The CCTV New Year’s Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会 or Chunwan 春晚) is an annual live television event that is broadcasted by state enterprise CCTV on the evening of Chinese New Year. It has been broadcasted since 1983, and is watched by over 700 million people. It is the most-watched variety shows in the world and is much anticipated every year – somewhat comparable to the Oscars or the Super Bowl. The Gala features different acts, including singing, dancing and comedy, in a time frame of around 4 hours. It is a tradition for families to gather around the TV to watch the Gala before the New Year comes at midnight. It is also somewhat of a tradition to comment on the show and complain about it; criticism on the Gala is actually so commonplace that the sentence “there’ll never be a ‘worst’, just ‘worse than last year‘ (央视春晚，没有最烂，只有更烂) has become a popular saying over the years (Wang 2015, 192).
Chunwan is always a hot topic on Sina Weibo and WeChat, as millions of people are watching and share their comments on the show through social media. The Gala’s official Weibo account has over 7,5 million followers.
One important new feature of the show that links it to social media since 2015 is the exchange of hongbao, red envelopes with money, which is a Chinese New Year’s tradition (also read our article about Lucky Money). During the show, viewers are able to receive virtual hongbao by shaking their smartphones. This new cooperation between the CCTV Gala and the WeChat app first started in 2015. When the game was first announced during the live broadcast in 2015, WeChat users shook their phones 11 billion times. The value of these monetary gifts was around 500 million RMB (76 million US dollar).
The hongbao game and younger stars attract more people to watch the show, which is often considered boring or old-fashioned by younger generations. This year the game will start again, increasing the Gala’s viewer ratings. One Weibo netizen comments: “Actually, there are many people who want to watch the Gala now. The reason is simple: it’s not for the show but for the red envelopes.”
Although the Gala is a live broadcast from CCTV’s No.1 Studio, every year’s show has a taped version of the full dress rehearsal. As described by Tom Scocca (2011), the tape runs together with the live broadcast, so that in the event of a problem or disruption, the producers can seamlessly switch to the taped version without TV audiences noticing anything.
Wang Ge. 2015. “Popular Spring Festival Gala language: Sociocultural Observations.” In Linda Tsung and Wei Wang, Contemporary Chinese Discourse and Social Practice in China, 185-200. Amsterdam/Philadelpia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Scocca, Tom. 2011. Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future. New York: Riverhead Books.
CCTV’s “Beyond the Edge”(挑战不可能)
“Impossible Challenge,” also known as “Beyond the Edge”(挑战不可能), is a large-scale Sunday evening challenge TV show by CCTV.
The show’s main host is the well-known CCTV anchor Sa Beining (撒贝宁). The main guests are Dong Qing (董卿), Li Changyu (李昌钰), and Zhou Huajian (周华健).
In the show, contestants test their own limits and challenge themselves in various special skills.
The show was first aired in August 2015.
Chinese Variety Show “Heroes of Remix” Brings Electronic Dance Music to the Masses
China’s new music reality show Heroes of Remix has become a hot topic on Chinese social media since its first airing on Jiangsu TV. The show gives electronic dance music a Chinese flavor and has heightened the popularity of the music genre in China.
Different from previously aired music competition shows, including “The Voice of China” (中国好声音), “I Am a Singer” (我是歌手) and “King of Mask Singer” (蒙面歌王), “Heroes of Remix” (盖世英雄) brings an entertaining arrangement of remix music and dance, marking China’s first-ever variety show that features electronic dance music (EDM).
Following its previous popularity and success in Vietnam, The Remix highlights a dance music talent format in which singers, DJs and vocalists pair up and compete to make internationally-recognized Chinese EDM music. In each show, eight rookie singers or music bands, under the guidance of their mentors, showcase live music performances of Chinese songs. The songs that receive most votes from the audience at the end of each show will be incorporated in albums to make them hit the top music charts.
China’s Heroes of Remix’s participating mentors are diverse, including four big names in the industry; Chinese American singer Wang Leehom (王力宏), Park ‘Gangnam Style’ Jae-sang (PSY) from South Korea, Taiwan-based singer Harlem Yu (庾澄庆) and Chinese popular music duo Phoenix Legend (凤凰传奇). The show’s main sponsor is Chinese automobile manufacturer BYD Auto.
While EDM music has been quite popular and influential in the western world, China is not yet considered as a major production hub for electronic music. In an interview with People’s Daily, music producer Liu Zhou (刘洲) addressed China’s lack of prominent EDM culture:
“In China, the development of EDM somewhat lags behind, and we are not able to keep up with industry trends. If everyone else is making electronic music but we are not, we will stay behind.”
The significance of Heroes of Remix is that it not only adds new flavor to existing Chinese songs, but also redefines what EDM means in a Chinese context. One netizen wrote on Sina Weibo that Heroes of Remix challenges public misunderstanding about EDM just being “fast-tempo nightclub tunes”, and introduces “the true essence of electronic music”.
Forbes Magazine recently reported that EDM still has much room for growth in the world today, one of the reasons being that out of all music genres, “electronic dance music is one of the most transportable”. One the reasons is that there is no language barrier to the music between different countries, as the instrumental music is often more important than the lyrics (if there are any). There are still many possibilities in the world of EDM even when it has topped out in the major developed countries, Forbes writes, “sort of like what happened with American jazz music of the 1950s and 60s.”
As international as the genre may be, the Chinese version of Heroes of Remix is unmistakenly Chinese, as it brings elements of Chinese traditional culture into remixes of Chinese songs. The performance by the hip-hop duo DanyLee and Ai Fei (李斯丹妮/艾菲), for instance, was incorporated with sounds of the pipa and singing parts of Beijing Opera.
But besides showing that electronic dance music can have a Chinese identity, Heroes of Remix also conveys the message that music has no borders – popular Korean idol groups performing on the show added new K-Pop components to it, receiving much praise from Chinese viewers on Weibo. On the first episode, the song “Beijing Beijing” by the Korean hit boy band iKon was voted as the most popular record of the eight.
In many aspects, Heroes of Remix is taking the music reality show genre in a new direction and is opening up numerous possibilities for electronic music-making in China. The popularity of the show on Chinese social media shows that China is ready for more EDM. Now let’s see if the world is ready for Chinese EDM – we’ll have to wait and see.
Heroes of Remix will be come out on JiangSu TV every Sunday (also online live). Check out the first episode from Youtube here.
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