards, vocals, guitar) and Tim Scullion (guitar, keyboards, vocals), formed in London in 2007. They have an unusual name which reflects their passion for Hong Kong Chinese music and film of the 1960s. They were looking for a name that evoked Hong Kong in the 1960s but couldn’t find another phrase that fitted quite so perfectly. Christopher describes their sound as “pop music that is a bit unusal, unsderstated, atmospheric and involving.” Band mate Mei Yau adds “my aim is to make music that has a faraway sound – the sound of an echoey empty dance hall”.
The trio produce all their own tracks and also use old instruments, such as Casio keyboards, to get more character in the music. They also use old equipment and even toy instruments which give their sound a quirky and youthful naivety.
As their name implies, they are fans of Hong Kong Chinese culture and film in particular. They cite Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love as a real turning point in their appreciation of Chinese music: “Wong Kar Wai’s soundtracks were a gateway in to appreciating Chinese music. The atmosphere and feel of the Chinese music I have heard is very intoxicating” says band member Tim Scullion. Mei Yau, who is British Chinese and speaks Cantonese, already had an appreciation of Hong Kong Chinese music from her parents’ cassette collection. She has fond memories of hearing Rebecca Pan, Feng Fei Fei and Anita Mui around the house whilst she was growing up. Her parents would keep in touch with Hong Kong music by buying cassettes from shops such as Golden Disc in London’s Chinatown.
Visuals are important to the band as they are interested in “creating a whole world that people can get lost in” says Tim. This follows on from their love of film, they are fans of Italian and French cinema as well and are also influenced by 1960s Italian soundtracks. Their visual style reflects their music – soft, retro, considered and dreamlike. The band were spotted at a gig by director Claudio Napoli who was so impressed with them he offered to shoot the video to their track Footsteps for free. The video is beautifully stylish; shot in black and white, it echoes the film noir genre movies of 1940s and 50's European cinema.
The track Footsteps comes from the trio's debut EP Willow Pattern Songs which was released earlier this year. Hong Kong in the 60s produce all their own tracks, which means that they have total control over their sound. They have also remixed tunes for other artists – such as the sublime bossa nova remix of Valorian they did for indie duo Arthur and Martha. They are not averse to their own tracks being remixed either – London Hip Hop producer The Last Skeptik remixed Footsteps earlier this year, giving it an urban dance music feel with heavy bass lines.
Since releasing their EP the band have been busy working on their debut album, My Fantoms, which is due out at the end of the year on the Proper Songs label. The title is named after a collection of haunting short stories by 19th century French writer Theophile Gautier (translated by Richard Holmes). So what can we expect from the band's debut album? “It's quite a lot more varied and ambitious than our EP, but we've tried to create a dreamlike, understated atmosphere throughout all the songs. Something we are particularly excited about is the track "King Of Chinatown". It's our theme to an imaginary Hong Kong action film, and something we've been wanting to do for a long time!” says Christopher Greenberg. Let's hope that they get to make a video for that track, it sounds amazing. It also shows that the band's passion for Hong Kong cinema is very much present in their music as well as their unusual name.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The brand new limited edition 10" vinyl of Shanghai singer Cha Cha and Jamaican DJ Ranking Joe is out now! The track One Day You'll Know is a combination duet with Cha Cha singing in Mandarin and Ranking Joe toasting in English over a Rico Rodgriguez rhythm. Produced by Mr Clive Chin (Randys, Impact!), who recorded Cha Cha whilst in China on tour last year.
1. One Day You’ll Know- Cha Cha & Ranking Joe
2. One Day You’ll Know Dub – Rico & The Alpha Boys
1. One Day You’ll Know – Cha Cha
2. Rico Special (Reloaded) – Rico & The Alpha Boys
Available at Dub Vendor Records. Only 500 pressed, this is a real collector's item that I heartily recommend you invest in!
The tune is perfect for summer and has a really nice vibe to it, plus you get the original rhythm track instrumental too. I am a big fan of Cha Cha's (see also her tunes on the Jahtari label and upcoming Adrian Sherwood LP Dub No Frontiers) and am pleased that her singing is equally good as her toasting/rapping.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Here it is, my tribute to screen goddess Maggie Cheung. Thank you to all who contributed, I hope you enjoy listening.
- Police and Thieves – Junior Murvin
- Tears on My Pillow – Little Anthony and the Imperials
- Siboney – Xavier Cugat and Connie Francis (Center Stage and 2046 soundtracks)
- Me, Myself and I – Billie Holiday
- Under the Bridges of Paris – Eartha Kitt
- I’m in the Mood for Love – Fats Domino
- Bengawan Solo – Rebecca Pan (In The Mood for Love soundtrack)
- Yumeji’s Theme & Li-Zhen’s dialogue – Umebayashi Shigeru (In The Mood for Love soundtrack)
- Strawberry Stain – Maggie Cheung (Clean soundtrack)
- Angkor Wat Theme Finale – Michael Galasso (In The Mood for Love soundtrack)
Monday, July 05, 2010
Hong Kong film legend Sammo Hung recently won the First Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award at the New York Asian Film Festival. Check out this interview with him @ Twitch:
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I have recently categorised all my 'Food' posts and I couldn't believe that I haven't posted a som tam recipe. A shocking emission as it is one of my favourite dishes. Traditionally this Thai salad is made with green papaya, I also like the green mango version but you can use other types of fruit too. This one was made with large fresh ripe mangoes (the type most commonly found in the UK).
My Mango Som Tam Recipe
- Dry roast a handful of mixed nuts in a frying pan. Leave to cool.
- Crush two cloves of garlic
- Add a teaspoon of brown sugar or palm sugar and crush that in
- Add the juice of a small lime, you should be getting a nice paste now
- De-seed and chop up 2 fresh Thai chillies. More if you like it spicier.
- Keep pounding and add some fish sauce - about a tablespoon or less if you are not a salt freak like me.
Next make the dressing in a mortar and pestle:
OK that's the dressing done. Now get a nicely ripened mango and cut it into strips. Cut up a few baby tomatoes too and put in a salad bowl with the mango strips. Pour over the dressing. Then put your dry roasted nuts into the mortar and pestle and crush up a bit. Add them to the salad and mix in.
Usually I like to add dried shrimps too but I didn't have any so I served it with some Tean's Gourmet crispy prawn chilli (I seem to serve that with everything these days, addictive stuff).
May I recommend some food blogs:
1) Fuck Yeah Condiments
Because your fridge MUST have at least one condiment shelf and your cupboard too. It's the only way to live.
2) Anna Chen Eats
And she eats good. Recipes and restaurant reviews; I'm looking forward to more posts on this new blog.
Malaysian food combines Chinese, Indian and Indonesian flavours. I think I'm in food heaven.
The best Thai recipes I have found online. Pim is a foodie extraordinaire, step into her world, you'll leave hungry.