Godfather of Beijing’s Indie Music Scene Dissects China’s Experimental Soundscape

Malcolm Surer
China’s alternative-punk music scene has evolved from a genre that represented the rebelliousness of a niche group of well-off educated urbanites to one that’s international, hip, and popular. Chinese bands now play to sold-out gigs not only in old...

Sinica Podcast

03.17.17

Big Daddy Dough: Hip-hop and Macroeconomics in China

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
By day, Andrew Dougherty is a macroeconomist who manages a China research team for Capital Group, one of the world’s largest actively managed mutual funds. By night, he is Big Daddy Dough, creator of an album of parody hip-hop songs that explain...

Could Jane Zhang Become China’s First Global Pop Star?

Grace Tsoi
BBC
Zhang's latest single breaks the mould of China's pop industry and could help her become its first global superstar...

Sinica Podcast

12.19.16

Beijing Meets Banjo: Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Wu Fei is a classically trained composer and performer of the guzheng, or traditional Chinese 21-string zither. Abigail Washburn is a Grammy Award–winning American banjo player and fluent speaker of Chinese. They’ve been friends for a decade and are...

In China, Eugenics Determines Who Plays in School Bands

Didi Kirsten Tatlow
New York Times
“We’ve chosen your children according to their physical attributes,” the leader told a group of parents at a Beijing public elementary school.

Sinica Podcast

07.20.16

The Kaiser Kuo Exit Interview

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
This week, Kaiser sits in the guest chair and tells us about his 20-plus years of living in China. He recounts being the front man for the heavy metal band Tang Dynasty and the group’s tour stops in China’s backwater towns, shares his feelings on...

Party Propaganda Rap Aims to ‘Tell Foreigners Truth’ About China

BBC
It says China has “terrible problems” but is peace-loving and affluent.

A Wordless Elegy for China’s War Dead

DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW
New York Times
Mr. Wang explained why he wanted to write a requiem about a war that ended 70 years ago.

Q. and A.: Jindong Cai on ‘Beethoven in China’

Ian Johnson
New York Times
Jindong Cai, 59, is an orchestra conductor and a professor at Stanford University.

I’m with the Banned: China Blocks Bon Jovi Gigs

Jennifer Duggan
Guardian
U.S. group were due to perform first China shows next week, but previous use of Dalai Lama image may have prompted officia intervention.

Dalai Lama at Glastonbury Music Festival

Alex Ritman
Hollywood Reporter
The Dalai Lama praised the Pope's recent comments on climate change before Patti Smith and attendees sang "Happy Birthday" ahead of his 80th birthday...

Tencent Customers Come for the Music, Stay for the Perks

Juro Osawa
Wall Street Journal
Internet giant tries to pull off something few have achieved in China: get people to pay for digital music.

Sinica Podcast

05.18.15

Leonard Bernstein and China

Kaiser Kuo, David Moser & more from Sinica Podcast
This week on Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and David Moser are delighted to host Alexander Bernstein, son of Leonard Berstein and director of the Bernstein Family Foundation, who is now in China on part of a cultural tour. Accompanied by Alison Friedman of...

Sinica Podcast

03.02.15

Keep in Touch, Nightman

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
In 1997, Beijing was smaller city, and Keep in Touch, Jamhouse, and Nightman were the hippest venues around. There was no traffic on the ring roads, and if you got tired of Chinese food you might take a trip to Fangzhuang to visit this Italian...

Xi and Peng Now Have a Song of Their Own

South China Morning Post
After a series of high-profile events highlighting their marriage bonds, China’s president, Xi Jinping, and his wife, Peng Liyuan, now have a song praising their relationship.

China Says Goodbye in the Key of G: Kenny G

Dan Levin
New York Times
For years, “Going Home,” the 1989 hit instrumental by American saxophonist Kenny G has been piped into China’s shopping malls, schools, train stations and fitness centers to signal it’s time to leave.

Culture

02.10.14

Will Xi Jinping Stop the Music?

Sheila Melvin
In late November of 2013, I sat chatting in a California concert hall with one of the PRC’s most famous first-generation pianists. Normally at this time of year, the pianist told me, he would be heading off to China to perform multiple New Year’s...

