Xie Tianxiao is back with a new album and imminent stage show in Beijing that promises a dramatic landing.
Archive for the China Rock N' Roll Category
When Xu Wei came back on the scene after a four-year break with a new album, At the Moment, he received a letter from one of his fans.
Years ago the man had listened to Xu’s second album That Year in his university dormitory. He didn’t like it because he was obsessed with Cantopop then. After graduation, he started working, fell in love and experienced life’s struggles and a heartbreak. One day, he listened to Xu’s That Year again and was moved to cry.
“I felt the same way as you sing in the songs and suddenly, I felt someone understood me,” he wrote in the letter.
That’s the magic of Xu’s music, stirring up mutual emotions among listeners.
Twenty years ago, the singer-songwriter left his hometown Xi’an in Shaanxi province to pursue his music dream in Beijing. In those early days, with no money and no record company to produce his works, he wrote songs like Birds and Drifting to express his struggle between dreams and reality.
In one of his early songs, Two Days, he murmurs: “I have two days, one day for hope and the other day for hopelessness.”
The waiting is finally over – he has become one of the best-known rock musicians in China.
The 44-year-old’s new album seems to be another chapter of his life. Replacing the desperate lyrics and impetuous rock beats are warmth, peace and contentment.
During his recent retreat, Xu got interested in traditional Chinese culture, and he started reading books about Buddhism and drinking tea. He also spent hours listening to music from U2 and Bob Dylan to J.S. Bach. He also enjoys the music of guqin, a traditional seven-string plucked instrument.
He recorded the new album while traveling in Yunnan province last April, a process and journey which became a documentary.
He invited Li Yanliang, who is hailed as a top guitarist, to be his album’s producer. On the road, the two old friends agreed that music is a kind of study and they don’t want to achieve anything through this album except to seek like-minded listeners to share and enjoy.
The meaning of rock ‘n’ roll also evolved for Xu. In the past, he wrote rock songs to relieve emotions and to be critical. Now he sees rock as an expression of love.
Xu recalls his old friend, the established rock band Tang Dynasty’s bassist Zhang Ju, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1995.
“In his diary, he wrote, ‘Life is like a tree’. He loved life, loved people around him,” he says.
“When you listened to 70-year-old Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude at the Opening Ceremony of London Olympic Games, you felt love, didn’t you?”
Recently, Xu also signed a contract with Beijing Gehua Live Nation Co, a leading live-performance organizer, which has brought international artists like Bob Dylan and Irish rock band The Cranberries to China.
Xu will kick off his national tour in May, which he calls the biggest in his career.
“As I am getting older and older, the world becomes bigger and bigger to me. I am still learning,” he says. “I want to sing for people who share their lives, their youth with me, through my songs.”
Source: China Daily
Source: The Washington Post
Cui Jian would probably be the first person to lament that he, at 51, is still the biggest name in Chinese rock music, and that his music last occupied the cultural zeitgeist in a dramatic 1990 concert tour. That’s the impression he gives in this revealing interview with Vice, anyway. Whether you think Cui’s cynicism is misplaced or not, his thoughts on the state of Chinese are revealing.
Cui, often called the father or grandfather of Chinese rock, is careful when discussing the Chinese government, with which he has a complicated history. Cui’s song, “Nothing to My Name” (video of which is embedded below), about the disaffection of youth, became an unofficial anthem of the 1989 protest movement that culminated in the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The rock star, who had appeared with the student protesters, subtly criticized the crackdown during his 1990 tour by wearing a red blindfold when he performed his song, “A Red Piece of Cloth.” Those were his last major performances in mainland China.
A scholar of Chinese pop music, Jonathan Campbell, has said, “I can’t think of someone who has ever been more worthy than Cui Jian for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Campbell explained of Cui, “He’s Woody Guthrie or Bruce Springsteen, whose songs made people suddenly realize that there are things going on about which we don’t know and ought to, and singing with the voice of the people not often represented in popular culture.”
In this interview, Cui says that he’s tried and failed many times to secure permission for another big show, but he stops short of complaining or criticizing. When he interview presses him, saying that he found success “without playing any games,” he interjects, “I did. I play a lot of games. I’m a good player in some ways. That’s why I’ve learned how to answer questions. I’m playing a game now, actually.”
He’s much tougher on young Chinese people today, asking, “Why China has such huge history and culture, and then [Chinese people] just want to leave [that Chinese culture] alone and listen to the Western music or culture?” He is far from alone in accusing today’s Chinese youth of superficiality and Westernization, although his connection to the heavily political 1980s youth movement makes the contrast that much starker.
