Live at the Forbidden City
From Music-China Wiki
Author: Dennis Rea
Publishing house: iUniverse
With a total of 185 pages the book "Live at the Forbidden City" is promising a brief, yet intense contact with the underground rock scene of the 80s and 90s in China. It is keeping the promise, maybe not in the full possible intense, but with a good sense of narratorship by Dennis Rea. Giving account to his travels, studies and teaching in China (Chengdu and Taiwan), he is introducing us to the as-is situation, giving us a first step into the mentality and cultural behaviours that form the China of his time.
In a second step he opens the varient world of Chinese faces and minorities, giving account to the directions that traditional music has taken. After about 40 pages though the direction of the book is changing and turning to modern rock music after having introduced the reader to both the as-is situation and the cultural diversity.
Quick and dirty, hard and fast, Dennis Rea is noting the experiences he made during his sole concerts in Chengdu, his tour with "Identity Crisis", his tour with "The Vagaries" and his "Land" tour. He thereby concentrates on the facts and gives brief (and correct) explanations to the relationships and importance of single players and figures in the music scene. E.g. his relationship to Tang Lei and her involvement in the Chengdu music scene. Or his friends in Taiwan's jazz circles.
As he got in contact with Cui Jian the further annotation about the Chinese music scene circles around him, as Dennis Rea interwove his own tours with those of Cui Jian (sometimes by chance). Dennis Rea gives his own thoughts and explanations to certain scenes and situations and leads the reader through a country of misunderstanding, troublesome concerts and euphoric audiences.
In short: Live at the Forbidden City is a good beginners book for those so far not involved in Chinese music, an interesting musicians autobiography (for a specific part of time, 80s to 90s) with a focus on China. If you never have had any contact with Chinese modern music and how it developed be prepared to read a well-written book that empowers you with the basics (and more) without turning into a scientic encyclopedia.
For students involved in China studies it gives a new point of view by a foreign musician into the music scene of China and of Chengdu, mixed with new facts and stories about Cui Jian and other musicians. A delightful music tour book packed with interesting experiences by jazz musician Dennis Rea. Definitely a must-read.
Dennis Rea displays the music scene of Chengdu at the end of the 80s with interesting details about the main three music circles and their leading musicians.