In preparation for the kick off of their Xibu Tour I met up with DJ Caution and Heatwolves, the masterminds behind the Super Ayi Cleaning Team, at a Suzhou Restaurant for some grub and beer. We talked about stage presence, the story behind the Super Ayi Cleaning Team and peanut butter as I dropped food on my shirt. Oh and check out the new mix tape at the bottom.
Love Bang, a monthly party at Dada, was launched in April 2010 by Heatwolves; DJ Caution joined the parties a year later. A serendipitous event last fall joined the two DJs together with some unlikely collaborators, creating the Super Ayi Cleaning Team. The group consists of Heatwolves, DJ Caution, MC One Consciousness and four ayis. Foreigners customarily pay ayis to iron their clothes or wash their drapes. In the world of the Super Ayi Cleaning Team ayis serve another purpose: they clean up mixes.
Seven months ago Heatwolves and DJ Caution were enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the park when they came across a group of middle-aged women singing with a jukebox and dancing. “We were just like, ‘Yo! We really like what you’re doing with your music. We do music too. You should come by. We have a studio. (Which is not even a studio. It’s like my extra bedroom.) I called them and they came over. They were so nice. They brought a bunch of food,” recalls Heatwolves. The group spent the afternoon laughing, eating and listening to music. The four ayis consist of Peanut Butter—so called because she makes peanut butter snacks, Big Heart Ayi, the one who chills and Zhou Ayi.
Since the six met in the fall they’ve spent Sunday afternoons sharing life lessons and talking about music. Dj Caution recounts advice that one of the ayis lent him: “She said be yourself. People will love you for who you are. You don’t gotta be anybody else.” The ayis not only serve as life coaches, they make suggestions for what the two DJs should incorporate into their music or what they should cut out. “We play songs and mixes for them and they either like it or they don’t and that’s kind of our barometer for what works and what doesn’t. It’s almost scary how much their tastes match that of the dance floor,” says Heatwolves. Unfortunately the women usually aren’t able to attend the Love Bang parties because it’s past their bedtime.
DJ Caution & Heatwolves
The four ayis serve as a gauge for whether or not a song is good or if it it’s missing something, such as a touch of Cantonese pop. DJ Caution and Heatwolves collaboration with the four women represents their efforts to make their music more accessible to Chinese culture. “It’s kind of frustrating that we don’t hear new, underground Chinese type of music out there and they help us out with that input,” suggests DJ Caution. The ayis primarily listen to 1980s and early 1990s pop music from the mainland and Hong Kong. Influence from the ayis is so tangible that you can almost reach out and touch it in their tracks. Their 'Love U Long Time' mix (above) begins with a Chinese pop song that is seamlessly juxtaposed to a man talking in slow motion about going to a party. The remainder of the song is a mixture of funk, soul, hip-hop, pop and minimalism.
Super Ayi Cleaning Team is a concept group that strives to connect both the expatriate and Chinese audience. It’s important to them that the music they bring to the dance floor be accessible to the Chinese community. Their infectious energy flows out of the DJ booth and into the undulating limbs of the audience below. Love Bang parties are an experience that effortlessly ties together the DJs and attendees through diverse dance music. The Super Ayi Cleaning don’t want to be a removed third party at their show. They want their music to serve as a conversation that everyone can take part in. “When you have a mic and you talk to the people who are there at your show or your event it makes them feel like they’re part of something. It’s not like ‘Oh yeah, I’m listening to a juke box.’ It’s like ‘Oh I’m part of this. I’m part of this party. We’re doing this here together. We’re having fun together’,” relays DJ Caution.
DJ Caution, Heatwolves & MC One Consciousness
Heatwolves and Caution use the mic to communicate with the audience and to show them that they’re having just as much fun as the people on the dance floor. “That’s my biggest complaint about Shanghai DJs, they’re just so serious; at the end of the day it’s a party, you go out to the bar to have fun and dance. It’s not a fucking exhibition, you’re not a museum piece up here; I guess that’s what Love Bang tries to be - the antithesis to all that bullshit”, Heatwolves suggests.
The Xibu Tour that begins on Saturday, May 26th at Dada is also an effort to expose Chinese people to their music. On June 1st they’ll perform in Chongqing and on June 2nd they’ll play in Chengdu. The tour will end on June 15th at Dada with Choice Cuts as their musical guest. If you haven’t been to a Love Bang party yet, all this suggests that now is the time to get on board. Super Ayi Cleaning Team’s innovative and refreshing presence seems set to map out a path for DJs in China wanting to reach a broader audience.
Mix 4 西部 (The West) by Caution x Heatwolves
WORDS: MELISSA HELLMANN
PICTURES: SUPER AYI CLEANING TEAM