History of Rock in China

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A brief history of rock music and its development in China with references to scientific classification and major as well as minor definitions.

General information

Author Max-Leonhard von Schaper
English title History of Rock in China
Publication Rock in China
Date of publication exactly on 29 March 2013 04:21:19
Original URL The original article was posted on http://www.music-china.org/w/History_of_Rock_in_China

Entities mentioned

In this article, especially the following entities (bands, artists, cities, articles, etc.) are being called out:

Cui Jian, Black Panther, Tang Dynasty, Midi Music Festival

Keywords & Genre

The following keywords / genres apply for this article:

China, Rock, Beijing



In the following you will find a comprehensive, yet detailed, attempt to capture the history of rock music in China, mixing in the various subgenres, accompanying events and main figures of Chinese rock history. However writing about the history of rock in China is the same as talking about the rise of rock in Europe, for as China is not only dimension-wise as large as Europe, but also culture-wise as diverse as the distinct nations and culture in Europe.

Therefore it is difficult to talk about THE history of rock in China, for as nearly every province, every city has their own story to tell on how the guitar took over and brought modern music to students, workers and music-lovers. As such, for individual storylines, respective links are given either in the article itself or in the history infobox on the right.

Furthermore, one will notice a certain concentration on the area of Beijing in the following. This is due to the fact that Beijing was and is a heavy force, if not the most heaviest force in the rock scene of China. Nevertheless other areas of China are considered as well and included in below history. Additionally deep links and redirects are added to articles describing certain periods, certain genres or certain regional developments in more detail, more accuracy and more length.


Rock music history of China
Main Articles

Electronic Music | Metal | Punk | Rock

Regional Scenes

Beijing | Chengdu | Chongqing | Hongkong | Macau | Qingdao | Shanghai | Wuhan | Xi'an

Timelines & Lists

Domestic Bands | Foreign Bands | Labels | Tours | Records

Special Articles

History of the Midi Music Festival | Research

Individual Years

2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990 | 1989 | 1988 | 1987 | 1986 | 1985 | 1984 | 1983 | 1982 | 1981 | 1980 | 1979

The Year in Review (Photos)

2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995

In order to structure the history of rock in China, we orientate ourselves on certain phases or periods defined in the Chinese rock scene itself.

Yan Jun once divided the development of Chinese rock in 4 periods[1]:

1986-1990: “Myth of the hero”

Rock was a concept, symbolizing freedom and spirituality.

1993-1997: “Aristocratic Elite”

2nd generation of rockers emerges who were supported by Mo Yan and his Taiwanese record company Magic Stone (affiliated with Rock Records).

1997-2004: “Underground Spirit”

Third generation believes the rock stars of the 1st and 2nd generation sold themselves as they performed with pop stars.

2004-today: Today's period

For the time after 2004, the author is going to name the time Journey to the West.

However, for the years 1984 to 1992, the responsible chief editor of the national music magazine „People’s music“ (Renmin Yinyue – 人民音乐) sets the following periods [2]:

1984 – 1988 : The beginnings

1989 – 1990 : Cui Jian

1990 – 1992 : Rock concerts and their implications

In the following the article is divided into the above mentioned time periods and within each period major events and developments are highlightes and further explained.

Before the rock, the rise of popular music

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Before even considering the rise of rock music and other contemporary forms of music, one must have a look into the later history to see the rise of popular music in general, over the course of the 19th and 20th century, as an essential and basic development. Mr. Andreas Steen has extensively written about the general outline and the specifics of this particular development in his book Der Lange Marsch des Rock'n'Roll in chapter II, for which fortunately a translation is available at Rock in China.

Another good account on the starting years of Chinese rock, however less focussing on the time 1900 - 1950 is the book Red Rock by Jon Campbell.

Therefore in the following the History of Rock in China directly starts 1979 and goes until today (2013).

1980 - 1986

Modern Music in the 80s before Rock

Album cover of Jean Michel Jarre's live concert in China

One of the first Western music influences entering China after its "Opening Up" by Deng Xiao Ping 1979 was the establishment of discos, e.g. in Shanghai as the Evening Independent reports. Foreigners were allowed more freedoms, so that in Beijing in the "International Club" regular "disco nights" were set up, similar to the events in Shanghai's Jing Jiang Hotel.[3]

A Brit named Graham Earnshaw formed a band called BJ Allstars in 1979, bringing the sounds of rock and roll live to Beijing in the form of Santana and Rolling Stones covers.[4] The first Chinese band ever playing modern music, rock music, in China was established in 1980 in the Beijing foreign language university. The band was called Wan Li Ma Wang and played mostly Western classical rock.

In 1981, Jean Michel Jarre performed both in Beijing and Shanghai and would later release an album which featured not only Chinese songs (...) but also a Chinese orchestra, who played with him live.[5] As per the New York Times / Reuters:

About 15,000 people listened to the French composer of Oxygene and other best-selling albums, applauding occasionally but showing more interest in the spectacular lasers than in the eerily hypnotic music. The (Beijing Worker's) stadium was about 80 percent full when the concert started, but nearly half the audience left before the end - as happens at more conventional functions, because Peking's buses stop running at about 10 o'clock.[6]

As the underground scene in Beijing at that time was in far more smaller and more underground undeveloped kind, there had been no real concerts or tours or club gigs. There was no real nightlife scene as you can find it today in San Li Tun or Ho Hai. The first gigs were held in the bar of foreign hotels in Beijing with a mixed audience of foreign students and Chinese enthusiasts.

Therefore it is also no surprising, that Philippine cover bands, playing regular in hotel bars, also had their share on influencing future Chinese rock bands, such as Guo Chuanlin, the manager of Black Panther: "In 1982 a Filipino surf band did a show at a park. It was all covers, Beach Boys and stuff. We stood there stunned. We had no idea a guitar could make those sounds! That was a turning point."[7] That Philipino band was called Nitaige'er.[8]

Before Cui Jian finally started the big breakthrough of Chinese rock, a few other bands should be mentioned, such as Alisi (1981), a band, formed by Li Li and Wang Young, mainly performing Japanese songs.[9] Mainland band (1982), formed by Adi with some foreigners.

Cui Jian's first steps

Seven-piece Puzzle or Seven Ply Board (Qiheban)

In 1984[10], Cui Jian and others from the Symphony Orchestra launched another band, called "Seven-Ply Board" (sometimes called Seven-piece Puzzle and Self Righting Doll), later renamed the "ADO Band," and they began writing and performing their own songs.[11] The band existed only from November 1984 until 1985 and included Cui Jian, Liu Yuan, Yang Yueqiang, Wen Bo, Zhou Xiaoming and Li Xiuli as members.

Further in 1984 Li Ji and several friends of the Language Theatre School (Quanzhong Huajutuan Yuan) formed Tumbler, which only existed for about a year, but included a huge number of those “old rockers” (Lao Yaogun), such as Qin Qi, Wang Yong (famous Beijing rocker), Li Li, Yan Gang, Sun Guoqing (later famous pop singer and TV host!), Ding Wu (later Vocalist of Tang Dynasty), Zang Tianshuo (famous rock/pop singer and producer) and Wang Di (famous guitar hero). They played mostly popular Japanese and Western pop music.

Foreign Pop Bands in China (1985-1986)

Wham! on the Great Wall; photo: unknown
Cover of SheRock's 1986 tour flyer. The band was known in Chinese by the transliteration "xi luo ke". The title is "Friendship Great Wall", photo (c) via Jon Campbell

In April 1985 the foreign band Wham! performs, according to BBC News, in the People's Gymnasium Beijing in front of 15000 people and starts a pop euphoria[12], the Time Magazine however set the concert to the Worker's stadium and downgrade the audience to rather 10000 listeners (thereof 4000 foreigners).[13] Both reports align on the fact that the concert itself was a rather splitted event, with part of the audience going wild and part of it (in fear of repression) sitting still on their seats.

In Autumn 1986, the foreign band SheRock performed in Shanghai, China, via the help of their manager Walter Stewart and the company Shanghai Radio & Television.[14] [15] As per Jonathan Campbell:

It (editor: pre-touring marketing efforts) paid off in at least a trip to China, where, between late July and early September, they performed sixteen shows in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou for an estimated total audience of 125,000. There was also talk of a hundred million viewers via television broadcast, as well as a trip to a studio for a Mainland-only album.[16]

In November 1986 the foreign surfrock-Duo: “Jan (Berry) and Dean (Torrence)” (with the help of Don Altfeld) performs in China.[17] [18]

Other musical influences

In the late seventies and early eighties, mix tapes became a major influence for the up and coming rock musicians. Whereas the artists of the late nineties are being the "dakou generation", those musicians, such as Cui Jian or Thin Man, had their influences from cassette tapes either brought in via Westerners or other means.[19] In that respect also the AV Exhibition in Beijing with its tape display of classical music and pop music attracted most attention from the predominantly young visitors[20], less for sales as for on-site listening as tapes were sold at international prices far beyond the range of most Chinese at the time[21].

