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Li Zhi

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Born in 1978 in Jintan, Jiangsu, Li Zhi (李志) is a singer-songwriter who began his career singing and writing about politics. He has in recent years enjoyed commercial success, but has maintained an honest self-awareness and discerningly expressed his commitment to the independent music scene.

At age 17, Li bought his first guitar, and at 20 he began to study music composition while living in Jiangsu’s capital city of Nanjing as a college student. After dropping out of school and briefly moving to Beijing, he returned to Nanjing and began performing in bars, teaching folk guitar, and following his passion for music to far-flung regions of China.

In 2004, Li borrowed 5,000 yuan from a friend and recorded his first album, "The Forbidden Game" (《被禁忌的游戏》). He composed two more LPs by 2006, and began gaining a wide following in China. Tickets to his shows are known demand a hefty price and [ sell out fast], and the artist has drawn controversy for his comments about China’s music scene. Ahead of a national tour last year, China Daily reported:

"People take it for granted that folk and rock singer-songwriters should cater to a minority taste and lower their tickets price. I don't think so," says Li.

Tickets for his national tour cost as much as 880 yuan ($142).

He adds that there are few independent singer-songwriters in the music industry "because their attitude and spirit are not independent".

"An independent singer-songwriter should have a clear understanding of his music and his audience, rather than counting on images designed by the record companies," he says. [Source]

Li has also been known for his outspoken views on Chinese politics. In 2010, just after Google announced its decision to move out of China, Li wrote an essay on his frustration over the official curtailment of expression in China: