Shanghaiist is tired of living in a black hole of music. After our brother threatened to blackmail us if we asked him to send music AGAIN, we started thinking about alternatives.
Most local shops have a selection that would suit a 13-year-old from the early 90s, but we have been able to find the Rolling Stones, Belle & Sebastian and PJ Harvey over the last three years. We got them at a stand inside the small market on Yu Yuan Lu between Huashan and Jiaozhou Lu (behind City Plaza) but we also played them so much that they don’t work now. There’s supposedly a store in the lane alongside Real Love on Hengshan Lu that’s not too bad. We’re not sure what “not too bad” means, but it might be worth a shot. We also heard about Da Zi Ming Zhong, which is a market with imported music located at the end of Xikang Lu, near Suzhou Creek. Sounds promising (we say as we imagine our best friends snickering at us).
The brave of heart — or the really, really patient — can head for the streets. Shaanxi Lu, between Jinxian Lu and Changle Lu is a good place to start. Just look for the guys with the suitcases and garbage bags. You’ll find lots of men there who stock CDs but, clearly, not toothpaste. Actually, they’ll probably find you first and start yelling at you. If you manage to still have some patience, take a deep breath, then dig in. You can find some gems, but don’t count on getting lucky every time. You might end up only finding Britney and Bolton. If you like them, then score one for the team! If not, there are also similar guys on Ruijin Lu between Changle and Huai Hai Lu, where we were able to pick up the Velvet Underground — as well as on Huashan Lu, between Yan’an Lu and Julu Lu, in the alleys and sidewalks on the east side of the road, where we found Stereolab once.
Then there are online stores. We looked at Amazon, but shipping for two CDs to China was the price of a week’s worth of dinner. The shipping at CD Wow is free worldwide — wow! — but they don’t have the same selection.
Let’s not forget mp3s. iTunes has a good selection and so does a Russian website called Allofmp3, where we just bought an entire Spoon CD for less than a cup of coffee! There are some good sides to paying for mp3s. It isn’t dependent on who’s online at the time, it’s convenient and it eases the guilty conscience that other less legal services might create. Even Allofmp3 is (relatively) legal (in Russia). Or so they say.
Basically, if you’re brave, traipse around the streets of Shanghai with a map. If you’re a rich wimp, go with Amazon, and if you are impatient and picky, get some mp3s. And while you’re doing it, imagine you’re going through piles of CDs of music in your language. You walked there on a clear, sunny day. Really cool people work there, and they point out stuff that you might like … and you actually do like it. Then you recommend it to all your amazingly hip friends who can buy it just as easily and love it even more. Ahh …
Also on Shanghaiist:
25 after 7: The Best Music of 2005 (so far)
Photo from NASA.