A much-expected live TV broadcast of the Live Aid concert on July 13th 1985 was cancelled allegdebly due to 'technical problems'.[22]

In Guangzhou rock music was allegdebly allowed to be broadcasted on the Pearl River Economic Radio Station at the beginning of 1987.[23]

Further info: Category:1985 / Category:1986

1986 - 1990: “Myth of the hero”

Cui Jian at Tiananmen Square

The Northwest Wind

The rock music played from 1986 to 1989 is also known as The Northwest Wind (西北风) style rock. This new style was triggered by two new songs, "Xintianyou" and the above mentioned "I Have Nothing", both of which drew heavily on the folk song traditions of northern Shaanxi Province in the northwest. They combined this with a western-style fast tempo, strong beat and aggressive bass lines. In contrast to the mellow Cantopop style, Northwest Wind songs were sung loudly and forcefully. It represented the musical branch of the large-scale Root-Seeking (寻根, xungen) cultural movement that also manifested itself in literature and in film. It also heralded the revival of musical creativity in Mainland China.[24]

Many Northwest Wind songs were highly idealistic and heavily political, parodying or alluding to the revolutionary songs of the Communist state, such as "Nanniwan" (南泥湾) and "The Internationale" (国际歌). They reflected dissatisfaction among Chinese youth, as well as the influence of western ideas such as individuality and self-empowerment. Both music and lyrics articulated a sense of pride in the power of the northwest's peasantry. Songs such as "Sister Go Boldly Forward" (妹妹你大胆的往前走) came to represent a earthy, primordial masculine image of Mainland China, as opposed to the soft, sweet, polished urban gangtai style. [24]

1986: The moment of truth - I have nothing

The main event of this year was the May 9th concert Rang shijie chongnan ai in the Worker's Stadium of Beijing during which Cui Jian performed his famous songs "I have nothing / Nothing to my name" (Yi wu suo you, various English translation in use - English lyrics) and Bu Shi Wo Bu Ming Bai (It's not that I don't understand).[2] The song "I have nothing" became an enormous hit, and the phrase yi wu suo you (literally "one without everything) is now part of the vocabulary many young people use to describe their predicament and future prospects. According to keyboardist Liang Heping:

As he (Cui Jian) sang that first line (of Nothing to my name) my hair stood straight on end. Every other member of the band said they had the same feeling. (...) It was as if a person had been waiting and longing for something and finally someone sang it out.[25]

Furthermore White Angel was formed in 1986. Members at that time included Lao Wu on guitars, Liu Jun Li on bass, Feng Man Tian on guitars, Zang Tian Shuo on keyboards and Cheng Jin on drums. The following artists have participated with White Angel in one or the other way: Wang Di, Qin Qi, Qin Yong, Gao Qi and Chen Jin. There were only a few original songs played along with several Western cover songs. They were one of the few bands that was allowed to perform 1988 in the Capital Workers Gymnasium Indoor Stadium. However at that time, Lao Wu was not on guitars, but Gao Qi was.

1987 - 1989: Rock bands forming

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He Yong


According to Guo Chuanlin (founding member of Black Panther), rock parties were held in Beijing nearly every month.[26] Furthermore, Shanghai's community gets united by the AV World magazing and according to Zhang Haisheng, monthly gatherings happened bringing hundreds of readers together to listen to music and watch videos.[27]

After his famous May 9th 1986 concert in Beijing, Cui Jian was performing in the Capital Stadium of Beijing on January 14th 1987 playing both the song I have nothing as well as a former revolutionary song called Nanniwan, with which he earned himself the anger of the government and many of his concerts were banned or cancelled. According to Lisa Movius the title of that concert was "A Hundred Pop Stars".[28] Furthermore he had to leave his work unit (danwei) and later on formed the band ADO Band.

Following Cui Jian's example, numerous rock bands evolved.

In 1987 mainly three bands formed: Black Panther (黑豹, Hei Bao), Guo's band; ADO Band and Mayday, a seminal group that featured He Yong , China's semi-punk guitarist. Rock vocalist Zhang Chu moved to Beijing in this year and started record production in 1988. It was also in 1987 that Chinese musicians began using the phrase Yaogun (摇滚), which translates into rock'n'roll.

In October, German Deutschrock band BAP toured China and performed in three cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hongkong.


A year later, 1988, Da Niao and - most famous - Tang Dynasty (唐朝) were formed and are today known as rock legends in China. Also Jiang Xin started to play rock in 1988 after she made friends with Dou Wei, Zhang Ju, and Ding Wu who all surely influence the development of Chinese rock in the 1990s.

As with most Chinese rock bands, they had to release their CDs in Taiwan or Hong Kong first, as no record company in mainland China wanted to take their CDs. Normally it took one year before the CDs were released officially in mainland China.

1989 - A sharp crush


1989 saw bands such as Cobra (眼镜蛇, Yan Jing She, in 1989), the all-female group; The Breathing (呼吸, Hu Xi, in 1989), formed by Zhao Muyang and Wei Hua, Gao Qi's original band; The Face and 1989 being formed.

In February, Cui Jian's second record Rock'n'Roll on the new long march was released.

But then happened to be the year of 1989 and the year in which most foreign countries set an economical ban on China. 1989 is the year of the Tiananmen Square Massacre as it is named in foreign media. Many bands that were living at that time in Beijing performed on the square, but most of them avoid to be directly participating in the movement as they feared to be labeled political or even counter-revolutionary. Among them were Hou Dejian (a Taiwanese singer-songwriter), He Yong with his band Mayday (acc. to Andrew Jones performing the last time) and Cui Jian who sang four songs including "Piece of Red Cloth".[29]

After the incident, of which all bands, all students and all young Chinese were shocked, a wind blew. A new direction within the youth happened to be. They did not talk anymore about Women Guojia, our country, but about Women Ziji, ourselves.

Some stopped to sing about political criticism or social problems, but started to sing about how to live on and how to have a good life in the world we're already living in. As Gao Qi put it:

Pre 1989 we were idealistic. Post 1989 we are realistic. Since 1989, a lot has changed. Some people are still writing songs about the government, but I don't see the point. Now I write about how we can live, what our purpose is.[30]

Some bands however did not stop and tried to go on with what they had complained about before. But the audience had changed and wasn't interested anymore in this kind of lyrical topics.

Rock was a big thing both in political and financial terms in the late 80s, but the popularity, the audience, was limited mostly to Beijing's college and university students and some artistic circles. Because it spoke of individuality, depression, and made veiled references to the government, the state-run recording studios would not produce rock albums.

The government and its media houses

After 1987 and especially after 1989, the course of government changed. Having tried to suppress the rock development in the beginning and having forbidden rock musicians, such as Cui Jian to perform on stage, except if necessary to show an open-minded face to the foreign world (1990 Opening Concert for the Asian Games[31], 1994 Concert in the bidding ceremony for the 2000 Olympics), they nowadays changed their tactics towards ignoring the new music scene.

Therefore, state-run media houses have been and are still promoting the so called tong su, a kind of popular music originated in Taiwan and Hongkong. The Asian pop music industry as a whole is based on love songs sung by handsome men and beautiful women. "Once a singer and a record company agree to cooperate, the company handles everything," said Wu Yue, one of Central Chinese Television's top music video directors. "The company does it all: they choose the singer's image, write the songs, shell out the money for production, make the videos, and market the record. All the singer does is sing and live up to their image."

However, what was started couldn't be stopped and Cui Jian alongside with the other bands continued to make music.

The beginning of the 1990s

Foreign record companies get interested

The Compass, photo of 1994

But in the early 90s, as one effect of the new opening up the markets strategy to pull China out of its developing state, many state-run publishing houses lost their subsidies and had to show up with profits and real income. After the Tiananmen dust settled down and rock's popularity slowly but steadily rose in and out of Beijing, studios and publishers in China's biggest cities started to sign bands, such as The Compass or The Breathing.

Around that time, foreign music producers also began to take an interest in Chinese new music. EMI signed Cui Jian and the Taiwan record company Rock Records started looking for musicians from Beijing to sign contracts. Their new Mainland China division Magic Stone Records Culture signed former Black Panther singer Dou Wei, He Yong and Zhang Chu, providing them with studio equipment and even video productions.

Beginning of the 90s, bands were longing to get the chance to record CDs or cut videos. Nearly all established bands had their own records up to that time or they had at least participated in one of several compilation CDs. Videos of Tang Dynasty and Dou Wei could be seen on Channel V (one part of Rupert Murdoch's Star TV system).

But even though those rock stars popularity and success grew and grew, their own financial situation was in big contrast to this development. They were poor, some not having enough money for food or shelter. Being out of the dan wei system, that provided most of China's population with a safe work place and an apartment, these bands' members lived with their family and spent all their little money on buying new rock tapes or music equipment.

1990: 90's Modern Music Concert

Tang Dynasty at the beginning of the 90s
The Breathing in their lineup 1990-1991

On January 28, 1990, Cui Jian holds his first no benefit performance for the Beijing Asian Games at Beijing Worker Stadium.[32] and thereafter another on January 29th. On February 17, and 18, "90's Modern Music Concert" (90现代音乐演唱会) is held at the Capital Stadium. Six famous bands, i.e. Baby Brothers, Tang Dynasty, The Breathing, Cobra, 1989, and ADO Band participate in the performance. This concert is called "China's first rock music festival." according to some sources.[32] Further in February, Cui Jian released his record Solution.

