The hypnotic Chinese-electro sound of Cici Zhu’s ‘Silk Road’

What do you call a genre that combines trap, hip hop, electro, dubstep, and traditional Chinese Guzheng music? Well, for want of a better term, Cici Zhu calls it ‘Zhengtronic’. In her latest track ‘Silk Road’, her guzheng – a traditional Chinese string instrument – takes centre stage in lieu of vocals and lyrics. It’s a bold move that forcibly and proudly integrates her ethnic identity into her music, and pays off in creating a unique sound.

Cici Zhu – ‘Silk Road’ 

Cici Zhu is a Shanghai-born, London based producer, vocalist and instrumentalist. With a varied background in everything from yoga to music education, she brings a range of influences to create a hybrid sound.

‘Silk Road’ is a tense, fluttering electronic track that balances that floating guzheng with darker, heavier sounds, and is accompanied by a pleasingly psychedelic visualiser video.

The title ‘Silk Road’ may invoke some rather stereotypical images – trade routes, the mystic Orient, dark eyes peering through veils – but the atmosphere of the track is far more unsettling, like walking into some underground club in a dangerous Eastern city. The quavering guzheng plays largely improvised melodies, rippling through the track and bouncing off some edgier samples – a laugh, a distorted voice.

The beats are sharp in comparison, trap and hip hop influenced, with an unexpected dubstep-style breakdown in the middle. The guzheng comes to a juddering finish as gently bubbling water sounds are heard in the background. It’s certainly not the most widely appealing track, but thoughtful and rewarding, and perfect for playing in your headphones when you want to feel like you’re in some edgy movie. Fans of the new and the hybrid should check out Cici Zhu.

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Words Eden Tredwell