Ten Years, A Snapshot For Chinese New Music

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Ten Years, A Snapshot For Chinese New Music

Author: Yan Jun

We can not miss the following names: Wang Fan, Feng(The Fly), Zuo Xiao Zu Zhou(No), The Tongue, Wang Lei, Dou Wei. These people not only represent the footprints of the development of the Chinese new music, but also stand as the pioneers who have huge influence on Chinese new music. They have changed the history, and will continue to do so, both in terms of musical language and the attitude toward cultures. In this nation where the tradition of music was lost, the rock music is where all kinds of non-academy new music stem from. The names mentioned above have derived from the same stage as that of Cui Jian, the Godfather of Chinese rock music, and they stand as the horizon to the younger avant garde, experimental and underground musicians. They have become an integral part of the history of music culture, when the musicians FM3, Ronez, B6, Top Floor Circus, Junkyard, The other two comrades, Li Jianhong & The 2nd Skin, Zhong Minjie are spreading the blueprint in music genres such as noise, experimental, avant-garde and acoustic.

Pity that I am not able to talk about the new music outside mainland China here, such as ZSLO, Ching-Shen-Ching and Pei in Taiwan,DJ Dee and Sin:ned in Hong Kong, Dajun in Berkley and Xper. Xr. In London. As a matter of fact, the conditions in these areas are sharply different from that of the mainland China. These areas did not witness extreme cultural alienation as China. In other words, the music information from across the world has been totally blocked, as a result, we can not copy or learn in time, not to mention the anxiety of influence. Gradually, we have been alienated from the rest of the world,and this has been the most outstanding characteristic of mainland China.

Besides, the new music I am about to expatiate refers to the music genres ranging from rock music, noise music to IDM, etc, as long as they are fresh and new in China.

The rock music in China has a history of 20 years. Although we live in an ever-changing society which has been greatly influenced by the capital society, this popular, teenage music has received little response in the public due to the information blockage and the ancient lifestyle. It represented spiritual liberation and revolution, and it was regarded as the avant-garde art. Even those performing most sentimental music such as Pop Metal are lonely and sad underground heroes. Not until 1993 when Zuo Xiao Zu Zhou founded No, and Feng founded The fly, Qiu Ye founded Zi Yue ,the underground rock scene, which was labeled as "alternative", was born. In the meanwhile, owing to the handsome investment of some major record companies in Taiwan, the indie singers such as Zhang Chu, He Yong and Dou Wei were widely recognized by the students and young people back then, and they also changed the public opinion that rock music is dull and monotonous. The lead vocal of "Sober" band which failed to attract people’s attention then, later founded the famous record company "Modern Sky", and was the first person to put on pointed-collar shirt of the British style. More and more young people have joined the Brit-pop family since then under his influence.

The concept of "underground rock music" was sensational around 1997, and it also indicated the prospering of 外省 rock under the instigation of punk. The underground rock performers are like true revolutionists: they are in a rush, raspy, and progressive, and they are lacking in musical technology. Most people understand punk as immediate action, that is, to shout out "fuck" to the suppressed adolescence and repressed social reality. As a result, those lyrics of noise, chaos, extreme voice and distortion burst out at the blink of an eye. This type of enthusiasm was shifted to the nu-metal music of the equally strong political note. During this period, the grotesque bass and lyrics of No’s …… which can not be clearly classified, began to upset the rock fans. Because this type of music was not only unheard of, but also not the product of foreign underground music’s influence. The indie style of Pressure Point and indie punk of The Fly was quite oddly different from others. Wang Feng had finished some of his earliest works, including ......, and some grotesque songs teeming with mysticism and religious touch.

Around 2000, Brit-pop and Supermarket began to pop up in Beijing. Due to the strong, complex tempo, dark and coarse timbre of its music, The Tongue from Xinjiang became the leader of rebels. True that their obscure lyrics was permeated with satires to reality. Another famous band was Punk God from the South. Although their music was simple, just like the first-rehearsed folk rock: fast, ferocious and with Punk style, their political stance was rather clear. Before becoming left-winged nationalists, they had once encouraged many warm-blooded youngest of provinces outside Beijing. Now, the trend of fanaticism and indignation gradually calms down. The Tongue becomes a symbol of underground sub-culture. Meanwhile, its members become the core force of Chinese music. As the resistance between the Center (Beijing) and outside provinces disappears different circles, such as underground metal, punk, electronica, experimental rock and etc., are formed. True that these different music circles derive from the same culture, however, today, they are clearly differentiated from one another. Dou Wei and Wang Lei are prolific and prominent independent musicians, with their music influencing generation after generation. Do Wei was first famous as being the lead vocal of a well-known rock band, and later his solo album with features of low tone and narcissism made him popular among students. However, since 2000, he has become a drummer of a jazz band, a famous film music dubber, and an integrator of Chinese music and ambient music. Meanwhile, he is also the partner of electronic band fm3. Wang Lei, in contrast with Do Wei, who adopts an even peaceful music tone, was famous for its folk rock in the mid-1990s. In 1999, he founded techno rock bank, the earliest one in China then. His present genres, from abstract hip-hop?reggae dub house to underground club, are all representative music styles.

