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November 24, 2011

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Music provides a passport to exciting places

SAYING "music is a universal language" is best left unspoken at this point. It's cliché. Besides, academics like to point out that mathematics is a better answer to that unspoken question. Beyond that, music in an infinitely complex language full of historical and cultural nuance and intrigue.

If you don't believe me, compare a jazz hound's countenance to a naif as they both listen to a free jazz saxophonist blow a mind-bending solo for minutes on end; or, consider why the music of Al Jolson or convention-destroying soul singer Ray Charles are so important.

No, music is not a universal language as much as a passport, giving access to places (and times) not easily available, if accessible otherwise at all. For proof, look no further than the next five nights. A virtual World Expo of musicians are coming to Shanghai, spreading their personal and cultural story.

Tonight, from gray England, comes Soul II Soul Sound System to Mao Livehouse (308 Chongqing Rd S.). Soul II Soul is an electronic music crew that melds R&B and a bit of hip-hop to their techno sound. They had a big international hit in 1989 with "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)."

Tomorrow, from Brazil comes The Twelves to Shanghai Livehouse (477 Aomen Rd). Born almost two decades after Soul II Soul, The Twelves are an electronic music crew that meld, reshape and remix any pop music in history to become their own. Their remixes of indie rock hits have especially made them a hot property.

Saturday night will be back to Europe with another DJ group, France's Birdy Nam Nam, at Shanghai Livehouse. A little more on the avant-garde side, they treat their turntables like instruments, and have composed scores for plays and films. Their sound has been compared to Bjork and The Avalanches.

Sunday will be a heavy one, with Trail of Tears - a black metal group - storming in from Norway to play at Mao Livehouse. Not a show for the weak hearted, the band features the "death grunt vocals" of lead vocalist Ronny Thorsen.

Monday will be equally if not more epic, as Scotland's Mogwai will bring their renowned sound to Mao Livehouse. Their name is synonymous with their genre, post-rock - think using traditional rock sound textures into long, winding passages. Their live show is considered one of the best in the world.

Go see the world, one show at a time.


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