Spring Festival Gala Performance by Chinese Rock Icon in Doubt

Luo Tian
New York Times
The popularity and pizzazz of China's “Godfather of Rock” is not worth the political risk for CCTV. ...

Culture

11.01.13

The Sound of China’s Future

Jonathan Campbell
It’s high noon in March and the cluttered patio of Maria’s Taco Xpress, the Austin, Texas institution, is gloriously sunny. First time visitor Gan Baishui is moments away from his band’s American debut, but the composer and musician from a fourth-...

Media

09.25.13

The Silk Road of Pop

Nick Holdstock
Most coverage of Xinjiang focuses on the tensions between Han and Uighur in the region, especially since the 2009 Urumqi riots. The Silk Road of Pop, a new documentary about Uighur music directed by Sameer Farooq, is a timely portrait of the rich...

Culture

06.18.13

“Walk A Pig on My Bike (2012)”

Sun Yunfan
“Walk A Pig on My Bike (2012),” from their double-disc second album Some Other Scenery (2012), is a new rendition of an earlier song by the Guangzhou-based folk band Wu Tiao Ren. The twenty-one songs from this album (nineteen, including this one,...

Culture

06.18.13

“Water Runs East for Ten Years, Water Runs West for Ten Years”

Sun Yunfan
“Water Runs East for Ten Years, Water Runs West for Ten Years” is a song by the Guangzhou-based folk band Wu Tiao Ren from their first album, A Tale of Haifeng (2009). The songs on this album celebrate the sentiments and everyday lives of small-town...

Culture

06.18.13

The Local Folk

Sun Yunfan
In the liner notes of their 2009 début album, A Tale of Haifeng, Guangzhou-based indie folk band Wu Tiao Ren tinkered with the Communist party slogan “Lizu xiancheng, fangyan quanqiu,” which translates roughly: “See the world from our county’s...

The Silk Road Of Pop

Sameer Farooq
Smoke Signal Projects
The film follows the trails left by a young Uyghur female named Ay and her interest in music, documenting her influences and portraying her musical idols in northwestern China. 

Culture

02.28.13

Classical Music with Chinese Characteristics

Sheila Melvin
On a frigid Friday morning at the end of 2012, a stream of expectant concertgoers poured through the cavernous lobby of the China National Center for the Performing Arts. They had come to the stunning, egg-shaped arts complex at this unusually early...

“China’s Leonard Cohen” Calls Out Political Corruption

Louisa Lim
NPR
On “These Tiny Grapes,” Zuoxiao Zuzhou’s new album of edgy ballads focusing on the woes of modern-day China, he hones in on rampant corruption, food scandals, injustice and abuse of power.

Earthbound China

01.23.13

Appalachia Comes to Anhui

Leah Thompson
This past fall, my colleague Sun Yunfan and I were preparing to bring Coal+Ice, the documentary photography exhibition we produce for Asia Society, to rural Anhui Province to participate in the Yixian International Photography Festival. Upon hearing...

Culture

01.11.13

Top Floor Circus

Sun Yunfan
At nine o’clock on a recent Monday morning, Lu Chen, the slender and polite lead singer of Top Floor Circus, the first rock band to sing in Shanghainese—and a man whose transformative stage persona sees him swearing, stripping nearly naked, and...

China, at Party Congress, Touts its Cultural Advances

Ian Johnson
New York Times
Party guidance is the "soul” of China's moves to privitize and promote industries that can spread soft power abroad. ...

For RZA, Hip-Hop Was Just a Prelude to Kung Fu

Dave Itzkoff
New York Times
“The Man With the Iron Fists,” which RZA directed and stars in, is a martial-arts epic set in a mythical Chinese feudal state, where a dispute between a monarch and a nefarious gang draws in a rogue British soldier (played by Russell Crowe), a madam...

Freedom Rock? Not In China

Mark Mcdonald
New York Times
Two members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot are on the run and have fled the country, the band said in a Twitter message on Sunday. Three other Pussy Rioters were sentenced to two years in prison this month for performing a “punk prayer”...

