When I arrived in Beijing in late 1994, Rock and Roll and its more lite-n-lascivious cousin Disco were just blossoming again.
In my first year living near the Haidian technology district, I saw three new discos open to bring the total in the capital to about five. By my third year, there were about thirty open around town and our band had played gigs at several of them.
It was a period of hyper-expansion that was a sign of the dazzlingly intense Western style economic growth in that country which was to last a generation and end with the total integration of western music into Chinese culture.
Perhaps that historic change in China’s character is best exemplified by the Pepsi Battle of the Bands (百事群音).
To keep up with modern tastes, Kal thus did the disco version of Yu de Some de Someway. A modern version of a Fa Zi song, remixed. (The video for the song can be found above, but here is the Soundcloud song player as well).
That Yuan Ming Yuan was located in an ideal historical garden area off the grid made Fazi and those in the Colony sometimes overlooked, sometimes suspicious, but mostly hard to monitor. This led to a great deal of creative freedom and authenticity of purpose for these artists despite being under the nose of one of the world’s most autocratic governments.
(That isn’t to say they sometimes didn’t get hassled, as I will discuss later on, but when they wanted to turn the amps up to 11 they could without bothering anyone but the ghosts and cicadas).
Today, of course, there are a lot of rock bands in China as well as a crowded field of The Voice-style pop, Cantopop, K-Pop, J-pop, etc etc.
It’s funny that something so dangerous in 1994, which led to the whole place being shut down is now (as it is in the West) just another cultural signifier of rebellion-as-fashion and plastic packaged “individuality”. Defanged, echoing in a sea of salesmen (as Rush put it), and yet still able to create waves if done right.
Yes, China’s transition from society-centric Communist postures and politics to poses of “individual expression” as the normal commercial fashion template was complete by the mid-2000’s , and all told it took, as in America, about two decades to get there.
Well, I guess it could be worse. They could have become more repressive ala North Korea, which is still stuck in the 70’s staging Donny and Marie style two-camera soundstage shows for their pop tarts!