Rock n' Roll With Chinese Characteristics
Canadian drummer Jonathan Campbell has been living in China for the past 10 years. During this time, he has gotten well acquainted with China’s rock music scene, and done his part to promote China’s burgeoning music scene abroad. In a post on PopMatters.com, Jonathan outlines rock’s rise in the middle kingdom:
A month before Nevermind, Black Panther, one of China’s first rock bands, released its debut record in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The difference between the two records approximates the distance between the worlds that birthed the two acts. If 1991 was the year punk broke, China never got the memo. Or, more accurately, it wasn’t in a position to process a memo of that nature.
Rock was still new to the Middle Kingdom in 1991—heck, music outside of the Eight Model Operas, some patriotic songs, and the barely-ten-years-old pop industry was still new. Cui Jian, who was already several years into his position as Chinese rock ‘n’ roll’s Chairman of the Board, had introduced China to the new sound in 1986, when he unveiled a song called “Nothing to My Name” at a We-Are-the-World-esque variety show broadcast across the televisions of the nation. “Introduced”, though, isn’t quite right; “hit the nation upside the head with a sledgehammer” is more like it. With that song, a departure from the plethora of pop stars also on the bill, Chinese rock ‘n’ roll began. Suddenly, Cui and his newly recruited fellow rockers had something, and it had a new name: Yaogun (“yow-goon”).
You can hear him discuss China’s rock scene on today’s episodes of PRI’s The World, and Radio Australia’s Asia Profile. Check out Jonathan’s blog to keep up with what’s happening in the world of Chinese rock n’ roll. Also, see Xinhua’s recently updated Cui Jian slideshow, with photos of the premier Chinese rockstar’s beginnings. For further listening and background, try the New Sounds of China podcast, via CDT.