China’s Indie Music Scene: Transforming Contemporary Chinese Culture From The Bottom Up // 中国独立音乐现状剖析:从底层跃升并改变中国当代文化

Hidden beneath the gargantuan, State-driven China that is emphasized over-and-over again in news coverage lies an artistic day-to-day that few people see. As in any developing country, China has become a breeding ground for new and often innovative ideas – and included in that are an increasing number of musicians searching for their own identities. Many of them are following and documenting their own creative impulses, thereby bringing some musical change to a society otherwise dominated by mainstream Asian pop.

尽管中国一直以来都以庞然大国,国家统治形象示人,她所蕴含的日渐浓重的艺术氛围与文化发展却往往为人忽略。如许多发展中国家一样,中国正孕育着许多新颖,极具创造力的艺术思想 – 这些思想都来自于那些努力发声,力求为大众所见的艺术家、音乐家们。众多音乐家正跟随记录着他们自己的艺术脉搏,运用着他们的创造力,努力为日渐单一、主流化的亚洲流行音乐市场带来不一样的声音及改变。

While the initial seeds of change were planted in the ‘80s, it was in the ‘90s and early ‘00s that the Chinese music industry finally began to show signs of diversification and acceptance by a new generation.

“I remember when I first heard Chinese rock music in the early ‘90s, and the excitement and memories deeply influenced me. At the time, I was an elementary school student; I thought the most interesting thing was that my parents, outside of Communist songs and some ethnic music, probably did not have too many musical options, but everyone in our generation has an experiential music history that’s different,” explains Xu Wang (王旭), drummer for the bands The Gar (嘎调) and the well-known White+ (白+).

“To use myself as an example,” he continues, “I first began listening to Oasis, Rage Against The Machine, Radiohead, etc., but it wasn’t until many years later that I learned about Jimi [Hendrix], The Beatles, The Who, Grateful Dead, etc. My meaning is that our generation of Chinese children have a music history that is chaotic, which is to say that any person’s entrance into music might depend on the first cassette tape your friend gave you; I believe that eventually, this will have a very big influence on the creation of future music.”

尽管最初的改变从80年代开始,但中国音乐市场真正开始显示出其多样性并开始为年轻人接受是在90年代至21世纪初。

“[我]记得在90年代初第一次听到中国当时的摇滚乐,那种激动和记忆让我印象很深刻,那时我还是小学生;我觉得最有意思的是我们的父母除了中国红色歌曲和一些民族音乐之外可能没有更多的选择,但是我们这代每个人的音乐体验历 史可能都不一样。”嘎调乐队以及白+乐队的鼓手王旭说。

“拿我举例子,我最开始听Oasis、Rage Against The Machine, Radiohead 等,但是过了好多年我才知道还有 Jimi [Hendrix]、The Beatles、The Who、Grateful Dead等等,我的意思是我们这一代中国孩子的音乐体验都是混乱的,也就是说每个人的音乐之门可能取决于当时你的朋友给你的第一张打口磁带是什么,我相信这对于后来的音乐创作都有很大的影响,”王旭说。

Pet Conspiracy

Re-TROS

Hua of Re-TROS had a slightly similar experience of discovery. “Diverse music from within the country began about ten years ago or so, and I personally felt a deeper impression around 2003 to 2005, when suddenly a number of rock bands – completely new bands — appeared in China,” he recalls. “Their ideas, their works, expressed themes that were more open, more rich. In fact, quite a number of these bands are now continuing to lead new developments in Chinese music.”

As with any developing music culture around the world, internet connectivity and technology have been vital in bringing Western music into the hands of a new generation of Chinese musicians – as well as listeners.

“Eight years ago, the only information we could attain about music could only come from magazines and CDs (of the kind of junk that Europeans brought China), which meant the music you heard [in China] was delayed by a few years,” explains Maria Santonastaso of Pet Conspiracy. “Because technology eradicates this kind of delay, and because music products are getting cheaper and cheaper, musicians can [now] make good music in their own homes, which evolves into a variety of musical styles that is then transmitted out through the internet. This is a very wonderful thing.”

Censorship in China still limits the free use of social media networks like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, but their impact is nonetheless undeniable – and unstoppable.

