Ma Haiping (aka MHP) is a Chinese electronic musician and producer currently signed to D Force Records. Known as the “son of Shanghai techno,” MHP believes that the possibilities are endless when it comes to electronic music. In 2012, MHP released The Chinese Connection on vinyl through the Detroit label Cratesavers International, making him the first ever Chinese electronic musician to have work released in Detroit, a city that many consider to be the birthplace of techno. Before all this, in the early days of MHP’s 12 year-long musical journey, he first experimented with rock and roll, then dabbled with avant-garde music, and finally honed in on electronic music. In recent years, MHP’s focus has completely shifted to house and techno music. He says that what drew him to producing music in the first place was the sense of joy that he has always felt in music, and the vast amount of creative freedom he’s able to exercise.
在大福唱片上海电子音乐人MHP (马海平) 的眼中，电子音乐具有着无限的可能性。享有“上海techno之子”美誉的他，曾在2012年通过底特律厂牌Cratesavers International发行了自己的黑胶唱片《四方来朝》，使他成为第一个在Techno音乐发源地发行唱片的中国电子音乐人。在十几年的音乐生涯中，从最初的实验摇滚到前卫音乐、实验电子，再到近几年的电子舞曲house、techno等，MHP在创作上涉猎诸多。对他来说，引导他音乐创作的，是音乐自身的趣味性和探索空间。
In April of 2016, MHP released his first full-length debut album Folding Traces. This was the first time he has ever released music through a domestic record label. Folding Traces is a conceptual album that uses the cityscape of Shanghai as the foundation of the work, and MHP builds on it by channeling cinematic sci-fi vibes throughout the LP. Folding Traces starts off with “Entrance to My Emotions” – a sleek track filled with jazz trumpet sounds. But in the subsequent tracks, MHP quickly whisks listeners away into a meticulously crafted, complex, and futuristic soundscape. The album concludes with “Melbourne Sunlight”; a collaborative track with folk musician Wang Meng that gently eases listeners back into reality. Folding Traces is a compilation and auditory reinterpretation of MHP’s past, present, and vision for the future.
Listen below to a few select tracks off of MHP’s Folding Traces:
Born and raised in Shanghai, MHP believes that his music preferences and creativity are closely tied to the city. In the last 200 years, Shanghai has not only developed into an important port city and hotspot of commerce, but it has also evolved into a hub of contemporary Chinese pop music and culture. “Cultures that were considered avant-garde and hip entered the region after the 1980s. In the late ‘80s, the local news program Shanghai Zaocheng even ended their show with Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’,” he says. MHP’s earliest encounters with electronic music can be traced back to around this time, although back then, he didn’t know that it would later become such an important part of his life.
Shanghai is known as a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures and living there exposed MHP to music from both cultures. But the different styles of music weren’t the only things that influenced his sound. “Shanghai used to air a lot of sci-fi shows from other countries. Such as the classic series The Time Tunnel. I was watching these shows when I was seven or eight.” MHP grew up reading Science Fiction World, a monthly science fiction magazine published in China, and novels published during America’s Golden Age of Science Fiction. Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein are three authors who influenced his work the most. Believing that these sci-fi stories were closer to prophecies of the future rather than fiction, his perception of the world was in turn completely altered. The futuristic and technological vibes of his music can all be attributed to his love of science fiction. In Folding Traces, the track “Manifesto of Futurism” is a tribute to the cult classic sci-fi film Blade Runner, and even the album name is a reference to the origami unicorn at the end of the movie.
MHP graduated from the Shanghai Theatre Academy with a degree in fine art; the influence of that can be seen in his album name and album artwork, which allude to the Cubism movement of the 1910s. As someone who frequently visits museums, MHP says that visual art also serves as inspiration for his music. In fact, besides producing music, MHP also gives lectures at various art academies. MHP tells us that studying visual art has not only contributed to him gaining a better understanding of melody and rhythm but has also helped him to understand the importance of presenting his musical works as a well-composed story that could invoke images and memories in the minds of listeners.
Ever since techno emerged from Detroit, it has evolved and shapeshifted as the genre passed through different regions. MHP hopes the genre can change and inherit a unique form that China can call its own. But he tells us, Chinese listeners generally have negative preconceptions about electronic music, seeing as it’s a relatively new form of music that has only recently started developing in the country. Taking into account the preference for melody that Chinese music tends to favor, the new album steered away from the heavier elements of techno music while still following the standard 4/4 techno rhythm. Purposefully, this new album incorporates more melodic elements into the overall composition.
Devoted to his mission of promoting techno music, MHP has been digging into his own past with hopes of finding a link between his personal experiences and Western music; he believes this will help him create techno sounds more suitable for a Chinese audience. After winning Douban’s Abbey Road Music Award for two consecutive years, MHP re-enrolled into the Shanghai Theatre Academy for his MFA in contemporary art. MHP plans to produce more music similar to the tracks on Folding Traces in the future, and try to make techno a more widely accepted form of music in China.