Once revered for its compactness and versatility, the accordion’s popularity has dwindled over past decades. Nowadays, when most people think of the instrument, old folk musicians or Parisian buskers are likely what comes to mind. Despite its fall from popularity, forward-thinking bands and musicians like Arcade Fire and Madvillain have proven the instrument can still be viable in contemporary music. And in Shanghai, equally eager to prove that the accordion shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed is independent musician Chen Kai.
All music evolves, and CK, as an accordionist with over two decades of experience, recognizes the importance of adapting. In fact, it’s especially important for an instrument that many consider archaic to keep up with the times. His awareness of this fact directly influences his playing style. Rather than relying on well-known tunes, his live shows are hour-long improvisational sets that blend unlikely genres—like psychedelic rock and baroque music—to form unclassifiable soundscapes.
其实，所有的音乐都在演变的过程中。作为一个有 20 多年经验的手风琴演奏家，陈楷认识到适应潮流的重要性。事实上，对于一个被许多人认为已经过时的乐器来说，手风琴演奏要跟上时代的步伐，显得尤其重要。这也直接影响了陈楷的演奏风格。陈楷现场演奏的并非那些人们耳熟能详的曲子，而是通过一小时的即兴表演，混合一些不太常见的流派──比如迷幻摇滚乐和巴洛克音乐──来形成独特而无法被归类的音乐背景。
Not only is CK able to wield the inherent versatility of the instrument, he makes full use of the effects pedals, transforming each note into something foreign yet familiar. Alternating between warm, soothing melodies to upheaving, violent crescendos, CK’s performances are a whirlwind of sound and emotion that both caress and assault the listener’s ears. Watching him perform is an enlightening experience that can sway even the most stubborn of skeptics to rethink the accordion’s place in modern music.
While CK aspires to help his beloved instrument reclaim its rightful place in the world, it’s not the only thing that fuels his motivation. What truly stokes his creative flames is his appreciation of music’s cathartic qualities. To him, music is an outlet, and his accordion is a conduit, one that helps him bring his emotions into the world through sonic means.
Forming an emotional connection with others is perhaps the most rewarding part of being a musician. He speaks to others through his art and lets them interpret it as they will. “In Chinese visual art, negative space is an important concept,” he says. “It’s the room left aside for the viewer’s imagination and own interpretation to take shape. In my music, I try to follow this same concept.”
Of course, taste is subjective. Not only can different individuals find different meaning in the same song, but what qualifies as “good” music inevitably varies from person to person. As a seasoned musician and self-described lover of all genres, how does CK define “good” music?
Hesitating, he takes a long drag from his cigarette and exhales a lungful of smoke before breaking the silence: “Good music should come from the heart. It should move people. Simple as that.”