Shanghainese Serenades

Shanghai

Shanghai’s popular music began as shidaiqu (時代曲), a fusion of Chinese folk and American jazz from the 1920s. It means “songs of the era” in Mandarin, the language of contemporary pop music at the time. Local vocal styles and poetic lyricism worked together with the jazz genre to make a one-of-a-kind sound. Eventually, shidaiqu gave way to mandopop, cantopop, and other genres to take the spotlight. We’re taking you through Shanghai’s best live music venues to survey the genres making the airwaves! The local gig scene is slim pickings, but we’ve got you covered. Once you find your sound, you’re bound to return time and time again!

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Updated a year ago

The Jazz Bar at Fairmont Peace Hotel

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Shanghai, China, People's Republic • Recommendation • 

Jazz arrived to Shanghai in its private clubs and dance halls. The Jazz Bar at Fairmont Peace Hotel is a legendary joint that pays tribute to old-school tunes and Art Deco design. The Old Jazz Band consists of six veteran musicians who’ve been playing the Peace Hotel since the 1980s! Settle in at 9:00PM when a female vocalist joins them onstage for a set of Chinese hits. Call in a reservation for sure seats and prepare for a steep cover charge.

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Heyday Vintage Jazz Lounge

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Shanghai, China, People's Republic • Recommendation • 

The jazz scene and nostalgic shidaiqu died down sometime after the 1940s; but now, it’s making a comeback through a new generation of performers! Heyday Vintage Jazz Lounge has lent its stage up to stars fronting the revival. Treat your ears to the vocal prowess of talents like Zhang Le (a celebrated jazz vocalist), Coco Zhao (dubbed the “Boy Billie Holiday”), and Jasmine Chen (who sang on the “Crazy Rich Asians” soundtrack)! Check Heyday’s website for the monthly schedule, as the line-up varies everyday.

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JZ Club

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Shanghai, China, People's Republic • Recommendation • 

JZ Club has garnered a reputation as a dazzling jazz club. It recently moved to a bigger location, but it still has same dim and cozy atmosphere. They’ve also maintained their commitment to live music every day of the week! Jam out to everything from soul and blues to latin and hip-hop with a fusion of everything in-between. You’re never quite sure what magic will take place on-stage, whether it’s a classic big band or an improvisation session!

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Wooden Box Cafe

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Shanghai, China, People's Republic • Recommendation • 

Managed by the same folks as JZ Club, Wooden Box Cafe is a laid-back café, bar, and music lounge. Chill out after a long day of work as ensembles play an eclectic mix of bluegrass, folk, acoustic, and jazz! Sets usually start at 9:00PM and stretch out ‘til closing. Contrary to its name, the venue is actually shaped in-the-round with a long window along its wall. Gigs are always an intimate affair, so you’ll always have sight of the band. The wood-paneled room and warm lights lend to its homey charm, especially after a few drinks. Kick back on the patio when you want to take advantage of the night breeze!

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Yuyintang

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Shanghai, China, People's Republic • Recommendation • 

Any discussion of Shanghai’s live gig scene would be incomplete without Yuyintang (a.k.a. YYT). It’s the city’s go-to spot for fresh musical acts! Thrash with the crowd or bob about to the beat. Old posters, random stickers, and grungy wall art add to that grungy atmosphere. Alternative is the noise of choice here, though they welcome just about anyone! YYT is all about incubating young talents, discovering underground rock bands, and recognizing Chinese music-makers. Occasionally, a few pop indie wonders and international bands will mount a show just to shake things up!

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MAO Livehouse Shanghai

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Shanghai, China, People's Republic • Recommendation • 

MAO Livehouse boasts one of the best sound systems and video set ups on the scene. A regular stream of international and local acts keep MAO a staple among locals. Its medium-sized capacity keep things packed but guarantees spots close to the stage wherever you are. Keep an eye out on their website for your favorite performers—whether foreign or homegrown—and their event details. The range of musical tastes span a wide spectrum here. Rock concerts sway the crowd with face-melting riffs one night, only to have technicolored raves pulsing with electronic music on the next!

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Modern Sky Lab

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Shanghai, China, People's Republic • Recommendation • 

Modern Sky, a record label, has set up its Lab to be the stomping grounds for all kinds of music fans. They’ve set up an art gallery, café, and shop to pass the time at before the show! Everyone’s set out for a good night of moving with the stars of the night, from bass-heavy rock bands to bass-dropping DJs. Pack tight in the main mosh area or opt to view the action from one of the two balconies! On a good night, you’ll be riding the energy of 1,200 other concert-goers!

  • Third Floor, 188 Ruihong Road, Hongkou District, Shanghai, China
    瑞虹路188号3楼, 近天虹路

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