“WHY? Goes to China: Music Without Borders” with Noukilla

Episode 45:

Originally broadcast: August 16.2012

Recorded: May 18, 2012 (we think!)


In May, 2012, WHY? was invited to China to take a look around, interview who we could find, and take a fresh look at a country that seems to be blamed for all of America’s problems. The result: a half-dozen shows with guests ranging from Chinese college students to four African musicians trying to make it big in Shanghai. What is it like to be an expatriate living in China and do they have more freedom than Chinese nationals? What can we learn from the principal of an elite Chinese private high school? What is the state of environmentalism in the polluted country and how much hold does Confucius’s philosophy have over the country and its politicians? All these questions and more will be answered when WHY? goes to China!

Music crosses cultures, but how about the messages it imparts? How do you get an audience to dance, laugh, or even think, when you sing to them in a different language? And what if the music that one person thinks of as a relaxing party-soundtrack is actually regarded as dangerous and revolutionary? Join WHY? as we talk with the Shanghai band Noukilla and ask how five African musicians are breaking ground new ground in the Chinese world music scene while remaining true to their own roots, experiences, and music.

Noukilla are five friends from the Island of Mauritius, who came to Shanghai/China in 2005. While playing cover songs with different bands in the city and working as session musicians at the same time, they regularly came together to play tunes from their far away home. Under the name of Gymga – Gilbert, Yan, Macleen, Giovani and Alain – they recorded their first CD with Reggae cover songs.

Their unconditional love for music led to the birth of Noukilla (meaning ‘Here we are!’) in 2010, bringing original songs and their own style of Sega/Seggae-Fusion to the fans, who find words like “sunny, exotic, colorful, warm, happy, energetic, good mood” to describe the band. The mixture of their different ethnicities and backgrounds (African/Indian/British/French) reflects in their music with lyrics in Creole, French and English. Right now the band is preparing their first official release for summer this year. Listen to their music at www.noukilla.com.

WHY?’s trip to China was supported in part by The American Culture Center – Shanghai at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, through a partnership between USST and the University of North Dakota, supported by the US Department of State.

Jack interviewed the band at a club, before a gig. Here are some scenes from the discussion:


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