In March Cui Jian started off to his Nation Tour with its first station in Zhengzhou on the 17th, 18th and 19th. Then he visited Wuhan on the 24th, 25th and 26, went on to Xi'an on March 31st and April 1st and had his final stop in Chengdu playing on April 8th, 9th and 10th. Originally planned to also involved Shanghai, Nanjing, Shenyang, Changchun, Harbin and other places, the tour was stopped by government. As Jon Campbell recollects it Cui's behavior and that of the crowds, who were getting increasingly excited as the tour went on[33] were reasons for officials to stop the tour.

In May, Guo Chuanlin , manager of Black Panther, lead "1989," "Cobra," "Baby Brother," and "Black Panther," go to Shenzhen to participate in a performance. This is the first time Beijing's rock bands have performed at another place in-group.[32]

Further Newspaper Boy was formed by He Yong, Luo Yan and Wang Li Dong.

Further information: Category:1990


In 1991, Again, Red Army, The Compass, Vexing Practice and Zhen Han are formed. In August 1991, Black Panther's debut record Black Panther was released in Hongkong.

In September when main songwriter and guitarist Gao Qi left his former hard rock band The Breathing, he found a new band OVERLOAD together with Han Hongbin on Guitars and Zhao Muyang on the drums, on the four-strings was Wang Xiaozhong, who became bass player of later famous rock band Zero band (LING DIAN). Further in September, Cui Jian's song Wild in the snow won in the category "International Viewer's Choice Awards - MTV Asia" at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.

Further information: Category:1991


A dream returns to Tang Dynasty

At the beginning of 1992, death metal band Tomahawk was formed. Later on Dou Wei formed the goth band The Dreaming together with Zhao Muyang.

In September, the magazine Music Heaven (音乐天堂) was established by a couple of university students, that introduced mostly Western music to the Chinese audience. From 1997 the magazine focussed more on the domestic music scene.[34]

Released December 1992, Tang Dynasty's first major release "A dream return to tang dynasty" combines elements of traditional Chinese opera and old school heavy metal. It was the major breakthrough for Tang Dynasty with more than 700 thousand copies sold and an estimated 1.3 million pirate copies sold in China.[35] Also released in December was the China Fire I (VA) compilation.

Further information: Category:1992

The influence of Radio

Radio and its broadcast shows became a popular means of finding new music, new sounds and new bands especially in the beginning of the nineties. As Jon Campbell is referring to DJ Zhang Youdai, radio became rock more and more important from 1991 with it's Foreign Music Hour at China Central Radio, to 1992's Jazz Train up to Rock Magazine in 1993 at Beijing Radio.[36]

1993-1997: "Aristocratic Elite"


The years of 1993 to 1997 are marked by several events changing the face of Chinese underground rock: The Midi School gets founded, the Chinese Avantgarde concert in Berlin happens, so called "Cut CDs" emerge on the market, rock scenes outside of Beijing form, thrash metal is introduced by Overload, Nirvana and his suicide influence the DIY culture, a second wave of punk bands gets introduced to C.I.R. and rock pubs open their gates to fans and rockers. Roxette performs in China 1995.

UnderGroundGround (2002)

The Beijing Midi School of Music

1993: The Beijing Midi School of Music (or Beijing Midi Music School) opened its doors at the Shuang'an Building near The People's University. It offered a three-month course in the basics of rock and blues, taught by famous musicians from the Beijing rock scene, Tang Dynasty, Breathing and the like. Zhang Fan (born 1967, Beijing) became Dean in late 1993. Zhang had studied trade at Capital University of Economics and Business, and had started playing guitar in high school, around 1983. Midi School, partly financed by the Midi company, imported and translated the teaching material themselves, and encountered a lot of problems because of lack of experience, frequent relocations throughout Beijing and funding difficulties.[1]

Since the school was the first of its sort and had a good reputation, it attracted many aspiring musicians from all over China. Yan Jun opens his book "UnderGroundGround" (地地下) [2002] with a chapter on the history of Chinese rock called "Iron Blood or Robber Sweat: Looking back at Ten Years Rock". In this chapter Yan focuses on the marginalized development of Chinese rock rather than on the appearance of rock stars and bands such as Cui Jian and Black Panther in mainstream culture. He opens the section "My out-of-town accent" (我的外地口音) with the following sentence:

"The large scale movement of musicians from outside Beijing into the capital began with the founding of the Midi School in 1993." [1]

In the same section Yan also writes:

"The largest contribution of Midi is, in addition to generally improving the quality of a generation of musicians, helping students from a variety of places to get to know each other and forming an extensive network of contacts that is rejected by the center. If it would change its name into Midi Music Association, I think nobody would object."[1]

These relatively poor students lived together and rehearsed in small and dilapidated places, first in artist villages such as the one close to the former Winter Palace and later in a former peasant village in the northern suburbs of Beijing called Tree Village (树村) and the neighboring Dongbeiwang.

The background of these out-of-town musicians is very different from that of the Beijing youths that had dominated the rock scene so far. In the capital poor people from rural areas or smaller cities are called "waidiren", out-of-towners, and are frequently portrayed as having no culture, that is, being uncivilized.

Both cut CDs and the Beijing Midi school of music stimulated the growth of rock musicians in China and in the capital, until by 1997 the number of rockers was sufficient for the advent of the underground rock community.

Outside Beijing

Despite the scene in Beijing, other cities, such as Wuhan also developed their underground scene with the formation of the underground university band from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, called "The Deadly Entice" the wave of underground music started to develop in Wuhan in 1993 to 1994. Read the entire rock history of Wuhan

However Qian Wang argues that ...

... rock scenes did not really exist before 1997. Wang Lei lead local rock community in Guangzhou since 1994, and even earned himself personal credit to juxtapose with Cui Jian – Nan Wang Bei Cui (Wang Lei in the South and Cui Jian in the North, called by the media), but Guangzhou rock community’s efforts – <Rock in South of China I> in 1994 and <Rock in South of China II> in 1995 were teased as Karaoke songs by Beijing rockers. Their unsuccessful experiments became useful evidences to confirm Beijing rockers’ hegemonic position. Chinese rock was made in Beijing by Beijingers – an essentialist identity just like Beijing Opera. In other words, rock music made in other places was not authentic music, but commercial products.[37]

At least that had been the view of Beijingers, whereas rockers from Guangzhou (or other parts of China) certainly saw their rock music as true rock music. (citation needed)

The influence of Kurt Cobain

The suicide of Kurt Cobain, the frontman of the Seattle grunge rock band Nirvana, in 1994 was another major event for the underground scene of China, as the music and behavior of Nirvana influenced the Chinese rock scene thoroughly. In 1997 Hao Fang published Radiant Nirvana: The Life of Kurt Cobain which was widely read. It is remarkable that Hao Fang could write an original biography based on material in English without ever having to leave Beijing. This proves the importance of the internet and the impact of globalization in this period. Cobain's rejection of rock stardom, the DO IT YOURSELF-attitude of Nirvana, the cultural and geographical periphery of the grunge-hotbed Seattle and Nirvana's explicit glorification of the small but true underground scene can all be seen as feeding in to the underground community Beijing 1997-2004. Yan Jun writes: 'In 1997 Hao Fang's biography of Kurt Cobain came out, and the whole underground spirit represented by Nirvana became reality in an exaggerated way. By this time, explaining to others 'we are an underground band' already seemed very respectable.'[1]

Going on to the 90's the new wave of "grunge" (Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden ...) reached China and influenced the youth, so that the face of Kurt Cobain is still omnipresent at concerts / students. You can buy Nirvana's CDs everywhere - even though most of them are fake CDs - as well as T-Shirts, bags ...

Pubs open their gates

The emergence of pub culture at San Li Tun in Beijing in 1995 finally made rockers more accessible to fans. In the second half of the 1990s, San Li Tun became an important place for rockers and fans both, and even became a tourist spot. At the end of 1996 in Beijing, the “Busy Bees” (Mang Feng) pub was a regular venue for rock bands to perform. The “Howl” punk pub opened in January 1998, with a sign above the door which read “no entry for heavy metal and the elders”. Many rock pubs opened in Beijing in the late 1990s. Based on different rock sub-genres, Yan Jun (2002) wrote an article to enable people (not only rock fans) to find their favourite pubs and performances. The name of the article - “the Guide of Drifting Souls” (Youhun Zhinan) highlighted the change in rock consumption. “Youhun” indicates clubbers. Rock music has clearly become a part of all the night entertainment and social activities in urbanised Beijing.[38]
There are also some famous rock pubs and bars in other cities. The Muzi Bar was opened by an organization named “Noise” in November 1997 in Guangzhou, for the purpose of making audiences understand the relatively noisy and wild passion of rock. At the end of 1998, Wang Lei opened his “Unplugged Bar” in Guangzhou too, and organized rock performances every night through the whole of 1999. “The Little Bar” is the centre of the Chengdu rock scene with a label representing Chengdu rock. The owner – Tang Lei is known as the "Godmother of Chengdu rock".[38]

As Qian Wang further notes, the emergence of a pub scene had a tremendous effect on the ongoing rock scene development and its pubs can be compared to such famous venues as CBGB or The Cavern.[38]


The Chinese Avantgarde in Berlin

In 1993, the movie Beijing Bastards is being released, featuring - amongst others - Cui Jian. Furthermore Beijing Music Radio launched their Rock Magazine program, one of the first rock broadcasts in China.[10]

In 1993, Magic Stone held a party at one of Beijing’s earliest five-star establishments, The Palace Hotel, to bestow platinum records on Black Panther and Tang Dynasty.[39]

On March 1, the first mainland rock music school holds an opening ceremony. Cui Jian, He Yong, "Tang Dynasty," and "Black Leopard " attend and make a speech.[32]

At the beginning of 1993, several rock bands got the chance to tour in foreign countries, such as Tang Dynasty's, Cobra's, Cui Jian's and vocalists Wang Yong's Germany tour called The Chinese Avantgarde.[7] Organized by German entrepeneur Udo Hoffmann, the four bands did perform during the China Avantgarde event in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany. As German newspaper Die Zeit reports the bands surprised the audience.[40] Also in Spring, Guangzhou indie band The Swamp is formed.

