Thursday, September 22, 2005


The girls employed to stand on either side of the entrance of the various fashion boutiques simply shout. Most other shops make use of loudspeakers to either pump music onto the streets or announce what they are selling. It is the megaphone, however, which for me makes the most significant contribution. It is used by a wide variation of people - from the elderly blind couple who busk in Jiao Chang Kou to almost all the smaller shops as well as many market traders.

In most cases the megaphone's internal memory chip is employed to record a short message which is then looped when playback is operated, each loop being separated by a quick double click. This repetition of the recorded announcement highlights the musicality of the Mandarin accent and so a walk down a street filled with small shops, with all the loops gradually going in and out of phase, is like walking through an early Steve Reich composition.