He beams about playing in New York City, where he says his performances attract more Chinese fans that they do in Beijing. Shows in China, he says, tend to attract a lot of foreigners.
When Vice’s interview asks Cui how he “make sense” of the government restrictions that have kept him out of major Chinese venues for over 20 years, he answers, “You don’t have to make sense. This is China.”
Here are, “A Piece of Red Cloth” and “Fake Monk”:
Back in 1990, five young men in their early 20s walked on the streets of Beijing sporting tight leather pants and long, wavy hair. They raised a red flag on the Great Wall and jumped about in front of the Forbidden City. The crowds around them looked shocked, though the five were immersed in their own world and didn’t seem to care.
Those scenes are in the music video Wu Di Zi Rong, or Shameful, one of the band’s hits. Black Panther was then China’s first rock ‘n’ roll band.
The song was on the band’s first album, Black Panther, released in 1991 which also included another hit, Don’t Break My Heart. The album sold more than 1.5 million copies in China – and is still China’s best-selling rock collection ever.
Their second album, Spirit of Light, was released a year later, followed by a rock concert in the Tibet autonomous region. The third album in 1995, No Right No Wrong, sold 500,000 across Asia within a month and the band held a concert in Tokyo as the “first Chinese rock band”.
When Li Tong, the guitarist and one of the founding members of the band, recalls their heyday, he seems calm and peaceful.
“We just showed off our confidence and attitude. Our music expressed ourselves,” the 48-year-old Beijing native recalls. “We believed we did a great job in music and luckily we got good feedback from fans, who were as young and reckless as we were then.”
Those glory days fuelled the young men’s passion and desire of success, but all that overwhelming attention also took its toll on the band.
The high expectations were hard to meet, and their fourth and fifth albums sold poorly. Fans were wistful about the first album. Some said the band lost its spirit after legendary frontman Dou Wei left for a solo career in 1992.
That was an obvious and necessary crisis, says Li. “People love our music so much that they placed great hope on us. When we didn’t live up to their expectations, they just felt disappointed.”
A change in members is definitely devastating for a band, he admits, but the core of a band relies on all rather than a single member.
There were no visible signs of internal quarrelling, no announcement of a breakup or even of a time out, just sudden silence.
Years after the release of the band’s last recording in 2005, Black Panther is back with Li, drummer Zhao Mingyi, bassist Wang Wenjie, keyboardist Hui Peng and a new frontman Zhang Dapeng.
The band also returns to a musical landscape that has been changed enormously by economics and technology.
Despite the pressures of the past, Li says the year 2012 is a lucky year because they signed a contract with a new record company and felt it was the right time to make a return.
All the members except for the new lead singer were with the band more than a decade ago. When they reunited, everything went into double-time.
To help get them back in their groove, the band members turned to Phil Nicolo, the Grammy-winning US music producer, and American electric violinist Jamii Szmadzinski.
“Black Panther has a great sense of melody and a sense of real rock routes,” says Nicolo, whose rock credits include Billy Joel’s Life of Dreams, the Rolling Stones’ Love Is Strong, and Aerosmith’s Falling in Love.
“I’ve cooperated with many rock bands and Black Panther threw me back to the old rock energy, which is very exciting,” he says.
“People had asked me before how far Chinese rock music is from a Grammy award. And now I can say it’s closer,” says Nicolo, who is one of the judges of the Grammy awards. He reveals he has been negotiating with some Chinese organizations for a local awards program to be branded by Grammy.
Szmadzinski is in charge of remixing for Black Panther’s new album, and the musician, also a violinist, performs in the band’s songs.
Comparison is inevitable between the new lead and the old one, but Li is confident about Zhang, who majored in Peking Opera at the Central Academy of Drama.
“Since we’re starting from a new point, it’s good to bring in new resources into our music and change our classic habits a little,” says Li.
The new songs in the album also represent a return to the band’s roots.
The songs reflect criticism on social problems and also the individual experiences of band members during the past seven years.
Li is not worried about fans comparing the new album with their old ones. “That period was over, and we have to move on,” he says.
Source: By Chen Nan (China Daily)
Wearing his trademark white cap with a red star on it, Cui Jian discusses his new album, “Blue Bone” with China Daily’s Chen Nan during a press conference to promote his upcoming concert in Beijing on December 15.
Chinese godfather of rock ‘n’ roll, Cui Jian, plans to open a security guard company.
His intention is triggered by his observation at rock concerts in China, where security guards are seen stopping audiences from standing up and interacting with the performers.
“The concept about security guards is confused here. Security guards should be those who are paid to protect audiences and performers,” asserts the 51-year-old.
