Even without resorting to direct censorship, the state has formidable powers for controlling popular music and shaping tastes. They include state ownership of all broadcast media, the screening of lyrics for all commercial music and strict control of performance sites.
Many say one result has been the dumbing down and deadening of popular music culture. Fu Guoyong, an independent cultural critic in Hangzhou, likened today’s pop music culture to the politically enforced conformity of the Cultural Revolution, when only eight highly idealized Socialist “model operas” could be performed in China.
…Liu Sijia, the bass player and a vocalist for an underground Shanghai band called Three Yellow Chicken, said alternative music in China today is much like Western rock in the 1960s, with its frequent references to social issues like war, poverty, civil rights and generational conflict. But alternative rock is rarely heard on the radio.
“What prevails here is worse than garbage,” he said. “Because China emphasizes stability and harmony, the greatest utility of these pop songs is that they aren’t dangerous to the system. If people could hear underground music, it would make them feel the problems in their lives and want to change things.” [Full text]
Watch a video by Three Yellow Chicken.
[Image: Chinese rock fans at Yuyintang, a underground night club in Shanghai, via the New York Times]