“New media like YouTube is changing China’s music culture more and more directly – but unfortunately, we have to use [a] VPN,” says vocalist Yan Lu (陆炎) of Wuhan’s post-punk band, AV Okubo (AV 大久保). The VPNs she mentions are also known as virtual private networks, a type of point-to-point internet connection used by Chinese residents who want to bypass state-controlled firewalls.

“Every country’s level of respect for musicians is different,” says Ilchi of the Beijing-based group Hanggai, who blend Mongolian folk music with punk rock. “[But] there should be more attention and support; the most important thing for cultural development is not to have too many restrictions.”

Indeed, regardless of censorship, many Chinese bands still have representation on Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. China also has a plethora of domestically-developed social networking platforms; one can also find almost every Chinese band on Douban, and Sina microblogging sites and the multi-faceted QQ are also extremely popular. With so much connectivity creating virtual roads leading in and out of China, a future of originality and musical innovation is absolutely impossible to avoid in the Chinese music scene.

“国内多元的音乐从开始到现在大概有十年左右了,我个人印象比较深得是大约2003或2005年前后,突然出现了一批与以往中国得摇滚乐队完全不一样的新的乐队。他们得观念,作品以及表达的主题都更加的开放,丰富。事实上,这一批乐队中有相当多的一部分一直到现在都在引领中国新音乐的发展,”乐队重塑雕像的权利的华东说。

正如世界上任何发展中的音乐文化一样,互联网及科技的发展为中国新一代音乐家以及观众带来了大量西方音乐。

“8年前我们对音乐的信息只能来源于杂志及打口CD{一种被欧洲人卖到中国的垃圾},就意味着你在这里听到的音乐有几年的延时。因为有了科技的东西把这种延时变没了,加上音乐的产品越来越便宜,音乐家可以自己在家就能做出一张好的音乐,这样就演变出很多种音乐风格出来在用互联网的方式传递出去,这是很美妙的事情,”宠物同谋乐队的 Maria Santonastaso 说。

在严格的审查制度下,在中国仍然无法自由使用 YouTube,Twitter以及Facebook,但来自于世界音乐的影响是不可否认的,也是无法阻挡的。

“新型媒体如YouTube正越来越直接地改变着中国的音乐文化,遗憾的是,我们不得不使用一种VPN技术以浏览其网站,”武汉后朋克乐队AV大久保的主唱陆炎说。她所提到的VPN也称作虚拟个人网络,是一种点对点的网络链接。这种网络被中国居民用于绕开全国性的防火墙。

“每个民族对于音乐家的尊重程度都不同,应该还需要更多的重视和支持,文化的发展最重要的是不要限制的太多,” 伊立奇从北京的杭盖乐队说。这支乐队将蒙古民谣与庞克摇滚相糅合。

确实,尽管审查无处不在,许多中国乐队依然在Facebook,YouTube,Soundcloud 以及 Bandcamp 上分享作品。中国国内也有许多中文社交平台:在Douban 上几乎可以找到国内所有乐队,新浪微博以及腾讯QQ也十分受欢迎。在众多国内外网络通道的连接下,中国音乐市场充满原创与创新的未来是无法否认及避免的。

Featured: AV Okubo & Mr. Chelonian // AV大久保 & 海龟先生

 

“I think Chinese musicians have not yet been given due respect and attention; because of China’s history, many people think that musicians are to provide entertainment in the service of others. They believe that only art, film, and dance are considered art, [and] this kind of thinking is extremely unfavorable to music and creation. I don’t know when this kind of thinking will change in China, and for many people, modern forms of Western music are too free, too direct, and too brave.” – LongShengDao (Dragon God’s Way)“我认为中国的音乐家还没有得到应有的尊重和重视,因为中国的历史原因很多人认为音乐家是为了提供别人娱乐去服务的人,他们认为只有美术电影舞蹈算是艺术,这样的想法对音乐和音乐家的创作是非常不利的,我不知道在中国这样的想法什么时候会改变,而且对于很多人来说现代的音乐西方的音乐形式太过自由太过直接和勇敢。” – 龙神道乐队

The Chinese Society’s View on Modern Chinese Music
中国社会对现代中国音乐的看法

The Government & The Media // 政府及媒体

To touch upon the political structure that has shaped the state of Chinese music since its very beginning, we need only look to the current Chinese government to see that opinions are quite polarized amongst the music community. Some find that the Chinese government is completely apathetic; some say it is extremely supportive; some say it has never been interested in music and never will be. Perhaps the most accurate statement, though, is that the Chinese government takes a selective interest in the music industry.

