China’s Underground Punks

The Economist’s More Intelligent Life blog looks at rock, Beijing style and a new book of photos of the movement’s major players, Sound Kapital: Beijing’s Music Underground (Powerhouse Books):

Just as the 100 Club and CBGB fostered punk movements in London and New York City, Beijing’s D-22 nightclub serves as the epicentre for its burgeoning alternative music scene. Michael Pettis, a Peking University professor who was once a fixture in New York’s East Village, founded the dive bar three years ago. Though the idea of an “underground scene” is often associated with punk, D-22’s small stage hosts a variety of acts, from glam rock to experimental electronic, classic rock ‘n’ roll and Mongolian folk music. Many bands have hard-rocking frontwomen in the vein of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; some sing in both Chinese and English. All eschew the country’s mainstream affection for saccharine pop.

“Sound Kapital: Beijing’s Music Underground” captures the scene in a collection of band portraits culled from thousands of photos taken in D-22’s basement over two years. The style, humour and energy of these subjects are both authentic and familiar. These kids have quite a bit to rebel against.

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