A door cracks open, and a blast of electric guitar erupts into the corridor. Inside the small room, under a poster of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix posing as Uncle Sam, four young Shanghainese women—the other members of Sammy's punk rock band, Black Luna—are starting to jam. It is a serendipitous twist of history: The bunker, once the symbol of a wounded and cowering society, has become a breeding ground for Shanghai's music scene. The rehearsal rooms at 0093—the moniker is a phonetic combination of its street name and number—have helped incubate more than a hundred local bands, reinvigorating a culture that now, as before, blurs the East-West divide.
Sammy sheds her jacket as the band lets loose. Orange, 20, pounds on the drums; Juice, 23, shreds chords at the speed of Shanghai's maglev train. Sammy sings, and her bangs flop up and down in double time. The daughter of a traditional Shanghainese opera singer, she is taking her family's musical talent in a new direction. "We are newborn birds, but we have big dreams," Sammy cries. "Let the whole world hear us sing."
Every city has a rhythm, a pulse that makes it move. In Shanghai, one of the fastest growing megacities in the world, it's easy to get lost in the relentless percussion of jackhammers and pile drivers, bulldozers and building cranes. The proliferating skyscrapers and construction sites are part of a stunning metamorphosis that Shanghai will show off as host of Expo 2010, the contemporary version of the World's Fair, which runs from May through October. The rise of China's only truly global city, however, is driven not by machines but by an urban culture that follows its own beat—embracing the new and the foreign even as it seeks to reclaim its past glory.
Shanghai natives form an urban tribe, set apart from the rest of China by language, customs, architecture, food, and attitudes. Their culture, often called haipai (Shanghai style), emerged from the city's singular history as a meeting point of foreign merchants and Chinese migrants. But over the years it has become a hybrid that confounds the very idea of East and West. "In foreigners' eyes Shanghai is part of 'mysterious China,'" says Zhou Libo, a local comedian. "In the eyes of other Chinese, Shanghai is part of the outside world."