Remember when the world was obsessed with Psy’s K-pop single Gangnam Style, which spread like a virus? Young people in China, especially in rural areas, are having a similar craze with the shehui 社会 subculture, translated literally as “society,” referring to a type of rough-and-tumble street culture. (Earlier this week, we introduced different styles of low-cost homemade shehui-flavored skits on Kuaishou, a short video platform popular among young people in rural China.) Among the many symbols of shehui culture, you might be most familiar with Peppa Pig, which was banned on some platforms due to its association with “society” folk.
But here’s another prominent symbol of the shehui life: the “social shake” dance (社会摇 shèhuì yáo):
“Social Shake” is the name of a single from Chinese singer Xiao Quan 萧全, the video for which — embedded above — went viral in 2015. While Xiao didn’t invent the “social shake” dance, he successfully blended elements from other subcultures, such as music from the Mandopop dance song “Little Apple” (小苹果 xiǎo píngguo), and plaza dancing, the kind that grannies do on public squares. The social shake — usually accompanied by electronic music — does not have a specific move-set, so it’s easily imitated by amateur video makers. Typically, it features a group of dancers doing a series of impromptu or self-choreographed movements such as nodding, waist-wriggling, and shoulder-wiggling.
China’s most famous social shake video producer, Paipaiqi, had 33 million followers on Kuaishou, and allegedly purchased luxurious townhouses in his home city of Harbin before his account was taken down by the platform, which accused him of spreading vulgar content.
Xiao Quan, to the best of our knowledge, has had no such problems. We’ve translated the lyrics of his song below.
A long time ago, there was a group of so-called shehui people
Every full-moon night, they gathered for an ancient and mysterious ritual
Fight monsters, fight monsters
Buy a watch, buy a watch [买个表 — mǎi gè biǎo — sounds like the word for “motherf**ker”]
Small waistline, small waistline
Hello Mr. DJ
Don’t stop the rhythm
My brain’s throwing a party
I can’t stop shaking
Give me a minute
Leave my consciousness blank
Let troubles and worries
Get out of my way
The rhythm is too heavy
The alcohol is working
The lights keep spinning
Making me want to free myself
The rhythm is too heavy
Raise your hands
You want to free yourself
They want to free themselves
Now my heart is feeling free
My body is ready
This song is called “social shake”