“The Chinese government’s attitude towards music and the like is different for different groups. China’s musicians, before the liberation, had an extremely low position [and] received discrimination from the entire society. Later, after the Communist regime came to power, all of the musicians and music groups within the party were afforded high political and economic status, and this kind of establishment has preserved until now,” explains Lu of AV Okubo. “Various arts organizations related to the government’s Ministry of Culture enjoy direct funding: salary, housing, insurance, and medical benefits. Right now our Madame President is a soprano vocalist in China’s famous musical ensembles; she is the rank of Major General. The government’s attitude towards rock n’ roll music is: no opposition, no support.”

要从头了解造就中国音乐市场形态的政治架构,我们需从现今的中国政府着手。中国音乐人对中国政府的看法两级分化十分严重。一些人认为中国政府对音乐发展毫无作为;一些人认为政府的态度是支持的;另一些人则认为中国政府从来没有,以后也不会对音乐感兴趣。也许最准确的理解是,中国政府有选择地对中国音乐产业表示兴趣和支持。

“中国政府对于音乐种类和不同音乐团体的态度是不同的,中国的音乐家在解放前的地位是极其低下的,受到全社会的歧视,后来共产党政权上台后,将音乐家以及音乐团体全部纳入了体制内,给予了很高的政治地位以及经济地位,而这种编制一直维持到了现在,各个属于政府的文艺团体全部享受文化部的直接拨款:薪金、住房、保险以及医疗福利,我们现在的主席夫人就是一位女高音歌唱家,隶属于中国总政歌舞团,她的军衔是少将。 而政府对于摇滚乐的态度是:不反对,不支持,”AV大久保乐队的陆炎说。

1 2 3 4 5 6

Share
Written by
Vivian Hua 華婷婷

Vivian Hua 華婷婷 is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer. As the Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum in Seattle and Editor-in-Chief of the interdisciplinary arts publication, REDEFINE, much of her work unifies her metaphysical interests with her belief that art can positively transform the self and society. She regularly shares human-centered stories through her storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE! In 2020, she will [hopefully] begin production on a comedic Asian-American series entitled Reckless Spirits.

Ask Vivian about MARSHMALLOWS, cuz she's gross... and being tips for being frugal while nomading!

View all articles
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
15 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
trackback

[…] China’s Indie Music Scene: Transforming Contemporary Chinese Culture From The Bottom Up &#8211…: […]

Jonathan Alpart
Jonathan Alpart
7 years ago

Vivian, thank you for writing such a fantastic, in-depth article about the Chinese music scene! I am in fact one of the committed “portion of people” trying to bring Chinese music to a wider audience. I am the guy who makes The Sound Stage – thank you SO much for including two of my videos on page 1 of your article! I was thrilled to see that when Josh Feola shared this piece on his Facebook.

I also wanted to let your readers know that things are indeed changing, even at this time of writing I think a lot of what was quoted on Page 4 is already becoming irrelevant! Since August I’ve been doing a radio version of my “The Sound Stage” series (which is fully financed by China Radio International, a Chinese state media organ) every Saturday night primetime 6-7pm on FM stations in nearly every major city in China where I play Chinese independent rock, folk, hip-hop and more – I’ve played a track from just about every band mentioned here in this article. I upload each broadcast here thesoundstage.bandcamp.com

Vivian, 这篇文章非常棒,关于中国独立音乐的见解非常深刻。感谢你写这篇文章。我本人也致力于推广中国音乐,让更多的人了解中国音乐。我就是The Sound Stage(音你而乐)栏目主持人。真的特别感谢你在你的文章中提到我的两期节目。在Facebook 上看到Josh Feola的分享,我简直太激动了。