In April of the same year, Tang Dynasty's song 梦回唐朝 was included in the shortlist of the category "International Viewer's Choice Awards - MTV Asia" at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards.[34]

In May, The Compass front woman Luo Qi lost her left eye in a terrible incident and quit the band.

On June 30th, at 4:15pm, Beyond's lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist 黄家驹 died in Tokyo at the age of 31.

On July 18, and 19, The Breathing, Cobra, Dou Wei, Zhang Chu, Wang Di and many bands as well music players hold "Olympic Games - China's dream" --- large-scale rock concert at Capital stadium.[32] Furthermore in July, No is formed.

In November, pop rock band No.43 Baojia Street is formed.

Furthermore Black Panther release their second record Spirit of Light. Doom metal band Hades is formed and Zheng Jun's debut record Naked is being released.

1994/1995: First wave of punk

Tang Dynasty in December 1994

On May 14th, 1994, B.B. King performed during the opening event of the Hard Rock Cafe Beijing with Cui Jian being shunned out of the ceremony.[41]

Punk became famous in China around 1994 - 1996 (first Chinese punker: He Yong) and was succeeded by New Metal (influenced by Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, others). Together both movements are part of the so called "New Sound" of China.

In 1994, the first two punk bands after He Yong emerge: Underbaby and Catcher in the Rye (1994).
These two bands both had similar backgrounds and similar tastes. Most members were local residents of Beijing, most were influenced by late 70's, early 80's punk bands (Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cure, Dead Kennedy's and several others). However, the bands had distinctly different sounds. Underbaby was speed, energy, angst and catharsis while Catcher in the Rye were bubble gum, styrofoam, Robert smith, and accapella. Both were extremely influential to the next generation rising out of the crowds that went to see these first punk shows.[42]

October 17th to 21st, 1994, the Waiting for Jazz Beijing Jazz Festival took place.

On December 17, 1994, the three "rock wizards" - Dou Wei, Zhang Chu and He Yong - and Tang Dynasty from mainland staged their Chinese rock music at the Hong Kong Coliseum. According to Li Li: No other concert in Hong Kong had been as crazy. The three-and-a-half hour show, with its contagious passion, turned out to be a great hit, demonstrating the tenacious, hidden vigor and vitality of rock music from the Chinese mainland. The groups brought the Chinese rock scene to a new high in the post-Cui Jian era.[43]

On February 19th, 1995, Roxette performed her only concert in Beijing, however was forced to change her lyrics accordingly. As per Marie Dimber, EMI, Roxette had to censor her songs and e.g. sang "making up to you" instead of "making love to you".[44]

On May 11th 1995 tragedy casted a dark shadow over Tang Dynasty with the untimely death[10] of bassist Zhang Ju, who was riding his motorcycle from a fellow rock scene bassist friend Chen Jin's home, when an accident occurred involving a collision with a truck on a freeway overpass. This dealt a heavy blow to the band, and Liu Yijun subsequently left the band and was replaced by original founding member Kaiser Kuo. Also in May, legendary folk rock band Cloth formed in Yinchuan, Ningxia Province.

Furthermore, the Beijing Jazz Festival 1995 happened and the pre-Yaksa band Nevermind was formed in Sichuan by Hu Song, Wang Yue, Li Yu Chuan and Liao Xiang.


Gao Wei of Underbaby and XTX, Solutions Bar, March/April 1996, photo (c) David O'Dell
Overload (1996)

In February, Black Panther released their third major record No Right No Wrong.

Around March end / beginning of April 1996, Underbaby and musician XTX performed at a Kurt Cobain memorial concert at the Solutions Bar.[45] On May 3rd, as a celebration to Chinese Youth Day, Underbaby and Catcher in the Rye performed at the Bo Er Ka Club.[46]

On May 23rd, rock band Lonely China Day is formed.

In June, Cui Jian and band participated in Denmark's Roskilde Music Festival (27–30 June) and in general plays over a dozen concerts in China including Hong Kong.

In August 1996, the first trash metal band of China Overload (超载), founded by The Breathing guitarist Gao Qi, released their first self-titled record Overload, marking the ascend of Chinese metal into heavier genres and marking the ascend of this band to a superstar status. In the same month, death metal legends Suffocated were formed, Nanchang punk band Punk God entered the scene and the compilation record China Fire II (VA) was released.

The pre-band to New Pants was formed in 1996, as well as the blues rock band Sand.

In November, 10th - 16th, the Beijing Jazz Festival 1996 was held at the Beijing Concert Hall.

Differences between the first two generations

It's Great!? (1997

What are the main differences between the rock and metal scene of the first two generations 1986-1996?

Those who played in the years of the opening of rock (1986+), such as Cui Jian or Tang Dynasty, were strongly influenced by idealism, heroism and individualism, trying to establish a unique Chinese rock style, which can be seen at Tang Dynasty's first CD (opera-influence). They expressed their feelings and their mood within their music and used it as medium of choice to critize the social and political situation they're living in.

The Beijing New Sound Movement (Beijing Xinsheng Yundong) also called '98 Rock's New Wave ('98 Yaogun Xin Lanchao) started with Sober's first CD "It's Great!?" ("Hao Ji Le!?") December 10th, 1997. They mainly focussed on their virtueity in playing, their technique and experimenting with new sounds and influences of Western bands.[47]

Whereas the first rockers showed their individualism, the so called third generation shared a strong realistic view of the world, knowing where they are, what they do and what they want. (Xian Shi Zhu Yi / Cheng Shi Ping Min Zhu Yi). The new generation bears the seed for a rebellion of denial.[47]

1997-2004: “Underground Spirit”

Concert in the Midi School, 1998


From 1997 towards 2004, the underground scene further matures, as the Midi School moves to a bigger school yard and establishes itself with the Midi festival; as rock festivals in general spring into life everywhere around China; as new subgenres, such as New Metal, Post Punk and Extreme Metal gain popularity; as Hip Hop emerges all over China; as SARS strikes China and the scene jumps out of the three-month break.

The start of rock festivals (1997-2000)

“The New Force of Chinese Music” organized by Wang Lei in 1998 is sometimes cited as the first rock festival in China. At the end of 1998, “For the Sake of Music” festival was played in Guangzhou again. In March 1999, “the Spring Comes” festival was held in Tangshan, and “the Rock Festival of South China” was held in Hefei in December 1999. Dalian hosted “the First Environment Protection Rock Festival” in April 2000. Kunming accommodated 24 rock bands for “the Contemporary Music Festival” during the New Year of 2002. “The Lijiang Snow-mountains Rock Festival” held in August 2002 was highlighted by the media for being the first rock festival to receive financial support from the government, even though sponsorship was under the name of “environment protection”. Among all of them, the Midi Music Festival remains the most influential.[48]

This first Midi Music Festival was hold on the school grounds in 2000 and was established as an annual event afterwards. Read the whole history of the Midi Music Festival.


A Tribute to Zhang Ju Cover

On February 25th, 1997, Tongue reformed itself in Urumqi and started their journey becoming one of the three underground gods of Rock. In March, Nanchang underground band Punk God released their record 怎么办. In April, Xu Wei releases his debut record In Another Place, in which the word "Fantasy" (幻想) appears 14 times.

In May 1997 the Midi Modern Music School moved to a grammar school in the commercial and industrial development area Shangdi in the north-west of the capital and started a two-year course that also incorporated jazz. The school had learned about jazz through a yearly international jazz festival first held in Beijing in 1994. Every year six to eight bands of the festival would come to the school for master classes. The Midi School had established ties with music schools abroad (mainly in Japan, Australia and Scandinavia) to which they sent students and teachers.[1]

Further in May, four cities in Southern China (Kaiping, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Shanghai) started a project to commemorate the Youth day (五四青年节). The Beijing rock circle (北京摇滚圈) gathers together and records the record A Tribute to Zhang Ju (VA) in memory of the death of Tang Dynasty guitarist Zhang Ju in 1995.

On July 10th, the concert entitled "The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle" took place at the Sunflowers bar with Reflector, XTX, Thin Man, The Metal Factory Boys, 69, Catcher in the Rye and Underbaby performing. The name of the concert was also the name of the punk underground zine distributed at the same gig.[49]

On the last Saturday of November, Guangzhou's MuZi Bar saw the establishment of the first independent Chinese music community organization entitled Noise (杂音), which met thereafter every month.

On December 10th, Sober's debut record "It's Great!?" ("Hao Ji Le!?") is released, thereby starting the Beijing New Sound Movement (Beijing Xinsheng Yundong) also called '98 Rock's New Wave ('98 Yaogun Xin Lanchao). Further in December, The Fly I (von The Fly), 第一册 (von Confucius Says) and Zhang Chu's 造飞机的工厂 are being named the rock classics of 1997.


