Beijing is a city rich in history and culture, but beneath the surface is a growing underground music scene that is capturing a new generation of fans. On this week’s TALK ASIA Anjali Rao takes a tour of the city’s emerging and diverse music landscape with veteran indie rockers Buyi.
For many years, it was difficult for Chinese music lovers to listen to the dominant music coming out of the West. However, the Internet has thrown open the doors in the past decade.
Rao hears from Buyi, a veteran band who have been on the scene for more than a dozen years about how rock music in China is changing.
Buyi also shares their thoughts on bands who challenge the Chinese government: “The rock music in China is all too young. Music is not the most important thing in the lives of the people here. Therefore they don’t consider music as their belief. So the biggest problems are your own problems. “
Rao also meets with an insider from the Chinese rock scene. Michael Pettis is an American expat and economics professor by day. But by night, he’s the founder of the music club D22, as well as an upstart music label. Pettis speculates that if China is home to one-fifth of the world’s population, it should be home to one-fifth of the world’s musical geniuses as well.
Pettis compares the scene today in Beijing to cultural movements that took place in parts of the United States in the 1960’s: “There is a sense among a lot of the artists that just like in the 60’s in the States, that we’re doing this stuff, we’re never going to make money. No one’s ever going to give a damn about what we do. And yet I think they’re wrong for the same reasons that a lot of those people in San Francisco and New York were wrong in the 1960’s. And that is the whole culture is changing and moving to meet them.”
Buyi also explains to Rao how Beijing indie bands survive with little or no commercial success: “Shall we have money first? Or shall we have faith? In Chinese society, there are fewer and fewer people with beliefs. Actually music takes up a very important part in people’s lives. But they might not be aware of it.” The band explains why money is not a problem: “Surviving in China is very easy. It’s not difficult. You can survive on 100 yuan or 15 dollars a month. Hence in this land, money is not the most important thing; it is your choices that matter.”
TALK ASIA takes a listen to other bands including the popular and dynamic Carsick Cars as well as Hanggai, a group of folk rockers who incorporate unique styles from their native Mongolia.