Books

08.15.12

Red Rock

Jonathan Campbell
Rock and roll—rebellious, individualistic, explosive—seems incongruent with modern Chinese society. But as the music has evolved from a Western import into something uniquely Chinese, it has shaped and been shaped by China’s unique system and its relationship with the outside world. Red Rock: The Long, Strange March of Chinese Rock & Roll looks at the people and events that have created Chinese rock’s unique identity, and tracks the music’s long journey from the Mao years to present. After boiling below the surface for over twenty years and now emerging from a thriving underground scene, Chinese rock may be ready to smash its guitars on the global stage.  —Earnshaw Books

Books

07.31.12

Sound Kapital

Matthew Niederhauser
China exists today in a liminal realm, caught between the socialist idealism of old and a calamitous drive for wealth spurned by recent free market reforms. This seemingly unbridgeable gap tears at the country’s social fabric while provoking younger generations to greater artistic heights. The unique sound emerging from Beijing’s underground delves deeply into this void, aggressively questioning the moral and social basis of China’s fragile modernity even as it subsists upon it.A formidable new wave of Chinese musicians is taking the city by storm. Revolving around four venues spread across Beijing, a burgeoning group of performers are working outside government-controlled media channels, and in the process, capturing the attention of the international music community. They now constitute a fresh, independent voice in a country renowned for creative conformity and saccharine Cantonese pop. In Sound Kapital, photographer Matthew Niederhauser captures the energy of the personalities and performers at D-22, Yugong Yishan, 2 Kolegas, and Mao Livehouse. These revolutionary Beijing nightclubs remain at the core of the city’s creative explosion by hosting an eclectic mix of punk, experimental, rock, and folk performances.Included with the book are concert posters and illustrations that encapsulate the underground scene in Beijing, as well as a CD sampler of the new music being produced. There is no doubt that these musicians will continue to break ground within Beijing’s nascent artistic landscape, helping to push the boundaries of an already expanding realm of independent thought and musical expression in China.—powerHouse Books

Rock and Roll in China: An Insider’s Journey

Jason Chow
Wall Street Journal
The jaded Western music establishment can learn a thing or two from China, Jonathan Campbell says. The 37-year-old, who spent four years in Beijing as a band promoter, documents the relatively brief history of Chinese rock in his book “Red Rock: The...

Rock and Roll in China: An Insider’s Journey

Jason Chow
Wall Street Journal
The jaded Western music establishment can learn a thing or two from China, Jonathan Campbell says. The 37-year-old, who spent four years in Beijing as a band promoter, documents the relatively brief history of Chinese rock in his book “Red Rock: The...

Media

05.18.12

Hong Kong Movie Star Now a Motivational Speaker

Bo Wang
Nicholas Tse—the famous young Hong Kong singer, actor, and musician—is known for portraying irresponsible young rebels. People think that's what he's like in real life. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology invited Tse to be a...

Culture

03.27.12

Wu Fei: An Authentic Voice

Sun Yunfan
Wu Fei is a Beijing-born composer, vocalist, and guzheng (Chinese zither) player. Her music career tracks a journey from East to West and back again. Born into a musical family, she started playing guzheng as a child. After graduating from the China...

Culture

03.21.12

A Rhythm of His Own

Sun Yunfan
Huang Bo, founder and lead singer of the funk band The Verse, is a Chinese artist who looks to the West for musical and spiritual inspiration. Huang grew up in Changsha and moved to Guangzhou in the 1990s to study oil painting at the Guangzhou...

Caixin Media

01.20.12

Melodies of My Youth

When I was a child, my family had an old-fashioned phonograph that had been passed down from my grandfather. It required hand-winding and used a bamboo needle, and it came with special silver tweezers for cutting the bamboo needles.On the side of...

Sinica Podcast

08.06.11

The China Rock Podcast

Jeremy Goldkorn & Kaiser Kuo from Sinica Podcast
“Beijing has one of the best music scenes in the world,” one of our guests intoned, triggering a brawl that quickly split along Beijing-Shanghai lines. And while we’ll admit a case can be made for Shanghai too, there is no question that China has...