HomePop CultureNew NY bar bridges cultures through Mandopop and Cantopop

New NY bar bridges cultures through Mandopop and Cantopop

By Xintian Wang

(Editor Note: If you know anyone who would appreciate and benefit from this bilingual post, please forward to them. As always, your feedback is appreciated. Thank you.)

In the heart of Long Island City, a vintage bar becomes a time machine, transporting customers to1990s China. The soft, melancholic voice of Faye Wong fills the air, singing the iconic Eyes on Me. Its lyrics resonate with the diverse crowd, each with their own connection to the music. The melody beckons memories of late nights spent listening to the radio, secrets shared under the glow of a bedroom lamp, and the comforting presence of familiar voices from their childhood lands. 

在纽约长岛市的中心,一家老式酒吧成为一台时光机,将客人带到了1990年代的中国。黑胶唱片里王菲的《红豆》婉婉道来,柔和而忧郁的歌声弥漫在空中。歌词与旋律唤起了多少深夜聆听收音机的回忆,在卧室灯光下分享的秘密,以及来自童年故土的熟悉声音。

This is the cocktail bar 929 all about, bringing Mandopop and Cantopop music to first-generation Asian American guests and beyond. Co-founded by creative strategist Haoran Chen and entrepreneur Jeff Liu, 929 offers a unique cultural celebration that beautifully blends music, mixology, and a shared connection to the Chinese diaspora. The bar specializes in innovative cocktails using nostalgic Chinese ingredients, and Taiwanese light bites, complemented by a curated playlist of vintage vinyl records, spinning an eclectic mix of Cantonese and Mandarin pop classics.

这就是鸡尾酒吧929的夜晚,为纽约的第一代亚裔移民以及美国客人带来80-90年代的华语流行音乐。由创意战略师陳浩然(Haoran Chen)与企业家劉光耀(Jeff Liu)共同创办,929提供了一个独特的文化绿洲,将音乐、创业特调和对华人社群的共鸣融为一体。这家酒吧专注于使用怀旧的中国食材做创新鸡尾酒,搭配原汁原味的台湾小吃,和着精心挑选的黑胶唱片,传承着华语流行经典。

At the core of 929’s concept is the desire to create a space where people can come together, enjoy a drink, and revel in the shared love of Mandopop and Cantopop music, according to Chen. “We’re combining our heritage, so that means Mandarin pop and Cantonese pop. Then you see those posters of Hong Kong cinema and Chinese pop stars on the wall. That’s how we came up with the idea,” Chen says.

929概念的核心是要创建一个人们可以聚在一起、享受特调饮品,并陶醉于华语流行音乐和文化的空间。创始人陳浩然说:“我们希望结合我们的文化背景来构思这个文化空间,这意味着华语金曲和粤语歌曲,以及墙上贴着的香港电影和华语流行明星的海报。”

Haoran Chen at 929
By Xintian Wang

Chen immigrated to the U.S. when he was 12 and faced the challenge of straddling two cultures. The bar, in a way, serves as a space for him to explore and celebrate his identity, both as a queer Asian man and as a first-generation Chinese American. The complex journey of understanding one’s identity is mirrored in 929’s mission, encouraging first-generation guests to embrace their multifaceted backgrounds and experiences.

12岁时移民美国的陳浩然面临着跨足两种文化的挑战。这家酒吧在某种程度上为他提供了一个让他探索和庆祝自己的身份的空间——一名酷儿亚裔男性和第一代华裔美国人。理解自己身份的复杂旅程在929的使命中得以反映——鼓励第一代客人拥抱他们多元的背景和经历。

In addition to creating a community for lovers of Mandarin and Cantonese pop music as well as introducing these genres to the American audience, Chen wanted more senior Chinese immigrants to come here and connect with their roots. “When I was building this space, I was thinking about my mom. She obviously grew up listening to this kind of music and she likes to go to Karaoke. She likes to drink and she likes dancing. But when it comes to someone in her 50s who immigrated from China to the U.S., nightlife is really limited for her, especially when it comes to a nightlife space with the music that she likes. So, I hope this space would be for people like her, too,” says Chen. 