“I want to have a company to train people to become real security guards – serving instead of controlling the audiences and guaranteeing that the audience has a good time.”
He also wants to change the perception of rock music.
“Rock music has been considered noisy and dangerous in China for the longest time.
“But I can tell you that rock fans are very peaceful, pure and simple, just like rock music itself. They shouldn’t be managed in my concert,” Cui adds.
It has been 26 years since Cui launched his debut, Nothing to My Name, which became an instant hit and turned Cui, who was 25 years old then, into a legend.
His reputation as a rock star remains strong up till today.
The musician is proud to say that he has never stopped performing in live shows, either at small venues or on big stages.
Thinking and moving on to new ideas, he says, are just as important as keeping an onstage presence.
One of his new ideas was to use color to describe the various elements of rock music and life. In his 2005 album, Show You Color, Cui used red to signify rock music, blue for electronic music and yellow for pop music.
The lyrics of his song, Blue Bone, go: “Red, yellow and blue represent human being’s heart, body and wisdom”.
Cui hopes to transform his upcoming concert, also titled Blue Bone, from red to blue, which to him represents wisdom and free spirit.
“Blue also means freedom and innovation for music and thoughts.”
Blue Bone is also the name of Cui’s first film, as a director. To be released in early 2013, he wrote the plot in 2005 when he released the album Blue Bone.
Divided into three parts, it tells the story of a young underground rocker and network hacker who encountered an unknown singer. The two found out their parents’ sad love story during the years of the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).
“I wasn’t trained in filmmaking. I made the film like how I would sing a rock song, telling stories in my own way,” Cui says.
“I did not have commercial pressure from the film market. If I had, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Many of Cui’s fans go to his concerts for his old tunes, but Cui always surprises them with new elements.
In 2009, he used strong visual effects at his concert at Beijing Exhibition Center Theater. Then a year later, Cui collaborated with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra to present rock music with a classical music approach.
For the upcoming show, he has prepared a line-up, both familiar and unfamiliar to the audience, including some of his classics like A Piece of Red Cloth and Nothing to My Name, and new songs like The Lost Season, which was featured in director Ning Hao’s film Guns and Roses.
Audience will get a preview of his new song from his 2013 album, titled Girls Out There, which has English lyrics in it. The song is about a village boy from the farm who longs to see the outside world.
“The English lyrics are not designed for foreign listeners, but to create a fusion effect,” he says. “I don’t design my music intentionally. All the elements I used serve the music.
“I want to try new ideas. Even when I sing Nothing to My Name today, I want to remix it with different musical ideas. But I will keep to the melody,” he adds.
Off stage, Cui says he spends his spare time watching various shows, from young local rock bands to modern dance performances.
He also likes hanging out with his old friends, like Liu Yuan, the renowned saxophonist, whom Cui befriended during his days with the Beijing Song and Dance Troupe.
He doesn’t smoke, and usually drinks a little before performing, according to You You, Cui’s long-time agent, who is also his good friend.
“His life is simpler than most people’s. He is an artist living for art’s sake.”
Source: By Chen Nan (China Daily)
Dressed in a blue sequined jacket and blue glasses, the 65-year-old and his band played all of his classics including “Tiny Dancer”, “Candle in the Wind” and “Rocket Man”.
But it was his popular “Crocodile Rock” that really got people out of their seats.
The more than 2-hour performance concluded with the British star returning to the stage for an encore that saw him play “Your Song” followed by a belting rendition of “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King”.
Elton John has visited China many times since his first visit in 1984, but it’s been eight years since his last tour of the country in 2004.
He played in Shanghai on Friday night and will head to Guangzhou next Thursday, December 6, 2012.
Singer Richie Ren (L) and Ah Niu sing at Rock Records 30th Anniversary Nanjing Concert in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, Nov. 10, 2012. More than 50 singers performed at the concert.
Singer Johnny Chen sings at Rock Records 30th Anniversary Nanjing Concert in Nanjing
Two decades have passed since Cui Jian’s last solo show in Shanghai. Now, the Beijing-based rock veteran has announced that he will make his return on Christmas Eve.
Cui arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 to promote his show, which will be held at the Shanghai Grand Stage.
The 51-year-old, who blazed a trail for Chinese rock music with his 1986 hit “Nothing to My Name”, says he isn’t looking for a retrospective show this time. Instead, he wants to attract young audiences as much as those who grew up listening to him.
The set list will include a mix of Cui’s old hits and new songs. He will also perform songs from his upcoming album.
Tickets to the show are being sold at 180-880 yuan (about US$29-141).
When: December 24, 2012
Where: Shanghai Grand Stage
Tel: (86 21) 6213 2377