In January, 1998, the Scream Bar (嚎叫) opens it doors for the punk community of the capital with the famous words 金属与老梆子不得入内 (Metalheads & Old People are not allowed in) written above the entrance. Furthermore, the newspaper 粤港信息日报 published the article "音乐花园" as one of their last articles, prior to being taken over by the newspaper 南方都市报.

In April, the event "98新音乐之春" ('98 New Music Spring) in memory of the death of Allen Ginsberg was tried to be held in Lanzhou, however that was not possible, so that the organizers had to move after two weeks to Guangzhou's The New Force of Chinese Music music festival (中国音乐新势力). Further in April Cui Jian releases his record The power of the powerless and holds a large-scale performance in Shijiazhuang at the Yutong International Athletic Complex. Modern Sky also releases their first compilation record Modern Sky 1 (VA).

In August, 朋克时代 (Punk Era) is established in Guangzhou, not only introducing foreign acts, but also heavily supporting the domestic underground structure.

In October, No's record Missing Master was released.


The Flower's debut record

In January 1999, young The Flowers released their debut record On The Other Side of Happiness. As the lead vocal at that time was only 15 years old, Chinese rock officially entered the sphere of children (童工时代). Around that time, bands from Nanjing, Nanchang and Jingdezhen planned a concert together entitled "今天我们是来买噪音的". In March 1999, “the Spring Comes” festival was held in Tangshan.

In April the Modern Sky Magazine (摩登天空) is published for the first time.

In June the compilation record Modern Sky 3 (VA) is relesed.

In November the So Rock! Magazine is published for the first time (in Shijiazhuang) and together with the X-Music Magazine there are two nation-wide rock magazines that have a decisive role in the pread of non-mainstream music in China. In the same month, the Qingdao Beer Festival (青岛啤酒音乐节) is held with mostly 80s rock bands from China.

In December 1999 “the Rock Festival of South China” was held in Hefei.

Second wave of punk

Wuliao Contingent (1999)

This so called second wave of punk included bands such as Brainfailure, Reflector, 69 and A-Jerks[42] and the release of the compilation "Wuliao Contingent" in 1999 (translated: Boring Contingent or Army of the Bored) is seen as a major impact and milestone for Chinese punk. All four bands are featured by the Scream Records release, making it to be a "Yaogun classics" as mentioned in the Insider's Guide to Beijing 2008. The all-female band Hang on the Box made its first appearance on July 20th 1998 in the Scream Club, shocking audience and punks alike, rising to fame afterwards.

New music genres and subgenres emerge

Category:1999 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

Until the end of the 90's, when foreign bands, such as Korn, Limp Bizkit or Linkin Park became known in China, dozens of New Metal bands developed within China:

  • Yaksa (夜叉), rapcore later metalcore (BJ), formed 1995
  • Twisted Machine, rapcore later metalcore/hardcore (BJ), formed 1998
  • AK 47, electro-punk-hardcore, later more metalcore (BJ), formed 2000
  • Overheal Tank, new metal (famous in Xi'an)

Chengdu underground magazine called "Wo Men" (We) [我们] that had been published in 1999 included interviews with rock musicians, literature and a section called "new diary of a madman", a reference to Lu Xun's "Diary of a madman".[1]

Going on to the first years of the new millenia (2000-2004), Post Punk and Extreme Metal entered the Underground scene and is ascending among the fans. With the extreme metal scene being tremendous, just in Beijing more than 25 bands formed and began to develop their own style. Some of the bands that started and later released at least one record are 206 and Thinkers (206与思想者, 1999, Xi'an), Ritual Day (施教日, 2000, Beijing), Bloodbath (杀戮, 1999, Beijing) and Purgatory (炼狱, 1999, Yunnan).

Similar to the uprise of New American Heavy Metal in the US and New Death Metal in Scandinavia, this trend reached China with two years delay in Mid 2003/2004. The genre to be described as Metalcore is used by bands such as Hollow or Ego Falls, both having two vocals, one for a clean voice and one for a dark one.

1999 marked also the start of the emo rock in China with Tookoo forming in Beijing.

With the So Rock! magazine a new medium starts in late 1999 introducing underground bands from all over China to the scene.


Muma's debut record
Punks at the Get Lucky Bar, Nov 12th 2000, photo (c) Audrey of Benten
HOTB at the Get Lucky Bar, Nov 12th 2000, photo (c) Audrey of Benten

In January, Yan Jun's book Noises Inside is published and along with it a compilation record was included that counted as the first record for Subjam Records which Yan Jun established thereby.

In February, 2000, rock band Muma releases its debut record entitled 'Muma' on Modern Sky.

In May, the first Midi festival is held in Beijing on the Midi school grounds.

In July, the record company So Rock! Records is formed.

At the end of August until Mid November 2000, the Indie Zone Festival was held in the CD Cafe on Thursday nights in Beijing, an event series that was broadcasted on Channel V and was the source for the compilation record Beijing Band 2001 (VA). There was also a special show thrown in on a Wednesday night for Chengdu bands who were all brought to Beijing by Tang Lei, the owner of the Little bar in Chengdu. After the festival for a 13th week a special show just for Tongue was made which resulted in their live record Painter.[50]

Further in August the folk rock band Second Hand Rose is formed.

In September, the first issue of the Painkiller Heavy Music Magazine was issued, a magazine that became a cornerstone for the heavy rock and metal scene of China.

Furthermore in 2000, the compilation record Underground Shanghai 2000 (VA) was published, one of the very first Shanghai underground band compilations. The bands Ritual Day was formed and old rockers Cobra release after a long period their record Cobra II.

Beijing Rocks, the Tree Village Declaration, a missed opportunity?

To the end of 2000, Mabel Cheung started the works on Beijing Rocks, a Hongkong movie first understood to document the underground rock scene of Beijing at that time, but later more seen as a commercial love-story. Yan Jun thereafter read out the Tree Village Declaration on October 15th during a Tongue show and most underground bands denounced their cooperation. Later, critics such as Sun Mengjin called that[51] a missed opportunity.

Around 2000: History of Hip Hop in Beijing

as appeared in Zai Beijing: A Cultural Study of Hip Hop

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Yin Ts'ang
Hip Hop in Beijing emerged around the year 2000, but its roots stretch back to the late 1980s. Beijing’s first contact with Hip Hop culture came from early Hip Hop movies such as Wild Style (1982) and Breakin’ (1984). Copies of the movies often entered Beijing via trade and travel with Japan and Hong Kong. In the wake of the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, interest in Hip Hop waned as the government attempted to revitalize reverence for traditional Chinese culture and socialism.[52]
Throughout the 1990s Hip Hop culture regained momentum. Hailed as the “Godfather of Rock”, Cui Jian was influenced by many musical genres including rap, which he introduced to Chinese Rock & Roll fans in the late 1980s and early 1990s (de Kloet 2005:611). Another important musical influence was the sale of dakou CDs on Beijing’s black markets. Dakou CDs were surplus CDs created in the West that were supposed to be destroyed but were instead smuggled into China and sold on the black market.[53] The mid-to-late 90s also saw unprecedented levels of commercialization and commodification of Hip Hop in the United States, and Hip Hop came to dominate popular music markets. From movies to magazines, numerous cultural products exported from the United States bore Hip Hop’s influence. Hip Hop consumer products and mass-marketing schemes further exposed Beijing residents to Hip Hop culture.[52]
In the 1990s improved communication, technology and migration drove Hip Hop’s expansion. Internet technology enabled the rapid transmission of music (much of which was banned in stores), movies, literature, and ideas. The Internet helped Beijing Hip Hop fans and artists access and share information. Lastly, the movement of foreigners to and through Beijing greatly aided the development of Hip Hop. All of these forces combined to see the emergence of a substantial Hip Hop scene in 2000.[52]
This is the year that some artists also note as marking the separation of the “underground” from the “mainstream”. I (Angela Steele) found these definitions to be fairly ambiguous, but they most often meant that some artists now had the opportunity to get record contracts or perform in commercials, television programs, or state-sponsored events.[54] Since 2000, Beijing has had many “firsts”, from the first DMC Champion[55] to the first nation wide Hip Hop dance competition. Today Hip Hop in Beijing has a solid foundation and continues to grow.[52]

Most famous representatives of Chinese Hip Hop are Yin Ts'ang (formed 2000), CMCB (formed 2000) and Gongfu (formed 2001).


Midi Music Festival 2001

In 2001 Cold Fairyland is formed by Lin Di and Su Yong in Shanghai. Furthermore, rap metal band Twisted Machine release their debut record Twisted Machine.

In March of 2001, Joyside was formed in a dark basement north of Beijing.

On May 1st and 2nd, the Midi Music Festival 2001 happened on the grounds of the Midi School in Beijing. During the festival, Wu Tun of Tongue voiced his famous quote: 摇滚乐并不重要,重要的是你自己! (Rock is not important, important is you!). Further in May, Tomahawk released their debut record Dead City.

In July, Scream Records released the compilation record Scream! Scream! Scream! The Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (VA)

In August, Tongue released their live recording Painter of one of their Painter performances.

