Music’s Last Hope

29 Sep

By Gordon Chu | September 29, 2009

I was 13 when I went to my first live concert. Despite the nose-bleed seats and the fact you needed binoculars to see the band, I was hooked and I never looked back. Last year I went to over 30 concerts ranging from independent bands playing at small clubs to the artists that drew 20,000 fans at vast open amphitheaters.

I don’t necessarily mind the endless lines, the overpriced concessions, or even the terrible ticket transaction fees – there’s still something to be said about seeing a live band over listening to a track on a CD. To me, music is an experience, and, like any other music fan, there is no close substitute than experiencing it ‘live’.


Now, in China, the live music scene is still nascent. And I’m not talking about the folk singers or patriotic songs that every Chinese boy and girl knows. I’m talking about the ear-splitting and heart-thumping music that defines audience groups, shapes cultures, and marks eras in time. I’m talking about pop culture.

Let’s take rock n’ roll as an example. In the US, rock has been around since the 1950’s and still continues to rule the airwaves today. However, in China, rock has had a less than modest beginning with gaining any real substantial traction until 1985 when Cui Jian (arguably the godfather of Chinese rock) came on to the scene.

Embracing the lifestyle of rock n’ roll with the long hair, electric guitar, and leather pants – Cui Jian made more than just a statement in fashion and looks. He represented the ethos of rock n’ roll with the sense of freedom, rebellion, and voice of individualism. Note, none of these traits fared particularly well with the Chinese government at that time and rock n’ roll genre stayed relatively subdued under a regime of Western cultural oppression.

Take any other music genre and they all followed a similar fate. Pop, rap, hip hop, or punk – they’ve all arrived to China and found themselves playing to deaf ears. Society taught to shun these values and thus pop culture music never found the traction to build a home in China. Until now…

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