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Chinese Art Pops Up in Western Venues

In a curious echo of the Chinatowns that are spread across US cities, a flood of Western pop music and movies into China is now creating an archipelago of "cultural America-towns" in the modern metropolises of this ancient nation.

Beijing's two-decade-old rush toward joining the international community has also given birth to a hybrid "East-West generation" that seems to know much more about the US than its American counterparts do about China.

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Yet the tides of the times may be changing, say many Chinese artists.

"For centuries, European art movements rippled out and became world art movements," says Chinese composer Tan Dun. Over the past decades, he says, American pop culture has seemed to conquer the world.

"Yet now, there seems to be a new curiosity about and openness toward the East," says Mr. Tan, whose hybrid, experimental opera "Marco Polo" was recently performed in New York.

Tan, like many of his contemporaries, says he sees the dawn of a new era.

"The new millennium is likely to begin with a 'crossover century' marked by expanding exchanges and links between the East and the West," says Tan, who now splits his time between New York and Beijing.

Shen Lihui, singer for the Chinese new-wave band Sober, agrees.

"National borders that long framed most people's thinking and tastes are falling away, and our music reflects that," says Mr. Shen.

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Although Sober's compact disc is climbing the charts in a nation of 1.2 billion listeners, the band is now casting its sights on the Western market.

Sober, which has fans as far away as Japan and Norway, is slated to appear on a CBS television program within the next several days and is set to perform at a coming Danish music festival.

Sober's onetime art students are now recording their hit "Superlife!?" disc in English, setting up a Web site, and planning to release their first single over the Internet, says Shen.

Earlier this month, Chinese rock singer Cui Jian broadcast his concert live from Beijing's CD Cafe via the Web, and pop diva Faye Wong's latest singles have begun infiltrating New York's airwaves.

Sober's Shen, whose music-art studio is surrounded by banks of Apple computers, says that "for the first time in history, a planetwide technological revolution is making possible the meshing of Eastern and Western cultures."

Artist-songwriter Shen, whose influences range from Li Bai, the Chinese Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) poet, to Ren Magritte, the 20th-century French painter, to the American band R.E.M., says, "Sober's music is painted from an international palette."

"The Internet is creating a global canvas, and we want to make our mark on it," he adds.

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