In November, Modern Sky Records released their compilation records City in the sky +1 (VA) and City in the sky +2 (VA).


LiJiang Snow Mountain Festival 2002
Midi Music Festival 2002

Category:2002 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

Lvzhou.net, the no. 1 website for Xi'an and Shaanxi underground bands, is started as offsping of the lvzhou guitarshop. Furthermore, Yan Jun publishes his book UnderGroundGround.

In February, female-vocalist rock band Subs is formed.

May: Mort Productions releases it's first one-band-only full-length record for Hades. Furthermore the Midi Music Festival 2002 took place from May 1st to 3rd on which organizer Zhang Fan remarked[56]:

“This year, we moved Midi outside and expanded it to three days. It was the first outdoor rock music festival in Chinese history. The police station at the Fragrant Hills received so many noise complaints from the residents, we had to shut down the festival each night at 10.30pm.”

In June, the live compilation record Little Bar 1997-2002 is released, marking the 5th anniversary of the Little Bar, the top underground location in Chengdu.

July: Brainfailure performs during their Japan Tour 2002.[57] Modern Sky releases it's first Badhead compilation.

In August the LiJiang Snow Mountain Festival 2002 was organized and held by Cui Jian bringing together several bands to celebrate Chinese rock music. Coverage by South China Morning Post, Sydney Morning Herald and Time.com. [58] According to the Syndney Morning Herald[59]:

Most significant was the fact the festival took place at all, underlining how rock music's outlaw status in China - as exemplified by Cui Jian's many years of run-ins with authorities - could be gradually coming to an end. "The festival was a big success, we had a lot of problems, but you still have to say it was a success," said Li Hui, whose company co-organised the event with the local Lijiang city government. "From the experience we gained from this, there is no doubt that the next one will be better." Up to 10,000 fans turned up, although many left early as periodic rain storms, cold weather and the high altitude tested concert goers' endurance, organisers said.

In September, HOTB's debut record Yellow Banana is finally released in China, two years after its Japan release.

In October, CMCB's debut record Kongfu is released.

In December, the electronic record label Shan Shui Records is established by Sun Dawei.

2003 - SARS strikes

Advertisement for Midi 2003

Category:2003 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

In 2003, Modern Sky's branch Badhead Records releases their second compilation titled Girl's Day featuring female punk and rock bands only (incl. HOTB and Happy Avenue) showing the scene the strong growth of female involvement.

In February, 3rd and 4th, foreign band Suede performs in Beijing.[60][61][62]

In March, Re-TROS is formed in Beijing. Further, Muma's EP Yellow Star was released, which strengthened their rock star status in China.

In April, the compilation Made in Shanghai (VA) is released, the first recorded compilation of Shanghai bands.

During 2003, SARS striked in China and cut deep into the social daily life of many Chinese. Dead streets, closed bars, canceled concerts and events were the result. It also struck the metal scene as it was impossible to perform in any city. The major bars were closed or didn't allow shows, bands had no chance to present themselves, business went down and some broke up. The Midi Music Festival 2003 had to be canceled in May and was postponed to and held in October. On the 2nd day Japanese band BRAHMAN played on stage, an event that arouse strong negative reactions of the audience resulting in discussions in Japan and criticsm in China.[63][64]

Even after SARS was over and tourism slowly reestablished, the scene was still in a paralysis. Some old bars had closed down, some changed the owner due to financial reasons and others lost the customers, the flair and the atmosphere. It would need time to heal the wounds of SARS and so every small step in the right direction was cheerful anticipated, such as the first metal concert after SARS in Xi'an (206 and Thinkers, Pulse :: Bella Bar), which launched a new series of concerts and events taking place in the beginning nearby the old 8 1/2 Bar and later in the YoYo Bar.

In November, the metal compilation record Dead Night is released, featuring a second set of metal bands compared to the previous Mort Production Resurrection series bands. Furthermore, from the 1st to the 4th, the Sounding Beijing 2003 electronic music festival happened in Beijing.

2004-2008-today: Journey to the West

General introduction

West as Western civilization, see Huntington[65]

Since the beginning of the new millennium a rising internationalization of the Chinese music scene can be observed, meaning that Chinese bands are more actively performing and selling abroad, are getting signed by international record companies and thereby distributed e.g. in Europe and the USA.

From my point of view several factors contributed to that trend or are a definite sign of this trend:

  • With the break in 2003 due to SARS, a new stage opened up and many new bands entered this stage after a nearly half-year long hiatus
  • The rise of MySpace pages of Chinese bands, thereby the awareness level and accessibility level of Chinese music to non-Chinese speakers rise.
  • The establishment of Beijing as world metropolis, thereby attracting more powerful investors (also in the music biz). It’s “in” to be in Beijing, thereby more actively foreigners are getting aware of the music scene. E.g. D-22, as a scene club owned by Michael Pettis behind the New York club “Sin”,[66] thereby enabling certain contracts to be signed[67]
  • The availability of English information in the web, such as Rock in China
  • The amount of bands touring the West has risen steadily, including Subs, Brainfailure, No Name, Lonely China Day, see e.g. our RiC Statistics
  • Both bands and record labels actively promoting their music online (Scream Records on Last.fm[68], Twisted Machine on I-AM TV[69])
  • International festivals taken place in South-East Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong Rock it Music Festival, World's Battle of the Bands Hongkong) attract more Chinese bands (list of participants). Furthermore European festivals are engaging with China (e.g. Wacken Open Air)
  • More Western record labels (Tag Team Records?, Fast Fly, available on Amazon.com etc.) signing Chinese artists compared to South-East-Asian record labels in the 90s (Taiwan, Hongkong and Japan)

With 2008 as the year in which the world looked upon China (Olympics), more activities were cancelled than ever (despite maybe SARS in 2003), but still the general trend is clear! More bands are formed, more records released. For detailed information on the numbers of bands and records please see our RiC Statistics.

In the following all major events in timeline format.

Events 2004

Midi Music Festival 2004

Beginning of 2004, Soundtoy is releasing their 2003 recorded debut The wonderful trip.

On March 15th, Xi'ans Timestring Records is releasing the first compilation record of Xi'an underground artists called Various Artist of Xi'an Rock'n'Roll Music (VA). This record is a milestone for the scene of Xi'an, as it is the first recorded evidence of the variaty of Xi'ans music development. End of March, beginning of April, Rock legends Deep Purple perform together with Cui Jian.

In April, Ashura is releasing its debut record Tomorrow never die, building the foundation of their success.

In May the fore-front of Queen Sea Big Shark is formed by several young Beijingers.

July: Black Panther release their fifth record: "Black Panther V" (黒豹V). Furthermore, the underground metal compilation Dead Night 2 (VA) is released.

In August, Brainfailure release their record American Dreamer.

In September, Joyside is releasing its critically acclaimed record Drunk is beautiful.

In October, 1st-4th, the Midi Music Festival 2004 is hold in Beijing, after being postponed from May.[63] The accompanying double-DVD is released in mid 2005. Furthermore post punkers P.K. 14 release their record Shei Shei Shei He Shei Shei Shei (P.K. 14).

October 30th, Xiao Suo, vocals/guitar of Wild Children died and on November 4th a memorial concert was held at the New Get Lucky Bar with (amongst others) Sound Fragment and XTX.

In late 2004, Kwanyin Records is founded by Yan Jun and his friends FM3 and Wu Quan.

November: Brainfailure performed in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

In December, the Yuyintang organization is organising the Give Live a Chance John Lennon tribute gig at The Ark in Shanghai, bringing not only together a dozend bands of the Shanghai underground, but also releasing the corresponding record Give Live a Chance (VA). Further in December, Mort Productions releases the death metal compilation China runs Blood (VA). Furthermore the 13 Club in Beijing opens its doors.

Category:2004 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

Events 2005

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Gegentala Festival, July 2005, photo (c) Wangzebin

March 2005: The dragonradio starts with its first podcast in Hongkong. Up to March 2006 they have released 36 issues with Asian and Chinese underground music. Cui Jian's fifth record is released: "Show your colour". Between March 3rd and March 27th, Austrian punk band Sonic Bastards tours China.[70] Furthermore, the rock band Carsick Cars is formed by Shou Wang, Darkland and Thurston, with their first gig at the Beijing Institute of Technology in May 2005. Furthermore, Chengdu's Little Bar Records releases the DVD Rock Christmas, showing a live concert held at the Little Bar on Christmas 2004. The DVD features a vide selection of the Chengdu underground.

April: Disturbance tours China. Three records are released: X.T.X & Cold Blooded Animal with "Cold Blooded Animal" | The Verse with "Tale of two cities" | Ashura with their second release You Awaken from a Deep Sleep. Furthermore, Brainfailure's record American Dreamer is being released in the USA.

June: Cui Jian's Gegentala Inner Mongolia Festival.

July: Scream Records releases the tribute compilation "Who is Cui Jian?" (谁是崔建). Furthermore the NOIShanghai event series starts in Shanghai, showcasting noise music in regular events. Furthermore, Cold Fairyland's Miyadudu stated in an interview with Rock in China about their most important event the following:

Last year (editor's note: 2004) we went to the MIDI music festival in Beijing. That brought us a much bigger fan base than we ever had before. Most of our recognition previously had come from our music being shared online. The MIDI festival was a chance for us to perform live for thousands of people.

