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The Godfather of Chinese Rock'N'Roll
November 10, 2008 11:44 AM   Subscribe

"‘Bad boy’ Cui Jian, [pronounced Sway Jen] China’s first long-haired rock icon, has pulled off another musical coup by becoming the first artist to adapt hip-hop to the mainland. His hoarse voice has long signified anger, confusion and pain, especially during the 1989 student revolt when his hit single, “Nothing to my Name”, became a veritable anthem. Despite the government’s attempts to silence his voice by routinely banning his concerts, Cui Jian carries on with the rapper’s staccato precision." EAST vs WEST – Hyper and Cui Jian collaboration, a Hyper remix of an original Cui Jian piece - with great Chinese papercut visuals.

Rebel Without a Pause?

DJ Hyper's site

Related AskMe post.

Rock in Berlin "THE CHINESE AVANT-GARDE" Chinese Rock Concert in Berlin 1993 with Japanese subtitles.

Cui Jian's bio l Cui Jian's website
posted by nickyskye (19 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have massive respect for Cui (and will bore anyone with stories about seeing him at secret gigs in the 90s given half a chance) but surely it's a bit of stretch to say he's first with the Chinese hip-hop? There's 阴三儿 and that lad from Shandong whose name escapes me and probably more an old fart like myself hasn't heard of. Still, any post that gets me singing along to 一无所有 gets a favourite and thanks from me (and complaints from the neighbours).
posted by Abiezer at 12:07 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


And listening to the East vs West thing must say I prefer the visuals to the music; think I preferred Cui's jazzy noodling on the trumpet. His old keyboardist Zang Tianshuo hit the news recently as he's been a bit of a naughty boy.
posted by Abiezer at 12:16 PM on November 10, 2008


His early influences, he says, were John Denver, Andy Williams and Bing Crosby.

Hardly a recipe for rebellion but apparently, under the right circumstances, it can move the masses.

Nice post. He's an interesting character, so revered in Beijing that people who know him well usually whisper his name when they're talking about him so as not to attract a crowd.
posted by grounded at 12:38 PM on November 10, 2008


Good shit. Thanks for the introduction!
posted by gman at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2008


Fake Monk = great. What's she playing though?
posted by Duug at 1:03 PM on November 10, 2008


Holy God, I saw him play once. He was in New York in 1999 and the guy I was seeing then brought me along to a gig somewhere on the Bowery. The only thing I remember was that it was shortly after the U.S. had accidentally bombed a Chinese embassy in some other country (Hungary, Serbia, somewhere not-China) and he cracked a joke about it...(My ex was seriously into him.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2008


EmpressCallipygos, a Guzheng, a Chinese zither.
posted by nickyskye at 2:37 PM on November 10, 2008


*Duug
posted by nickyskye at 2:37 PM on November 10, 2008


His album Yi Wu Suo You was the first compact disc I ever bought, in 1989. He's also a trumpet player and incorporates a lot of different elements. He closed a rock concert I was also playing at last year, and it was fantastic, not just to see him play but to meet him in the backstage area as well. He had so much energy, he was just bouncing around.
posted by Poagao at 5:03 PM on November 10, 2008


nickyskye:

"‘Bad boy’ Cui Jian , [pronounced Sway Jen] China’s first long-haired rock icon , has pulled off another musical coup by becoming the first artist to adapt hip-hop to the mainland.

It's not clear to me from the links where you're sourcing this claim, but from my vantage point, it seems to be an extremely dubious one.

The Greater Chinese music world has had access to Chinese-language hip-hop (incl., rap and R&B) for a very, very long time now - I suspect it became a mainstream musical form probably about a decade ago, and it's still a very common genre for new artists.

In fact, at one point I was considering an FPP about the current state of Chinese-language hip hop music, but I think this topic has very weak thematic content and would be of extremely limited interest around here (though I personally think there is a lot of material there worthy of study for those predisposed to interest in Sinology.)
posted by Sangermaine at 5:29 PM on November 10, 2008


Sangermaine, the quotation is taken from the Rebel Without a Pause? link, written by Jeroen de Kloet, Ph.D. student at the Amsterdam School of Social Science Research, who quite likely has a limited knowledge of the topic. (The article is quoted on a number of sites on the web. I was less interested in the site than I was about Cui Jian, so I didn't make the site the quotation is from the main link.)

I'd never heard of Cui Jian until an hour before posting this and was intrigued knowing there is a bad boy of Chinese rock, associated with any avant garde music there, in light of the cultural repression in China. I was hoping MeFites who know their stuff on this topic of contemporary music/youth culture in China would add their knowledge.

You said:
In fact, at one point I was considering an FPP about the current state of Chinese-language hip hop music, but I think this topic has very weak thematic content and would be of extremely limited interest around here (though I personally think there is a lot of material there worthy of study for those predisposed to interest in Sinology.)

