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Year Zero: A look back at the year in Soma Records

One year ago, Shanghai was abuzz as independent record label Soma signed some of the city’s most promising bands in a twin effort to rival northern counterparts Modern Sky and Maybe Mars to put Shanghai’s scene on the national map. For its coming-out spectacular, Soma released the Indie Top compilation, organized several [large showcases](http://www.kungfuology.com/andybest/2008/12/indie-top-one-showcase-at-drea.html) and declared itself a leading force in the local market. But what has it done since the initial sprint out of the gates? Thus far they have only released Indie Top and the trip-hop debut by [Zhong Chi](http://www.douban.com/artist/zhongchi/), Easy World . “The idea is to establish a complete music system,” says Soma director, Li Pang. “From the production to the publication and distribution, to promotion and touring.” While Li and Soma’s concept mirrors the 360 deals that are revolutionizing the record industry, the label’s pace has been severely slowed by a lack of experience and a restructuring of priorities. Recently it has concentrated its efforts on its side project: opening [MAO Livehouse](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/nightlife/live_music/has/mao-live-shanghai/). “[The delay] is due to the company’s scheduling issues,” states San Gui, guitarist for Soma band [Little Nature](http://www.douban.com/artist/little_nature/), which, despite having recorded an album and filmed three music videos, has no confirmed release date for their first record. “The fact [that Soma] signed [The Mushrooms](http://www.douban.com/artist/mushroom.band/) in July 2008 and still haven’t released a single song is one of the worst moves I’ve ever seen,” comments scene staple [Andy Best](http://www.kungfuology.com/andybest/). “That band has commercial potential and, had they got the songs out ... it could have kick started something big.” At present, there is no word on any release from the Mogu Tuan, but, Li adds, “The Mushrooms will soon be larger than our company and ... I will not obstruct a road of development chosen by the band.” Does this mean Soma may lose the Mushrooms, their foremost act, and the only band on their roster with a solid following and honed performance chops? The band declined to comment, which must speak volumes. Despite these delays and setbacks, 2009 hasn’t been a complete loss for Soma, which, in addition to opening the doors of its studio, free of charge, to local bands to compile tracks for Indie Top II (slated for an early-2010 release), they have remained committed to their goal of bringing the Shanghai sound to China’s forefront.

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andy_best's picture

andy_best

Easy World was made before the forming of the Indietop Label or the signing of the other bands. So actually, they have released exactly nothing in 18 months. It was a personal project of Lao Yao and Zhong Chi had never done music before he picked her out and wrote the album. The Indietop One compilation featured mainly pre-recorded tracks and bands that are not on the label.
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