HIS HOUSE HAS been taken over by clay mosquito models and miniature sets; he draws cartoons about robots in love, he works with puppets; and his playful style of scratch DJing fits perfectly with his child-like moniker. You wouldn't peg Eric San - aka Kid Koala - as a teacher, but not only did he receive a degree in early childhood education, but on this June day in Beijing, he's playing just that role in front of a gathered posse of local DJs and media. This is the 29-year-old, Montreal-based, Chinese-Canadian turntable maestro's second trip to China in 11 months; successful visits to Beijing and Shanghai last year prompted organisers to bring him back. Gigs in Shanghai and Beijing have been supplemented by master classes, equal parts 'how to' and 'what the?', which are what have separated his shows on the mainland from those of a growing number of visiting DJs and musicians. It's a chance for local turntablists to witness San's work up close and for the uninitiated to discover what scratch DJing is all about. '[The class] gave me an opportunity to break down and demystify some of what was going on, technically,' says San. 'It was mostly media people there to acquaint themselves with what I do, and why I flew over the ocean.' San has already achieved a degree of fame, not only from his opening slot on Radiohead and Beastie Boys tours, but from his two releases on the British dance label, Ninja Tune, which made San its first North American artist. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Some of My Best Friends combine his deft scratching skills with his ability to find strange, silly and subtle samples that he combines with the musician's ear trained through an early childhood piano education. The mini-comics that were a part of his releases added another level of fun, and then, in 2003, the music became not the focus, but a bonus part of the package, when he released his first graphic novel, Nufonia Must Fall. Without dialogue, but with an accompanying soundtrack of piano-based music, it follows a robot on a quest to win the girl of his dreams. His next project - set for an autumn release - is another graphic novel, this time composed of photographs of miniature models and sets, which tells the story of a country bumpkin mosquito in the big city trying to make it in the local jazz scene. In 2007, he says, he and his posse will create a puppet-show musical, inspired by his parents' love of show tunes. Back in Beijing, his parents aren't far from his mind as he performs a mash-up of Moon River - the song is one of his mum's favourites, and his version is a gift to them. Later, he scratches out a trumpet solo - and more - atop a standard swing-blues backing track. While the DJs in attendance are overjoyed at the chance to watch the Kid, the media and curious onlookers are somewhat baffled. 'If they were confused about [what I do] before the master class, they were definitely more confused after,' says San. Shanghainese DJ Gary Wang (aka V-Nutz), who won China's first nationwide DMC competition in 2002, is left speechless. 'I basically knew what he was doing, and I was still blown away,' he says. Wang Liang (aka Wordy), placed third in last year's DMC competition, is also amazed by San's show and master class. 'Seeing Kid Koala is important for [us] ... A lot of people think they're DJs, and they think they can scratch. But then they see someone like this,' he says. There are many who call themselves DJs, Wordy says, but he and V-Nutz can cite only four people who have the technical proficiency - themselves, Beijinger Shorty-S and Shanghainese Fortune. Nine people participated in last year's national DMC competition - the winner flew to the international competition in London - and there's concern there may be no China DMC competition this year. 'The rock scene is much better than it was 10 years ago,' says the former rocker Wordy, who traded his guitar for a turntable and a mixer three years ago. 'The scratch-DJ situation now is like rock five or six years ago. People hear the word DJ and they think of the discos - like 'mm-tss-mm-tss',' he says, mimicking the sounds of the heavy techno that's a feature of most Beijing clubs. But those packed into the room at Club Mix aren't thinking of disco during Kid Koala's set, and especially not when Wordy and V-Nutz join San for a brief jam session. The guest of honour is impressed, as he was on his last trip. 'It's bubbling up here. It's so new that you're seeing all these light bulbs go off,' he says. ''Oh, maybe I can do it this way' ... You can feel it's on the cusp of something. It's electric.' A few days after the show, Wordy, who's still on a high, is back behind the decks in the hip-hop hangout Dragonstylaz. The office-studio looks right - with two dance rooms, small and large, for b-boy dancing, and a room with a four-turntable setup - but it's in the most unlikely of locations: inside the Olympic Stadium. From back walls of the space, the track around the football pitch is spitting distance away. The space is run by, among others, Zou Bin, a DJ who occasionally teaches scratch DJing. 'Most kids don't want to study scratch,' he says. 'They just want to make money.' Paid gigs, as both he and Wordy know all too well, rarely come with the ability to play the music they love most. Wordy recalls playing at fashion shows in not-quite-fashionable spots such as Zhengzhou, Henan, and playing poppy hip-hop at Beijing clubs rather than tunes from his beloved underground collection. Zou also organises and DJs at techno parties, including an upcoming beach party in Qinhuangdao, Hebei, on July 9. But while most clubs cater to the newly moneyed party people with pop-rap, Zou and Wang remain optimistic: 'Old school might be the next pop music,' says Zou. 'A lot of new songs are old songs redone.' Meanwhile, they're both excited about Section 6, a hip-hop party held on the last Saturday of each month, and now, about Dragonstylaz. Zou compares the space to community centres overseas. 'Outside China, there are community clubs, like for boxing. In China, there's nothing like that,' he says. Dragonstylaz, he says, is a place where hip-hoppers and b-boys, scratch DJs and rappers alike can hang out. 'We want this to be like a family,' says Zou Yang, who also helps oversee the space. 'A family for hip-hop.' As she speaks, one of the country's best 'street dance' teams, FCR, is going through breakdance moves in the studio behind her. Other dance crews, a string of rappers, DJ students and random hip-hoppers come by to hang out. Wordy is often to be found at Dragonstylaz. 'When I saw what Kid Koala was doing, I had so many ideas for stuff I could be doing. But there aren't any real record shops in China,' he says. 'So I can't do those things yet.' The self-proclaimed 'vinyl junkie' boasts a collection of 700 records, which he accumulated through Beijing's second-hand markets, online ordering and the kindness of friends going abroad. But Wordy has a new plan to boost his collection: 'I'm going to get really good and win the DMC China competition, so I can go to London, and go to the record shops and buy a whole lotta records,' he says. 'I hear they get their new shipments on Mondays, and tonnes of DJs go to the shop at the same time to dig through them.' With a confident smile that he'll join those DJs on some future Monday in London, he says: 'I'm going to be the best DJ in China.'