The characteristic of Chinese new music is "reinvent". Since the state now still prohibits the free import of musical products, it is too difficult for people in China to acquire the latest foreign music information, not to mention the following culture and music philosophy. Wang Fan has created a sound which is totally distinguished from the outside world by using unimaginable methods. But he himself is completely ignorant for such achievement. Ronez, a noise or experimental electronic musician, who is always compared with Richard D. James by people, at first used walkman to study collage and noise. The suppression resulting from information and power shortage, on the other hand, has stimulated certain musicians and they explode enormous creativities and sentiments. This is just like a kind of primitive, but not systematic creation.

Thus, as underground rock and British-style pop music grows, "reinvent" begins to be replaced by internationalization and those enthusiasts begin to think that the whole scene has lost vibration. They hope to re-see the Mu Tui Gua around 2001, instead of the punk hero, Brain Failure, which is more and more Americanized, or the Blues band, The Sand, which is as sexy as Lovage, or even Secondhand Rose, which has engrafted rock with folk performance and dress men into women. However, these latter bands all are the newly appearing worship targets of a host of rock fans.

However, p2p software, illegal FIP download, pirate CD, smuggle and mail order has changed all these. Young musicians, now, are studying MAX/MSP and writing Mego, ReR and Alien 8 comments in Blog. Internationalization brings the youngster with benefits: more indie punk, who retains the last wrath of the Chinese youth in big cities, is seen in the rock scene; electronic music suddenly flourishes in two years; the fact that B6, who is also a producer, designer and member of bands like ISMU and Dust Box, ect., from Shanghai has been praised by Jean Michael Jarre is known almost by people everywhere; Shanshui developed by Sulumi is working together with 19-T from Japan…… as for noise/sound art, sound artist Dajun Yao from Taiwan brings profound impact with his network TV station. Zhong Minjie, Wang Changcun, lap-top musicians that are never heard of belong to the new generation influenced by him.

Musicians in their 30s are a vital force of today-of course, among those over 40 years old, there is Cui Jian still creating- The 2nd Skin’s style bears certain resemblance to that of Keiji Haino and we can buy its guitarist, Li Jianhong’s records in Tokyo’s Modern Music. Li Jianhong, together with other musicians in Beijing, forms a circle of noise and sound art. The works of Wang Fan stride over fields of noise, post minimalism, experimental ambient, quiet noise and tribe industrial, retaining a religious touch of chaos and mystery. Fm3 brand, from tranquil ambient to radical new minimalism, joins John Cage’s prepared instrument with Chinese traditional instruments by modulating and transforming. Owing to all things mentioned above, they are highly praised by European music critics and musicians. Voicd experiment, malicious lyrics and all kinds of percussion combines to form Top Floor Circus. They integrate avant folk and religious rites with their spot performance and thus develop a space different from that of other music bands. Sometimes, they combine their spot with visual and behavior arts…... What’s interesting is that they are all lovers of traditional culture and are deeply influenced by Buddhism, Taoism and folk culture.

The last thing that I am going to say is that there is no improvised music scene in China, although once Wang Fan organized some performances by using top underground musicians to complete his religious atmosphere, noise rock and psychodelic. However, as a fact of fact, China doesn’t have the basis of jazz and academy avant-garde- musical technology, improvised communicating capacity and ideas breaking through the restriction of music are rather poor. After Wang Fan gave up to cooperate with others, only Noise Association of Lanzhou made such performance once in a while. In recent two years, Nicety Drugstore in Beijing, once famous for its performance of behavior arts, and Top Floor Circus in Shanghai are attracting people’s attention due to such performance. They together did a performance concluded by psychodelic and percussion carnival. From May to June, the former lead vocal of The Other Comrades, the former drummer of Wild Children and I, mainly responsible for sample, founded a temporary band and we make tour performance. Taking fm3 into consideration, that’s all. From this prospective, I believe that the new music in China is just stepping upon the accelerator.

In 1993, Wire Magazine once published a full story about Chinese rock music. In 2003, another article in it used the rising of Eye, Otomo Yoshihide to describe such musicians like Wang Changcun, Ronez. Anyway, we are not talking about "rebel of the rock music under the old war of communist China" as Times once did. Time permitted, let’s communicate with music. Welcome...


Translated by Liu Chong

Yan Jun: music critic, poet, events organizer and curator, founder of Sub Jam label, live in Beijing

Contact: subjam@gmail.comThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

blog: http://www.rockstyle.com.cn/subjam/index.html (down, archive)

site: http://www.subjam.org

myspace: http://www.myspace.com/yanjunyanjun

download: http://www.yanjun.org

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Full Copyright of Translation is with Liu Chong, original (Chinese) works is with Yan Jun (Full Copyright). Published at Rock in China with permission


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