除了为普及华语流行音乐以及将这些音乐风格介绍给美国观众的音乐爱好者创造一个社区外,陳浩然希望更多年长的中国移民能够前来,与他们的根源建立联系。他说:“当我建立这个空间时,我想到的是我的妈妈。她显然是在这种音乐中长大的,她喜欢去唱卡拉OK。她喜欢喝酒,她喜欢跳舞。但对于那些在五十多岁从中国移民到美国的人来说,夜生活非常有限,尤其是在有她喜欢的音乐的夜生活场所。所以我希望这个空间也可以是为像她这样的人而设的。”

Chen’s dedication to 929 is evident in his commitment; he quit his job as a creative and marketing manager at Industry City to run the bar full-time. In a country where Mandopop and Cantopop bars are scarce, Chen and his team have faced their challenges. When asked whether he ever doubted the success of such a unique concept, Chen told AsAmNews: “I worry, but when you do something niche, you have to just believe in it. At least I won’t regret doing it, because I feel like if I didn’t do it the way that it is, I would probably regret it.” 

陳浩然对929的执着显而易见;他辞去了上一份担任创意和市场经理的工作,全职经营这家酒吧。在一个华语流行音乐酒吧并不为人熟知的国家,陈浩然和他的团队面临挑战。当被问及他是否曾怀疑这一独特概念的成功时,陳浩然告诉AsAmNews:“我虽然担心,但当你做一些小众的事情时,你必须相信它。至少我不会后悔,因为我觉得如果我没有以这种方式去做,我肯定会后悔。”

Still, Mandopop and Cantopop are new to the American audience. “There’s a stereotypical image of Mandopop and Cantopop, viewing it as slow, ballad-heavy music that focused solely on love themes. But there’s so much more about that. There’s a great catalog of electronic music, experimental and alternative rock, as well as dream pop. There are so many things that people don’t realize how diverse the Mandopop and Cantopop are,” says Chen.  

(Check out our slide show below.)

然而,华语流行音乐对美国观众来说还是新鲜事物。陳浩然表示:“人们对华语流行音乐有一种刻板印象,认为它是慢节奏、充满情感的音乐,专注于爱情主题。但它还有很多其他方面。有很多电子音乐、实验和另类摇滚,以及迷幻流行。有很多人并没有意识到华语流行音乐的多样性。”

As for Chen’s favorite Mandopop artists, he has a deep affection for female artists who have made a significant impact on self-empowerment, like Faye Wong, Sandy Lam, and Jolin Tsai. Chen says that these artists helped him navigate his own identity, offering messages of self-acceptance in their music. Chen fondly shared how these artists’ lyrics and personas provided him with a sense of belonging, even when struggling with his own identity.

当被问到自己最喜欢的华语流行音乐艺术家,陳浩然说他特别喜欢对自我赋权产生重大影响的女性艺术家,如王菲、林忆莲和蔡依林。他说,这些艺术家在他找自我的过程中帮助了他自我接纳。陳浩然分享了这些艺术家的歌词和形象如何在他与自己身份挣扎时为他提供一种归属感。

Today, 929 has become a crucial place to connect people to their roots and help them navigate their own identity, be it Asian American immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, or simply lovers of Chinese music and culture. In the past Mid-Autumn Festival, 929 hosted a drag show and offered different kinds of mooncakes and special cocktails for guests. The drink Moonlight Love, named after singer Coco Lee’s classic song, is made of special Chinese ingredients like White Rabbit Candy, Lotus Seed, and Egg White.

如今,929已成为一个重要的场所,将人们与他们的根源联系在一起。无论是亚裔美国移民、性少数社区成员,还是中国音乐和文化的爱好者,929都帮助他们探索自己的身份。在过去的中秋节,929举办了一场酷儿走秀,并为客人提供不同种类的月饼和特色鸡尾酒。饮品“月光爱人”以歌手李玟的经典歌曲命名,由白兔奶糖、莲子和蛋清等特殊的中国食材制成。

“I find it fascinating to blend elements from the queer community into our traditional cultural celebrations. It’s a beautiful contradiction that I wholeheartedly embrace. This idea has me thinking that one day, our families might accept and celebrate both our cultural heritage and our identities as queer individuals, making traditional holidays even more special. The idea of a close-knit, open-minded family during traditional holidays is something I’ve always yearned for. Now, as I build my own family with my husband and our two cats, this is the Chinese tradition I hold dear, even in the heart of New York,” says Chen. 

陳浩然说:“我觉得将同志社区的元素融入我们的传统文化庆祝活动非常有趣。这是一个美丽的矛盾,我全心全意地拥抱这个想法。这个想法让我想到,也许有一天,我们的家人会接受并庆祝我们的文化传统和我们作为酷儿的身份,使传统节日变得更加特别。在传统节日期间有一个亲密、开明的家庭的概念是我一直渴望的。即使在大洋彼岸的纽约,当我与我的丈夫还有我们的两只猫组件自己的家庭时,我才发现这就是我珍视的传统与文化。”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Please fill out this 2-minute survey which we will use to improve our content. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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