Xiao Chuan of the band Tookoo, interviewed the same month remarked on the state of the domestic scene:

I think domestic market is not as good as abroad since there is only a small population who truly enjoys and knows about rock music. However, through our China Tour last year, we did see an increasing number of young people began to love our music. Although they never had any chance to see an Emo band's performance, but I could tell they were impressed by our music because I felt their great passion when they were down stage. Most Chinese audiences despite those "show-off" bands; I am very confident that they will love music with true emotion.

From July 29th to July 31st, the Cui Jian organized Gegentala Festival 2005 takes place in Inner Mongolia.

In August, the Antidote collective, comprising Ozone, B6, MHP, Emcore and AMNJK is formed and starts their regular gigs in Shanghai bars.

October: 1st-4th, The Midi Music Festival 2005 was hold in Beijing, meanwhile advanced to China's largest rock festival. Furthermore the compilation record No Beijing (VA) is released featuring White-2j, Snapline, The Gar and Carsick Cars. This split record is the first statement of the new wave of Beijing rock bands, that are going to center around the D-22 in a few years time.

November, the band 24 Hour Party People is formed, which later is going to become 24 Hours.

December, 2nd - 24th: German rock band "The Lucky Punch" goes on a China tour through more than 15 cities.[71]

On the last days of December (24th / 25th), the Guilin Rock Festival 2005 with the slogan The snow has not fell in this winter (这个冬天雪还不下) is conducted including Tang Dynasty and Zhang Chu.

Category:2005 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

Events 2006

Edguy Beijing Poster 2006
August 8, 2006
Subs in Good Ol’ Goteborg, photo (c) Jon Campbell
September 16th 2006
1234 Beach Rock 2006, photo (c) Shanghai Sky

In February, Miserable Faith's record Bu is released. Furthermore, Spring Autumn's debut record Spring and Autumn is released.

March 2006: The German power metal band Edguy plays together with Overload and Gao Qi in Beijing. Furthermore, the metal compilation Dead Night 3 (VA) is released and its successor being released only a month later. On March 11th, the oi and punk compilation Forming (VA) is released featuring Oi legends Misandao and punk veterans Demerit amonst other bands.

April 8th, foreign rock acts The Rolling Stones performed in Shanghai. Cui Jian attended their concert in Shanghai and joined them in their song Wild Horse After that, Cui Jian said excitedly, "This year is the 20th anniversary of China’s Rock’ n Roll".

On May 1st, the D-22 opened its doors, famed to become the CBGB of China due to is wide-spread influence in the No Beijing scene.

May 1st-5th: The Midi Music Festival 2006 is held in Beijing. Twelve foreign bands join the festival and start China national tours.[72] May 24th: The Gigshanghai podcasts starts service in Shanghai. Further in May, the Encyclopedia of China Rock&Roll (VA) is released, introducing hundreds of Chinese underground and major artists and featuring a CD with songs of the most prominent members of the Rock Circle of China.

June: The Deadly Vibes China Tour 2007 through 7 cities. Joyside releases its record Bitches of Rock'n'Roll. June 23rd - 28th, the CALM Expo 2006 is held in Beijing, being a showcase for many upcoming bands in Beijing.

July - September: The band Subs is touring Nordic Europe, leaving the band impressed and realizing where they are[73]:

Their experiences outside of the country certainly affected the band’s attitude and vision, more so than even their gruelling 17-city one-month tour of China. “I remember that after the last show of the China tour, I said something,” said Kang in the band’s final hours in Scandinavia in early September. “I said, ‘We’ve got on the road.’ Basically, that we’d gotten started. At first, we were worried and thought that we couldn’t get moving. We started by taking it one step at a time. Now, the feeling is… I don’t know. Because now, we have to go back (to China).” To which guitarist Wu Hao quickly added: “We’re waiting for the next time we can get out and tour.[74]

On July 15th, Yaksa released their EP Keep on Fighting, its first works after 3 years, showing their breakup with Nu Metal and alliance with Metalcore music.

September 16th/17th, the 1234 Beach Rock 2006 is held in Shanghai with mostly Shanghai bands, and some Beijing bands, such as Joyside. Further, self-produced compilation Emo rocks China (VA) is released, being the first emo-centered compilation ever released in China. Late in September, on the 30th, Subs released their record Down.

September to October, foreign act From This Day toured China.

October: For the first 7 days (1st to 7th), the Beijing beer and rock festival 2006 took place in the International Sculpture Park in Beijing, starring each night another rock legend (Tang Dynasty, Zhang Chu and following up on the 9th and 10th, the Beijing Pop Festival 2006 stared international super stars Placebo and Supergrass in the Chaoyang Park, Beijing, turning the October holidays into a deluxe music festival.

October to November, German metal act Gammalux toured China.

November 25th, the 2pi Festival 2006, a noise and electronic music festival, is held in Hangzhou.

The bands AV Okubo and Guai Li were formed in 2006.

Category:2006 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

Events 2007

Carsick Cars debut record
Midi Music Festival 2007

January 2007, Subs are featured on the front cover of Rolling Stone (China).[75] On January 4th and 6th, foreign metal acts Edenbridge and Visions of Atlantis are touring Shanghai and Beijing respectively.

April: Sonic Youth performed two concerts in Shanghai and Beijing. NEOCHA.com is started.

May: The Midi Music Festival 2007 is held and attracts tens of thousands of fans from all over China. Foreign bands Liquido, The Crüxshadows, Mishkin and ten others perform. After the Midi festival, Hatesphere tours China. On May 5th, the debut record of folk band Low Wormwood is being released by Pocket Records.

In summer time, the record label Maybe Mars Records is set up as offspring of the D-22 focussing mainly on the indie rock scene around the bands performing regularly at the D-22 venue in Beijing. With its international connection, soon both the label and the club are well-known in the US.

From June 2nd to June 4th, the PALM Expo 2007 happens at the China Exhibition Center in Beijing showcasting many new young and talented bands.

July: Upcoming social network platform NEOCHA.com releases their second compilation net release entitled Post-Rock (VA), showcasting the wide-spread post rock community that has formed in China. On July 27th, the Painkiller Magazine organizes a Tribute to Testament concert for the actual Testament (USA) concert on July 29th.

August: Carsick Cars tours Europe and in September they release their critically acclaimed debut record at Maybe Mars Records shortly after Snapline's debut and Joyside's Booze (...) China release. Furthermore, Martin Atkin's compilation record Look Directly Into The Sun: China Pop 2007 (VA) is being released, the product of his band-talent search in Beijing.

September: Hang on the Box releases their record No more nice girls and during the release party on October 25th they announce their breakup and thereby the formal end of Hang on the Box. On September 20th, Muma & Third Party release their first record after their reforming.

October: The Modern Sky Festival 2007 is held in the Haidian Park (Beijing) featuring 4 stages and over 120 bands. Foreign acts the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform on the main stage. On October 1st, Hedgehog's second record Noise Hit World is released.

December: The Mao Live Club is holding their Mao Awards 2008 with the formal ceremony on January 23rd 2008. On the last day of the year, December 31st, Queen Sea Big Shark's self-titled debut record is released by Modern Sky Records.

Category:2007 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

2008 - Beijing Olympics

Love Noise Tour of P.K. 14 and Queen Sea Big Shark
Midi 2008, photo (c) ziboy

January: Several foreign metal bands visited Beijing: Dark Tranquility, Nightwish, Skylark and Prog-Rock-Legends Dream Theater.

February: Cold Fairyland heads out for their Finland Tour 2008.[76]

March: No Name tours Europe, mainly Germany, France and the Netherlands; Tour info. Furthermore the general pop/rock scene got a setback as Björk created an incident during her concert on March 2nd in Shanghai, singing the unauthorized song Declare Independence and whispering the words Tibet in the same context.[77] On March 15th and 16th, the D-22 hosts the first Sally Can’t Dance Festival 2008, a noise festival with numerous domestic and international artists. On March 29th, Subs start their South China tour lasting until April 20th (Wuhan).

April / May: The Midi Music Festival 2008 was cancelled due to developments regarding the Olympic Games 2008, the SiChuan Earthquake and the ZiBo Train accident.[78][79] Furthermore, foreign acts, such as Soilwork cancelled their tour in China. The German Esplanade in Chongqing was stopped by the organizers (change note). The SiChuan Earthquake in general shaked the music scene and spawned dozends of "We are together" and "Think of SiChuan" gigs and charity events throughout Beijing and other cities. Also the Beijing Pop Festival was cancelled for 2008.[80]

June: The Metal Battle 2008 China was hold in Beijing. Winner VOODOO was invited to the World's largest metal festival Wacken Open Air in Germany. Furthermore, the MicroMu record label, as part of Outdustry.com was established, releasing numerous net releases until the end of the year and afterwards.

August: P.K. 14 and Queen Sea Big Shark embark on the Converse-sponsored Love Noise Tour 2008 through Nanjing, Hnagzhou, Changsha, Wuhan and Xi'an. In an interview with Rock in China, Hedgehog - asked on the Chinese rock scene - stated:

Fans and bands are much better than before, more and more people are interested in rock music. By the live show, bands can make more money than before. More professional live houses to play in, many magezines prefer to prompt rock bands. beijing have became the center of chinese rock. Compared to old rockers in china, the new generation are better educated so we can get money not only by music, as we life well ,we can have better mood and environment to make music.

