DIRECTIONS TO FAZI’S HOUSE

方向 以 发子 房子: 圆 明 园    (中国版本)

FaZi  发子 (China 中国摇滚) is a folk rock singer-songwriter from China.  Specifically, his career originated in the late 1980’s out of Yuan Ming Yuan, the “Old Summer Palace” of the emperor in Beijing.

Directions to Fa Zi’s:

Go down a country road under a full Autumn moon.

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After the buzzing yellow taxi-packed streets end past Bei Da (Beijing  University) near the crumbling ruins of the Old Summer Palace, turn down the alley at the small market where the farmers lay their vegetables out on the flatbeds of their tricycles.

There’s an expensive private Communist Party hotel hidden there overlooking a row of populars beside the lake where old men wave around swords practicing martial arts into their retirement years.

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Keep going.

The path now is only dirt grooved into a few ruts by Fazi’s Hummer-like jeep which, for 1994, is an astounding personal luxury.

On the far side is the one-room brick house of the tofu bakers who will stand and stare (while stoking their coal-blackened ovens and drying their cakes in the fields), accompanied now by fireflys bobbing.

As the Chinese countryside night envelopes you, you’ll approach a glen.  The high frequency pulses of the ciccadas pierce the dark.  It’s their warning to you:  “Ghosts here! Wai guo ren (foreigners) be careful!”

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Don’t be afraid, keep going.

You’ll hear a distant gong explode with a shimmer into the evening air.  It’s then that you’ll make out of the pitch blackness a gate on the far side of the field, behind it a community of cabins.

At your feet look for a thick black power line threading through the grass.  Keep your eyes on it as you step onto Fa Zi’s farm property.   (Fa Zi’s dogs and sheep now bleating to greet you).

That electric cord goes over a wooden corral fence, through the door of a mud-brick house, and into the throbbing 100 watt Marshall stack of Fa Zi’s 1959 sunburst Gibson.

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Sweet

As sweet a guitar as anyone would ever want, you can see it as you open the door.

In FaZi’s hands, it is  jangling out the chords to the sly historical song and metaphor for China’s changes,  “Fly Like An Arrow”      箭一样地飞翔.   Here in this little brick hut, Fa Zi sings for a crowded party of painters, musicians, foreign students, expat American businessmen, television producers, writers, university students, computer whizzes, heavy-metalers, record executives, friends and family.

They are all there warming themselves against the bitter cold of the encroaching Beijing deep freeze with beer, boiling tea and Fa Zi’s band, which when asked will kick into a rock with-Chinese-characteristics tribute to the place they call their home: Yuan Ming Yuan, the Garden of Gardens Arts Colony, Beijing, People’s Republic of China, circa 1994.

Welcome to Fa Zi’s.

 

“Yuan Ming Yuan” is actually Chinese for what is now referred to as “Old Summer Palace“, and it might be translated as Garden of Perfect Brightness by some.   Still, I like Garden of Gardens.  And if there is one person who should be singing the theme song for a pleasure palace built jointly by the Jesuits and the Chinese for the Ching Dynasty emperor of the 16th Century (and sacked by an army of Europeans eighty years later), it’s Fa Zi.

With his foreboding girth, towering figure and flowing black beard, he is something to behold.  He looks a lot like one of those famous old stone warriors who were buried along with the Chinese Emperor Huang-Di in the ancient tombs of Xian several thousand years ago come to life and wearing flannel.  One with with Elvis Presley’s sideburns.  In fact, perhaps this describes Fa Zi succinctly– the Chinese Fat Elvis.  A few years after his 67 comeback prime, but still possessing a way with a song and with incredible presence.

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More to come including music, video and more excerpts from the book on Chinese rock an roll I’m working on … stay tuned!

Fazi Music and Fazi: Chinese Rock and Roll History content    © 2014 Extablisment  (a division of Salvus Corp).

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ROCK & ROLL IN CHINA Pt.1

Ceiling of the Great Hall of the People, Beijing
Ceiling of the Great Hall of the People, Beijing

Fa Zi’s Chinese Rock & Roll History is a story about the beginnings of the modern music era in 1990′s China  and the burgeoning underground culture which was rooting in Beijing (especially the Yuan Ming Yuan artists colony) at that time.

All that and more, as seen from the perspective of an American (Kevin Salveson) who happened to fall-in and form a  band with some of the coolest rock and rollers the Middle Kingdom had ever seen just years after the Tian An Men Square protests (and Deng Xiao Peng) had changed the capital city forever.

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With cheap video equipment and hand-held tape decks I recorded footage and music of gigs we played at Guo Mao and elsewhere.  As you will see and hear, the elements took their toll on the stuff before I could digitally transfer it all without blemish.  Still, it is obviously of historical interest, because, because, well…  just look at that Marshall amp stack!!

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The famous JCM 800 had made its way to China by the late 80s.

This is Fazi’s debut in the digital world and will feature his music in forthcoming installments as well as greater descriptions of the changes China was just undergoing in those years.  I don’t look to profit from the posting of his music, so anything that this exposure brings to him will be duly accounted for and delivered to him.

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Fazi and his friends at Yuan Ming Yuan were the real deal when it came to rock in Beijing in the 80’s and 90’s.

While it may be a bit underproduced (and more folk and less rock in some of these versions), it was unique in that Fazi chose powerful Western-based rock and roll instruments (electric guitars, Fender P-basses, trap kits, Rhodes Piano, and Melltron strings) to compliment his guitar arrangements.

A lovely blonde Fender P bass
A lovely blonde Fender P bass – Jam at a local bar, Beijing 1995.

The tracks I post here are often mostly guitar arrangements but we played the songs in a more rock arrangement (as can be heard on the second part of the track Who Daddy, for example).

Meanwhile, it is absolutely amazing to me that in the past 20 years while Yuan Ming Yuan as an art colony was morphing into Songzhuang and becoming over-run with foreign art dealers spending hundreds of thousands to millions on art, another kind of Chinese artist was being completely overlooked.   

Apparently, YuanMingYuan is now legendary in the annals of Chinese art.  Perhaps even more so since it is now gone.  The history books show that Yuan Ming Yuan as a colony for painters peaked in the mid-1990’s just when I arrived, but musicians are rarely even mentioned in that description of the times as existing there.

 If even the Chinese history of the place doesn’t make mention of the rock and rollers there (as far as I could search on BaiDu, I couldn’t find much), it’s impossible to think that anyone in the West would have heard of Fazi.

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