A China-inspired playlist

Some audiences have called it “cute,” while others have dubbed it “cheesy,” but French-Vietnamese producer Arnaud Bertrand’s album, Chinoiseries, has brought a bit of international spunk into underground hip hop. For me and my dance-themed radio show, that’s cultured.


Bertrand, known by his fans as “Onra,” found inspiration for this style on a trip to Vietnam, where he bought Chinese records from the 1960s and ’70s. He mixed nasally, high-pitched vocals from one of these old school songs with Chinese, big-band style beats for “The Anthem,” a less than two minute tune that I often play on repeat.

(If you cannot see YouTube videos in China, try use VPN software : Freedur,  and use coupon code CHINAHUSH to get 10% off.)

Onra’s Chinese concept isn’t his newest work. His fame in Beijing and Shanghai reached an all-time high in 2008 and 2009, after a remixed version of “The Anthem” played in a Coca-Cola TV commercial for the Beijing Olympics. The Shanghaiist interviewed Bertrand last summer to prelude his DJ gig at a Shanghai nightclub, and he also toured Beijing the same summer, just before the release of his next album—this time with influences from India—1.0.8.


(If you cannot see YouTube videos in China, try use VPN software : Freedur,  and use coupon code CHINAHUSH to get 10% off.)

This LP moved away from the Chinese twist, and into what Bertrand said exhibited his “darker side,” and now, with the release of his new EP, “Long Distance,” Onra has traveled even further from his Southeast Asian spark to fame.

“Long Distance” visits Bertrand’s soulful side, with strands of synth and funk, featuring Reggie B, a singer from Midwest U.S. with R&B flavor. Onra’s full album, with additional guest artists and 21 tracks, will come out in May.

Although Onra’s latest sounds don’t contain Mandarin lyrics, one other popular U.S. artist has, in the past year, become part of this trend in other ways. Raekwon, a member of the multi-platinum hip hop group Wu Tang Clan, released Only Built 4 Cuban Lynx II in 2009. In this album, Raekwon incorporated a Shaolin-esque vibe in some of his tracks, possibly taking a tip or two from Wu Tang leader RZA, a student of Shaolin Temple monk Shi Yan Ming.

I prefer Onra’s tribute to traditional Chinese rhythms over Wu Tang’s rapping, so I’ll hold my breath for the next group who will, once again, successfully bridge the gap between two very different music genres using digital technology.

Until then, I’ll settle for cheesy.

Check out Onra’s myspace featuring new album audio clips

  1. we had him play at the Shelter in Shanghai last year, it was a damn good show, he rocked his beats live with 2 mpc 1000’s. ( sampler/drum machine )

  2. I agree this is better with out rapping over it. But if could speed it up it could be dance music for the dancers out their. I can’t Chinese rocking to a slow grooving beat. But it sounds great. I never heard of this guy but he’s got something going for him.

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