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Following Months Of COVID-19 Restrictions, The Dance Music Scene Is Back In China

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The electronic dance music scene is back in China with a vengeance after months of COVID-related cancellations. NPR's Emily Feng takes us to a rave attended by thousands of people.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Wu Shuang Dong, or DJ ATTACK as he's known in the electronic dance music scene, is raring to get back on stage.

WU SHUANG DONG: (Through interpreter) I had no work at all during the epidemic. All I could do was make new music and work out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FENG: ATTACK makes hardstyle EDM, known for its fast-paced beats and bass. He's one of the DJs headlining this festival in the city of Chengdu, one of the first this year after the coronavirus. After more than nine months away from the stage, ATTACK is excited to shock people with his new music.

WU: (Through interpreter). I'm not nervous because on stage, I'm the one scaring people with my music, not the other way around.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FENG: After facing down an epidemic, people in China are ready to party. But they do have to take some safety precautions, even though China has barely any new cases of the coronavirus. Paul Neuteboom, the CEO of BrotherHood Music, which booked the festival's acts, explains that all ravers and DJs have to first show a digital health certificate.

PAUL NEUTEBOOM: The most important thing that we have here is a sort of corona app, and it just basically shows where you have been over the last 14 days.

FENG: And everyone registers with their ID beforehand for contact-tracing purposes. For the approximately 4,000 people who show up, the wait and the hassle are worth it.

MICHAEL FU: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: I'm so happy I could die, says Michael Fu, a college student. He's a huge fan of the American DJ Marshmello, so much so that Fu has fashioned the same headpiece the DJ is known for wearing out of a white plastic lampshade. That's why Fu sounds a little muffled. He actually bought tickets for this festival in April, which then was canceled.

FU: (Through interpreter). That was such a shame at the time, but the music today is so good.

FENG: Near Fu, under the shadow of a giant inflatable turd, one of the many props set up across the festival grounds, a group of friends mosh. They're wearing matching neon braids and Hawaiian shirts and throwing themselves at each other in exuberance.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Chinese).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Chinese).

FU: The group is comprised of loyal and regular ravers in normal times, so much so they've given the group a name - the suicide squad. Here's Luo Xihan, one of the members.

LUO XIHAN: (Through interpreter). We've been running at a high for a long time. We only took a break from dancing to take pictures next to that big turd prop.

FENG: Festivals in China attract a mixed crowd. A few parents bring their infants. One festivalgoer carries his tiny, fluffy dog. Fu You, a 45-year-old security guard, bops his head appreciatively to ATTACK's furious beats while scanning the crowd for potential troublemakers.

FU YOU: (Through interpreter). Frankly, I'm a little old for this. But if I weren't working, then I would probably be dancing.

FENG: Up near the stage, the mood picks up in joyful intensity. Teenage ravers lock arms and jump up and down to the crescendoing beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Hey, hey, hey, hey. Hey, hey, hey, hey.

FENG: One of them, Zheng Huo, says it took a while to get used to being part of such a big music festival again after the epidemic.

ZHENG HUO: (Through interpreter). But I'm glad I came. At first, I was a little stiff, but slowly I've warmed up to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FENG: By now, the Earth thrums with a bass so intense the breath is knocked out of my lungs. Around me, somehow, thousands of people continue jumping and screaming. They're happy to be here and happy to be alive. Emily Feng, NPR News, Chengdu, China.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARSHMELLO SONG, "DOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.