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Music Genres in Chinese Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

Music (音乐 – yīn yuè) is a huge part of my life. From playing cello, percussion, and guitar through my school years, to following my favorite bands around the country, to attending music festivals in the US, China, and Indonesia, music has always played an important role in my life. How about you?

Do you like listening to music? (你喜欢听音乐吗?- nǐ xǐ huan tīng yīn yuè ma).

What kind of music do you like? (你喜欢什么音乐 – nǐ xǐ huan shén me yīn yuè)

Naxi orchestra jammin' out in Lijiang.

Naxi orchestra jammin’ out in Lijiang.

To help you answer that second question, here are 20 different genres of music in Chinese:

English

Chinese

Pinyin

alternative

另类

lìng lèi

bluegrass

兰草

lán cǎo

blues

蓝调

lán diào

classical

古典

gǔ diǎn

country

乡村

xiāng cūn

easy listening

qīng

electronic

电子

diàn zǐ

folk

民乐

mín yuè

heavy metal

重金属

zhòng jīn shǔ

hip-hop

嘻哈

xī hā

jazz

爵士

jué shì

opera

歌剧

gē jù

pop

流行

liú xíng

rap

说唱

shuō chàng

R&B

节奏布鲁斯

jié zòu bù lǔ sī

reggae

雷鬼

léi guǐ

rock

摇滚

yáo gǔn

soul

灵魂

líng hún

traditional

传统

chuán tǒng

world

世界

shì jiè

Note that for basically every genre, you can add the word for music to the end, i.e. 古典音乐 (classical music), 摇滚音乐 (rock music), or 世界音乐 (world music). This isn’t always necessary, however. The word 民乐 (folk music) already has the character for music in the name, 说唱 (rap) is perfectly fine on its own, as is 歌剧 (opera). If the conversation is clearly focused on music, you’ll be understood whether or not you add the word 音乐 onto the genre. Just don’t be surprised if Chinese people have no idea what you’re talking about if you mention something like bluegrass or world music – these genres simply aren’t very common.

Not surprisingly, pop music definitely reigns supreme in China. Rock, folk/traditional, and electronic music are all quite popular as well, and there are definitely developing electronic, heavy metal, and rap/hip-hop scenes popping up around the country. There are even Chinese reggae bands out there, such as my personal favorite, Long Shen Dao (龙神道). Check them out in a “Streets, Beats & Eats” episode on Beijing:

If you’d like to learn more about Chinese music, check out our series on Chinese instruments:

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is a teacher, student, writer, photographer, web designer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently planning a trip through Central/South America.


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