China Rocks!

Hey all!

Some of you (well, ok, just Bowen) have asked about the music scene in China. Well, I've been learning, and here's a little info on that.

There's not much of a music scene the way we understand it in the US. Of course, they do have the ubiquitous, industry-generated, dull and homogenous pop music the way we have. People can afford to buy CD's now, and where there's money to be made fobbing industry-generated, low-quality dreck off on impressionable youth, there will be music industry execs to generate the dreck and do the fobbing. To be sure, some of the pop music is a bit interesting, or at least can qualify as a guilty pleasure, but it's mostly pretty ghastly. So of course this is what everyone likes. If anyone wants to start a Chinese edition of Teen Beat you're in like Flint.

The rock kids are all big fans of Pantera, Metallica, Cinderella (!), Bon Jovi, etc., and the greatest band of all, Guns 'N Roses!!! (:-P) I was forced to sit through a video CD of Guns 'N Roses last night with my adulating friend, shudder shudder. I have to explain it to him. He is in disbelief. Still, It's a sure bet that a lot of our best punk bands spent plenty of their youthful hours listening to Black Sabbath and AC/DC and KISS, so all is not lost. Note that I am making no quality comparisons between Black Sabbath and Cinderella (eww), just sort of a general transitional comparison from hard rock to punk. Of course, one of my secret hopes is that someone reinvents glam. Good high-quality glam, a Chinese T-Rex or David Bowie or something, not that godawful Hanoi Rocks stuff. It would be a shame if they skipped over glam, I think. Oh, sure, punk's all well and good for voicing your displeasure with a corrupt and dictatorial regime -- but dude, what about the drugs??? What about the hallucinatory space flights into your own psychedelic fantasy world?

So on to the alternative to industry-generated pop/rock (YES I'm reclaiming the word "alternative" for MYSELF! Give it back, you bastards! We need it in China!). As far as DIY, local or regional bands and so one, there isn't much opportunity. Well, it's probably different in Beijing, but out here in the sticks (which means all of China except Beijing and Shanghai) There aren't many places for bands to play, and they absolutely can't travel the way they do at home, mostly because no one has cars, and anyway the roads throughout most of China are pretty impossible. But even if they could travel, there's nowhere to play, and also there is little knowledge of or appreciation for independent kind of rock. Which means, of course, it is THE PERFECT ENVIRONMENT for good music to emerge! And lo, it does exist!

Well, sort of. In this environment you need to make some use of the established music industry infrastructure to get your CD's produced and distributed, so the bands I have heard are to some extent "big label" alternative music. But they do represent a new strain of Chinese music, and some of it's pretty neat. However, a lot of them have been exposed to our models of "alternative" bands and so there is some mimicry going on, at least in the presentation. Still, it's a step, and given the source is far more interesting than the stuff the spoiled and safe rock-star brats of the American "counter-culture" (ha!) produce.

So I have a student, Guo Jianya (interestingly enough, Jianya means "to build Asia"), at one of my schools who has been turning me on to some really cool stuff (his hometown is outside of Beijing, which is why he knows this stuff). There are some very interesting things happening in China! A lot of the "underground" stuff is a little poppy or mainstream sounding by our standards, but he also has some really interesting post-punk, guttural growly kind of stuff that I really like. There are also a couple of bands that play western-radio-style alt-rock (oops, I said it), including this really young band called "Miserable Faith" whose sound I can best (but poorly) describe as China's answer to Rage Against the Machine. The most interesting thing is what they have to say, and saying things is really not a risk-free proposition here. Considering their lyrics, how this CD got pressed is beyond me, except I think I remember Jiang Zemin saying once that not many people pay attention to rock music. Hmmm... famous last words? Anyway, here are some samples of Miserable Faith songs for your perusal (fortunately for us, they printed them in English as well as Chinese), and I think you will see what I mean. Thinking back on the Hundred Flowers campaign, where Mao encouraged opposing voices then had them all locked up, I wonder what will become of this kind of thing. Anyway, make of it what you will!

