On the national and international circuit, however, it seems that the government’s support of live music festivals is undeniable.
“The Chinese government has been committed to supporting and nurturing Chinese music festivals in recent years; with the Midi Music Festival growing in size and growing influence, rock music has also gradually received more and more attention from the government,” explains Maggie Wong (王曼), Media Operations Director of the Beijing Jazz Festival and the Midi Modern Music Festival. Midi, which happens annually, is the largest rock festival in China. “Midi Music Festival in Beijing was the first to obtain funds to support a cultural and creative rock music festival… Chinese rock music and music festivals are currently receiving great support from the government…”
Regardless, certain bands have been lucky enough to receive direct governmental support. Reggae band LongShengDao (龙神道), which translates to Dragon Road, is one of those bands; they have been on tours to Canada and New Zealand that were both sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Culture.
Previously, the Chinese government largely supported traditional Chinese and Western music; they were relatively unfamiliar with modern music. But it is getting better, because they have discovered that modern music can be used to communicate with modern people, so they’ve begun to support musicians like us on international tours and exchanges,” LongShengDao explain.
Though the Chinese government may play a role in the lives of some musicians, it seems generally agreed-upon that the State-owned media – much like mainstream media everywhere – still prefers easily-digestible pop music over underground rock n’ roll.
“Mainstream Chinese media still holds deep prejudice and discrimination towards rock n’ roll music; TV, broadcasting, and publishing censorship is still very strict,” says Lu of AV Okubo. “By going through some [more] flexible measures, we can get legal version numbers to publish our record, spread it effectively over the internet, and even participate in some of the major open-air rock n’ roll festival activities – but with regards to the mainstream media and a sense of nationwide popularity, in contemporary China, [coverage] is still not realistic for a real rock band.”
“The local Chinese government remains highly suspicious of alternative Chinese music,” says Matthew Neiderhauser, photographer and writer behind SoundKapital, a 2009 book on underground Chinese bands and DIY spaces. “They would rather everyone watch the saccharine pop pumped out of televisions and radios around the country. Anything that borderlines on controversial will get nipped in the bud. There is also a lot of self-censorship due to the sometimes arbitrary nature of punishments handed out for dissent or cultural acts seen as political or social disturbances.”
From a wider point of view, China has the largest potential market and potential for consumer consumption. A large population and rapid economic development has resulted in a greater demand for music,” says ZiHan Qu (瞿子寒) of the folk-inspired rock band ShanRen (山人). “But to speak from a negative point of view, a strong media plays a decisive role is aesthetically misleading the public. Strong commercial motivations lead to a market which is dominated by vulgar and classless music.”
尽管中国政府支持了一部分音乐家的现场演出活动，但整体上来说，由于中国媒体都是国家控制 – 主流媒体蔓延在各个地方 – 相对于地下摇滚乐来说，政府还是偏向容易为大众接受的流行音乐。
“政府对主流音乐以外的音乐形式依然保持着高度怀疑和警惕，” Matthew Neiderhauser，SoundKapital （一本2009年出版，关于中国地下乐队的书）的摄影师及作者说。”他们希望每个人都只会欣赏观看那些从主流电视及电台传播的毫无营养却容易接受的流行乐。任何与主流不符的音乐形式都会被扼杀与摇篮之中。他们有时候还会利用自我审查，以担心对社会造成干扰为由，对那些与主流政治及社会价值相违背的艺术家进行迫害。”
Listening Station #2: Dance Sounds
Downloads and streams from a selection of our favorite Chinese musicians.
Pet Conspiracy (宠物同谋)
Queen Sea Big Shark (后海大鲨鱼)
The Dyne – “浮游 (Seston)” – DOWNLOAD MP3[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/The-Dyne_Seston.mp3|titles=The Dyne – Seston]
Cat Machine (机械懒猫) – “我已湿透 (I’m Drenched)” – DOWNLOAD MP3[audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Cat-Machine_Im-Drenched.mp3|titles=Cat Machine – I’m Drenched]
“China’s education system is still more utilitarian; music or art is seen as an afterthought. Even professional art college is also based on practical knowledge rather than artistic education. This point is very sad. I personally have not studied music, is entirely their own interest or enthusiasm to do with this thing. In fact, as far as I know, of China’s new influential bands, there aren’t any who studied music professionally. – HuaDong from Re-TROS
中国的教育系统是很功利主义的，音乐或艺术在中国教育中只是一种补充。甚至在专业的艺术学校中，学生受到的教育也不是在艺术教育而是实践性知识基础上。这是很可悲的。我并没有真正学习过音乐，从事音乐完全出于我对音乐的兴趣和热爱。事实上，据我所知，那些新兴的有影响力的中国乐队成员中，没有一个是受过正规音乐教育的。 – 乐队重塑雕像的权利的华东
Education & Family // 教育及家庭
Where the Chinese government may only sometimes support musicians, Chinese households have long been fairly conservative in their approaches to a child’s educational future. Utilitarian educations that will lead to a good job or marketable skills are generally encouraged, and music and arts educations are often considered supplementary, rather than primary.
“Within the country, there is the growth of a unified education system, so that the majority of people still think relatively homogenously, [find it] easy to discriminate, [are] not willing to accept seeing something different, [with] hostility,” says YunGe Si of The Dyne.
“As anywhere, it is necessary to view traditional, socially accepted music and art from a different point of view than the independent underground currents,” explains Fortuny of Maybe Mars. “Music and art is encouraged in school and at home in the same way as most Western countries – that is, as long as it is correct and socially acceptable.”
In some extreme cases, studies in music and the arts are only considered only beneficial when they aid with college entrance exams – a vitally important and notoriously difficult life milestone for Chinese youth.
“Those who are especially skilled at arts or sports will score extra points on China’s college entrance exam, if you can play some instruments and have passed the examinations for the National Conservatory of Music…” explains Lu of AV Okubo. “In the eyes of parents, investing some money and energy into letting their children study music can be exchanged for considerable [college] entrance exam points; it’s a smart investment.”
“如世界上任何一个地方一样，在中国，以不同的角度欣赏理解传统的、大众普遍接受的音乐及艺术是必须的。而人们对于独立地下音乐的态度则不同，”兵马司乐队的 Fortuny 说，”与西方国家一样，音乐及艺术在学校及家庭是得到鼓励的 – 前提是，这些音乐及艺术形式是所谓正确的并为社会所接受的。”
也有一些极端的例子，音乐及艺术教育被视为进入大学的特殊途径，而只有在这个时候学习音乐及技术才被看做有用的 – 对中国青少年来说，选择这种人生不仅意味重大，而且异常艰难。