Even though Cui Jian and hip hop in China may be a known thing in the East, it isn't known much in the West, not routinely anyway. So I thought I'd just bring the topic of Chinese rock to the blue and it was cool to see Cui Jan rapping in Chinese (in the " rapper’s staccato" link).

If you have knowledge of the topic please share. Yeah, do an FPP. The more people in the West know about life in China the better.
posted by nickyskye at 5:53 PM on November 10, 2008


nickyskye:

Well, FPPs about Asian mainstream music (e.g., pop and hip hop) have never really gone over well on Metafilter. There are plenty of good reasons for this (this kind of music is explicitly commercial,) some understandable reasons (a lot of the interesting bits in these songs requires some knowledge of Greater Chinese culture and politics or, at the very least, the ability to understand the lyrics,) and some not so great reason that border on Orientalism ("it sounds just like Western music" - what do you expect? - this also ignores that many of these songs don't make sense if we swapped contexts.)
posted by Sangermaine at 7:28 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sangermaine, generous comment! Thanks. Honestly, I loved every single video for different reasons. Everybody's so good looking in them. The guys! * fans face

All pop music of one style or another and a couple of rap. Not rock like Cui Jian though. The feeling I get with Cui Jian is more authenticity, not so produced?

Were the bands you linked all from mainland China? Taiwan? Hong Kong? Singapore? Are there Chinese rock/pop bands who sing in Cantonese? Is there one city where the pop rock in China comes from or is it all over?
posted by nickyskye at 8:30 PM on November 10, 2008


There's plenty of soft or pop rock. Hard and classic rock are not as easy to find among the mainstream.

For reference, the standard metric is handsome - ugly.

The above groups are all single person acts (predominantly singers with ancillary musical talent.) Hong Kong has a very large Cantonese music industry, but I do not speak Cantonese, so I only know the big names and cross-over acts.

Traditionally (for economic and political reasons,) the Mandarin music scene has been dominated by acts from overseas Chinese and Chinese from Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. However, in the past few years, there have been a number of Chinese-born and (sort of) non-Chinese-born acts of Mainland Chinese descent enter the market.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:16 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sangermaine, Thanks so much for the contemporary Chinese pop music education.

Were the singers in your first comment from mainland China or elsewhere? I really enjoyed the singer/song of your Chinese-born link.

whoa I was just grooving on the fun cuteness of your first Malaysian link, got to the kissing scene and they got nosebleeds from kissing?! That was WEIRD. And then she started bleeding again. huh. And then died.

Just out of curiosity, are there any contemporary mainland Chinese singers/groups who particularly like?
posted by nickyskye at 9:44 PM on November 10, 2008


*by the way what illness did she have? Sars? just kidding just kidding, i'm bad
posted by nickyskye at 9:46 PM on November 10, 2008


Were the singers in your first comment from mainland China or elsewhere? I really enjoyed the singer/song of your Chinese-born link.

I don't know all the artists in Sangermaine posts, but Chinese rockstars come from all over. Lee Hom from the "Handsome" link is actually American. Chinese pop consumers don't really seem to care much about the distinction between nationalities between singers. They would probably be more likely to lump Mainland and Taiwanese mandarin singers together against Cantonese singers from Hong Kong.

A lot of mainland born stars are coming up through American Idol style televised competitions, the most famous one is probably the androgynous 李宇春 (Li Yuchun).

The biggest Hip Hop artist in China is probably Jay Chou 周杰伦, though he has been doing a lot of shitty soft rock lately. I really like his pseudo country song Cowboys Are Busy, the video is a great example of a Chinese take on Americana as well.
posted by afu at 11:57 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


nickyskye: Been planning to make a post about Cui Jian forever. Good to see that I've been beaten to the finish line by you. :-) Totally dig 'ethnic' rock, and Cui Jian is as good as it gets.
posted by the cydonian at 1:52 AM on November 11, 2008


afu, Way to go. Thanks for the info. With names I could go a-Googling. So interesting to read about Li Yuchon's androgyny. I love the playful humor of Jay Chou's pseudo cowboy and the fun take on Americana with Dutch girls (?) dancing with cowboys and the milk drinking. Do Chinese people in the East drink milk by the way?

the cydonian, I wish you had done the FPP. you would have known what you were doing. Listening to Cui Jian I not only like his music but from the little I've read get a good feeling about his intentions, that they are not merely commercial.

My former roommate, now completed his degree and returned to Singapore, listened to a *lot* of Chinese pop and I'd always wanted to ask him about it, tried a bit, but he was quite shy. My intention was to open the topic up to the avant garde/contemporary music in the East thing, what's really cutting edge in Eastern music trends?
posted by nickyskye at 4:32 AM on November 11, 2008


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