- Alex

P.S. I have been informed that there are a couple of places to go hear live music in Kunming. Once I do it I'll let you know what it's all about.



No objections ever exist * Slogans have been all around
Inevitable truth buried * Distortions seem so elegant and stately
You're disturbed by what you see
Will you ever never be like this?
So I'll take up the means of criticizing
I'll take up the means of revolting
I'll take up the means of wreaking
'Coz my freedom has been sprouting

So say, you're impartial * Say, you're liberal
So say, you're equal, say, you're real!

Someone wanna be the god of the people
Without giving them the right to speak
The society has not been so ridiculous * But all so lamentable
Here I'll take up the means of criticizing
I'll take up the means of revolting
I'll take up the means of wreaking
'Coz my freedom has been sprouting

Buddy say, you're impartial
Say, you're liberal, * Say, you're equal * Say, you're real!
It's the reality and truth that you oughta face after all
But the cowardice has been corroding us
Cowardice has been corroding us * Cowardice is corroding us
Cowardice is corroding us!


Like a Bitch

Gloss over the flourishing age
Gloss over the age's flourishing
Gloss over the unprincipled fraudulent
Gloss over the unprincipled fraudulent deal
Gloss over the greed and shamelessness
Gloss over the shamelessness and greed
Gloss over the mirage and balance

Sell on, full of tricks * Sell on, full of conscience
Sell on, with all your passion
Sell on, with your commonly used guidance
Sell on, with your intelligence
Sell on, mind has been covered by the avarice policy
Sell on, the allure between you and lust has been so ambiguity
Sell on, it'll fill your vanity * It will satisfy your appetite
Sell on, like a real bitch!


This's a Problem

I am the hand beneath the shadow * I am the most cunning assist in the crime
I am the most fatal trump card * I am the prophet who doesn't have to prophesy
I am the trick of feigning compliance * I am the gimmick to let the cat out of the bag
I am the problem * Has this society become more sinister * While it turns more complex?
The spreading weeds will soon be got rid of * Yet the threats are everywhere
There are new problems for you to tackle * There are new conflicts for you to put down
What's we gotta be after? * What's we gotta hold on to?
This problem this problem this is a problem

Everyone in the world is glorifying the ruler * I want so much to slap on their faces
Or have the age frozen * 'Coz I hate * I hate all those approving disgusting echoes
So have you ever had any evolvement?
Through these thousands of years' life as slaves and servants
Has the community been more prosperous?
Or is it just some kind of husk of undeserved reputation?
In the river of time something deposits
That's what we called Chinese civilized history?
So the pain of yesterday shouldn't continue any more
Who stand up and become the master after all?
This's a problem * This's been a problem * The problem is
We ain't going to stand up to point out the genes of our cowardice
Where are all your righteous gone?
The way we solve it is not the way we are consented
Is other's acceptance necessary?
This's a problem!


The Chinese stuff

To gain and maintain an ideal society
The tabu don't have to be tasted according to the law
When exploitation takes the place of the renovation
of the productivity
what fucking else could trash the hinge of deference in your heart?
now we check up the system
only to find the rupture is never reparable
only to find the so-called exit is nothing but a trap
you could assume your future
no fucking stuff is on the canvas
no, not a single
but you wonder
wonder why there's always someone who could have his full swing
so who is grasping our own rights and making them cockling
why they always do anything as they want
where are our rights gone?
'coz the fucking opportunity stuff is never equal to everyone!
look through the news of today
and tell me what the hell they make you believe
just put all the process aside
then will there be a path pointed out?
focus on the deal
and focus on your deal against the deal
can't you find that we are better cowards than ever before?
you just breathe in and out
so negative, buddy
you know there ought to be some righteous violence
since the break of the bubbles is that fucking easy
so what fucking myth are we imagining?
why they always do anything as they want
where are our rights gone?