Meet the Grandfather of Chinese Rock

Vice Magazine has posted a lengthy interview with Cui Jian, often referred to as the “Grandfather of Chinese Rock n Roll.” Cui Jian was China’s first domestic rock star in the 1980s, and gained international acclaim when he played for protesters on Tiananmen Square in 1989. His song, “Nothing to My Name” became an anthem of the movement. Now 51, Cui Jian still performs in China and internationally, though, as he explains in the interview, he is not permitted to play any major venues domestically. From the Washington Post:

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.

Cui also explains how he thinks Confucianism is destroying Chinese culture and the similarities between politics and love (“They are [both] complicated, but you can’t live without it.”). When asked how he makes sense of the restrictions placed on his performances, he replies, “You don’t have to make sense. This is China.”:

See also Cui performing one of his most famous songs, Piece of Red Cloth (一块红布), and a less famous ballad, Flower Garden Girl (花房姑娘).

Also watch Cui perform “Wild Horses” with the Rolling Stones during their concert in Shanghai in 2006:

Read more about Cui Jian via CDT.


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