同时,我也希望你的读者能了解到现在正发生的一些变化。事实上,在我写下这些评论时,你在文章第四页引用的一些业界评论已经不符合当前的情况了。从今年8月份开始,The Sound Stage(音你而乐)广播版开播——完全由中国国际广播电台独立承办,每周六晚上6:05点到七点,通过调频广播向中国主要城市传播。这档广播栏目中,我们会播放中国独立摇滚乐,民谣,Hip-hop等。你文章中提到的那些乐队,我几乎都有播放过他们的音乐。打开这个链接,可以看到所有往期的节目。

sOopahvi
sOopahvi
7 years ago

Hey Jonathan! Thanks for writing, and I love the work you do. I’ll definitely check out your Bandcamp… who are some of your favorite Chinese musicians at the moment? If you ever would be interested in putting together a Chinese music mixtape for REDEFINE, consider this an invite. Cheers and really good work on Sound Stage. 🙂

Jonathan Alpart
Jonathan Alpart
7 years ago
Reply to  sOopahvi

Vivian, I would love to, thanks! I’ll get to work on that right away. I really Residence A (A公馆)and their CD release party at MAO Livehouse was possibly the best show I’ve seen at that venue. I’m also very impressed by the music coming out of Dalian – namely, Which Park and Doc Talk Shock. Since I’ve started my show I’ve been branching out beyond Beijing and there is really cool stuff coming out of any and every city – Xi’an, Chengdu, Guangzhou. Check out Golden Cage, The Fuzz and The Muff. I’ll always have a soft spot for New Pants(新裤子), though!

sOopahvi
sOopahvi
7 years ago

I actually also reached out to Josh about a mixtape idea! I wonder if you guys could collab on a series or if you could do one later on next year in 2014? (He’s slated in January.) No rush. Feel free to e-mail me at huav@redefinemag.com, too! 😀

Jonathan Alpart
Jonathan Alpart
7 years ago
Reply to  sOopahvi

I’m cool with either! I’ve emailed you =)

Gonzo Chicago
Gonzo Chicago
7 years ago

This is really great. I read this from China, after having filmed over 30 bands in the last 2 months, to be released as a moment in time style documentary as soon as humanly possible. I hope to make this excellent, and spread it as far and wide as I can. Thanks for doing this. It needed to be done.

sOopahvi
sOopahvi
7 years ago
Reply to  Gonzo Chicago

Thank you kindly! Please keep me posted when you finish your piece. 🙂

bill bunkum
bill bunkum
7 years ago

Speaking of expat bands, do you think there is a place in China’s music scene for expat bands to be taken seriously? It often seems to me that an expat musician is seen more as a novelty than anything, and that there seems to be little excitement, coverage or promotion about what expats are doing musically exactly because they are not burgeoning, Chinese musicians.

sOopahvi
sOopahvi
7 years ago
Reply to  bill bunkum

Are you speaking in terms of the local Chinese audience or larger international audiences?

bill bunkum
bill bunkum
7 years ago
Reply to  sOopahvi

My only real experience is with local audiences, both Chinese & expats. I’m unsure what the int’l audience thinks. I’d agree with this article concerning them.

Jonathan Alpart
Jonathan Alpart
7 years ago
Reply to  bill bunkum

Many expat bands are respected and treated as “locals” as long as they are truly creating something new and not just playing “drunken Jimi Hendrix covers.” Take the band Pairs, for example. They are one of the biggest acts out of Shanghai, and the lead singer and guitarist is from Australia. I guess what people take an issue with regarding expat bands would be a concept that is something of an opposite to what Josh Feola described as “China Cred” – call it Expat Cred? “Hey, we’re foreigners in China playing rock music” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Having said all that though, this IS China, so I think it’s only natural that people would be more interested in what local Chinese people are doing. Hopefully as the scene here gains more ground and international prominence, it won’t matter who you are or where you are from, but just what you are bringing musically to the table.

tenzenmen
tenzenmen
7 years ago

thanks for using some tenzenmen links too (and i’ve added the article to alternativechina.tumblr.com). anyone looking to hear or buy more chinese music can check out tenzenmen.com.

also – D22 is no longer there (as is their url)!

sOopahvi
sOopahvi
7 years ago
Reply to  tenzenmen

thanks for the double heads up!

Ricky Maymi
2 years ago

Order a whole lot of Chinese vinyl, CDs, cassettes and even some shirts and posters from http://www.faroutdistantsounds.com

Written by Vivian Hua 華婷婷
15
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x