For four months last year I lived with a Chinese family in Shanghai, and for four months I was surrounded by the unique tones of Chinese children’s learning development songs. Safely back in Leeds, I had imagined this period of musical surreality had ended. Onra thought differently.
“I’m going to start by playing my Chinese shit”, came the Frenchman’s introductory call, before taking to his array of MPCs and Kaoss Pads to recreate favourites from his Chinoiseries. Packed with a unique combination of J.Dilla style beats and East Asian melodies, he moved the crowd with ease and quickly built a frenzied atmosphere, aided by a typically enthusiastic HiFi audience. The distinctive brass of ‘The Anthem’ kicked in, provoking loud cheers as everyone acknowledged one of his most popular tracks, but something played on my mind. A memory stirred. Then it hit. As the vocal kicked in, I was transported back to the family car where I’d heard the original sample on loop this time last year, the kids singing along as the father drove erratically through the busy roads of the Chinese metropolis. A bizarre note in a quite brilliant night.
Strange personal anecdotes aside, Onra’s experimental hip-hop makes for a really fun performance, albeit with the odd suspect traditions between his less than conventional tracks. Though it was his Asian explorations that earned him his fame, the feel-good disco banger ‘Keep On Loving Me’ was the highlight, with its undeniably catchy sing-along vocals. He’s a charismatic man and a talented musician, and it would be unfair to say that the niche idea behind his Chinoiseries success is the sole reason behind his popularity, but Chinese kids’ songs in a club? That’s memorable.
photo 1: okayfuture.com
photo 2: redbull.com