September 2008, the Shanghai Jazz Festival 2008 took place over three days. September 16th, 5-Pointed Star are formed.

October: Both the Midi Music Festival 2008 and the Modern Sky Festival 2008 happened during the holidays. Furthermore the NOTCH08 festival took place in Shanghai with Hard Queen, B6 and Cold Fairyland

November: With the support of MicroMu, Low Wormwood releases its EP 五指 on the 11th, before releasing their major album in December.

In December, LAVA.OX.SEA's record Heavy Metal Rock is the Best Music is released by Miniless Recordings.

Category:2008 gives you a quick overview about which bands formed that year.

Events 2009

Midi Awards 2009, Photo (c) Beijing Daze

January: 7th-17th, the JUE MUSIC ART Festival 2009 happened in Beijing and Shanghai. On January 10th, Maybe Mars Records releases the debut albums of both White and Ourself Beside Me.

February: Parkway Drive performs in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hongkong. Combat 77 tour 9 cities in China from Feb 11th to Feb 21st. On the 27th, Modern Sky Records releases the much-awaited second record of Re-TROS titled Watch out! Climate has changed, fat mum rises....

March: Xiao He tours Europe until end of April. Furthermore, Maybe Mars Records releases the debut album of The Gar, making it one of the finest releases in 2009. Furthermore, Casino Demon's debut is released and Hedgehog issue their third official recording. On March 21st and 22nd, the D-22 is hosting the Sally Can’t Dance Festival 2009, the second episode of last year's noise festival.

April: Mike TV tours China's cities from April 10th - May 3rd. Bonk rejoin Subs on a 10-city tour in China. Shanghai's Hard Queen releases their Holiday EP.

May: After 2008's cancellation wave for May festivals (including Midi), 2009's festival season is crammed with the Midi Music Festival 2009 in Zhenjiang, the Strawberry Music Festival 2009 and the 2009 Fun Fair Festival in Beijing and the 2009 Zebra Music Festival in Chengdu. Further in May 2009, Timeout Beijing Magazine publishes their "the 20 coolest rock stars of Beijing" list on which Bian Yuan of Joyside is leading as no.1.[81] Furthermore the Pepsi Corporation started a Battle of the Bands all over China, however sparking sharp criticsm in Shanghai and other cities.[82] Furthermore, on May 1st, the 6th installation in the Resurrection of the Gods series by Mort Productions is released, presenting a new round of metal artists to China's audience.

In June, Beijing blog Pangbianr is being established, focussing on the Beijing scene and reporting in English and Chinese.[83]

August: From the 7th to the 9th, the InMusic Festival 2009 happens north of Beijing at the Zhangbei Grasslands.

September: The American branch of Modern Sky Records organizes the Sing For China Tour 2009 with Hedgehog, Queen Sea Big Shark and Casino Demon in the USA. The Golden Beach Festival 2009 happens in Qingdao on September 12th / 14th. Joyside announces their breakup and hold their farewell gig on the 12th in the Mao Live House.

October: Low Wormwood tours through China. The Modern Sky Festival 2009 was announced with numerous foreign acts, however shortly before the opening of the festival, all international artists were cancelled by the PSB due to the celebrations for the 60th Anniversary of the PRC.[84] On October 14th, the Midi Shanghai festival is cancelled.[85] The Midi Awards 2009 celebrations took place during a concert on October 23rd / 24th 2009 with Miserable Faith winning four of the awards. According to Beijing Daze[86]:

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about this outing! The organization was amazing, the stage shows and production kicked ass, toilets were clean, the venue amazing and the drinks affordable. There were NO freaking guards or security getting in the way of the fans, none or whatsoever! The audience was definitely into the music and the 4 bands i saw delivered top notch performances! Given all the crap that music festival have had to deal with in Beijing lately, it was refreshing to see one of them proceed so smoothly. The indoor settings can’t compare to outdoors settings but, in many ways, this worked in MIDI’s favor. A smaller area to control meant less of a logistical nightmare! The MIDI folks really really did good!!!

Further as of October, creative social network NEOCHA.com states that over 2000 musicians registered on their page.

November: Carsick Cars, P.K. 14 and Xiao He are send by Maybe Mars records on a tour around the Northern American continent.

December 8th, 2009, Zhu Lu He Feng was founded by Le Zi, Sonnet drummer, part of the management at Mao, as a record label / band collective involving Sonnet, Pinkberry, Joker and 21 Grams.[87]

2010 - The Year of the Music Festival

Subs China Tour 2010
Guai Li at the Second Maybe Mars Show, Feb 2010, Photo (c) George Godula
Miserable Faith on May 4th at Midi 2010 performing an accoustic set, Photo: Beijing Daze
The Midi Awards 2010, brick for winners

At the beginning of 2010, the metal label Dime Records is established by the owner of the 13 Club. Further Music Fever is founded at the beginning of 2010 by Fanqie Chaodan, Sunny (from New Vector and Runaway Snail), Tong and Wang Er Xiao.[88]

On January 16th, the The North Face Film and Music on Snow Festival 2010 was held including several Beijing bands (e.g. Tookoo). On the same day, the Waterland Kwanyin experimental music night series of Yan Jun was having their last show after 167 installments.[89] On January 30th, BCR's critically acclaimed record Except for the Darkness is being released in Shanghai. Further in January and February, Maybe Mars held two showcase concerts, each with 4 of its bands, in Shanghai.[90]

March 12th - 29th, they JUE Festival 2010 was held in both Shanghai and Beijing seeing Shanghai newcomer The Mushrooms rocking the Mao Live, and several Beijing acts visiting Shanghai. From March 11th until April 11th, Maybe Mars Records tours around some of their most popular acts during the China Invasion US Tour 2010 and releases the compilation record The China Invasion Tour 2010 (VA) as a promotion for the tour. Furthermore on March 20th, Yaksa starts their nation-wide tour throughout 21 cities until April 28th.

In April, AV Okubo's debut The Greed of Man is being released by Maybe Mars Records. Furthermore, Martin Atkin's Invisible Records releases the second record of Snapline entitled Future Eyes. On April 22nd, the folk music community in Beijing decides to hold a "Pray for Yushu" charity concert in commemoration to the victims of the Qinghai Earthquake at the Mako Livehouse.[91]

On April 27th, Rustic won the Global Battle of the Bands (GBOB) 2009 Finals in London.[92]

In the later part of April, signs accumulated that The Expo would be a devastating strike to the local music scene of Shanghai, as the LOgO bar was threathened with shutdown[93] and the Yuyintang had been shutdown[94], two vibrant centers of the underground in Shanghai. Also the Beijing M.A.O. Livehouse had been shut down, allegdably due to fire safety violations, on April the 16th.[95] On April 26th, it was announced that the Yuyintang would be open again with normal operation ongoing, leaving the whole scene in doubt, why the shutdown had been there at the first place.[96]

In May both the Midi Festival and the Strawberry Festival happened in Beijing. In Chengdu, the Zebra Music Festival 2010 took place. In the aftermath of the May holidays, both the Midi Music Festival 2010 and the Strawberry Music Festival 2010 were scrutinizably analyzed and according to China Music Radar it was "art versus commerce" with Modern Sky and its Volkswagen overkill representing commerce and Midi representing art and music.[97] Shouwang of Carsick Cars stated: Bands are not VIP, only sponsors are. Treat us like human beings. I wanted to jump on the cars, but my guitar lead was too short[98] According to Jon Campbell and his cited source Victor Huey, the final day of Midi and Miserable Faith's persistence as well as the persistence of the audience throughout the storm leading to the joint chanting of "The International"

was a moment to remember in Chinese rock history. The resilience of the Chinese rock scene to make it happen when the gods made it impossible to perform... This may be the moment I have been trying to shoot for twenty-four years.[99]

On May 25th and 26th the Hellfest 2010 happened in Beijing and Shanghai respectively with foreign metal acts STRATOVARIUS, NEGATIVE, BEFORE THE DAWN and TURISAS performing.

At the end of May, Subs started their Queen of XXXXing Everything China Tour 2010 that lead them around the country as a warm-up for the release of their latest record.

Further in May, a discussion started in the English blogosphere about the status of D-22 and Maybe Mars, originated from the controversial article Why No Beijing and D-22 are not worth the hype! on Rock in China, which spawned discussions on all major English blogs around the Beijing scene, highlighting the unique position of Maybe Mars, its efforts and the perception in the foreign media. In July, Pete DeMola displays a further glance upon the topic with his widely read article At That Moment I Thought, I Thought I Really Saw Music.

June to July, the Metal Battle 2010 was organized, a band competition that determined Raging Mob as the leading Chinese metal artists to perform at the Wacken Open Air 2010.

Mid July, shortly after the Qingyuan Niu Yu Zui Festival 2010, Chinamusicradar announces 2010 to be The Year of the Music Festival with an estimated of seventy (70) festivals happening in 2010.[100] A discussion started on the quality of the festivals itself, as many of them share the same bands and badly organized, e.g. the Suzhou lacking promotion[100].

On July 23rd, Subs released their 2010 record Queen of Fucking Everything with a release party in the Mao Livehouse. On July 29th and 30th, Shanghai's promoter and record label 0093 held their third anniversary party at the Yuyintang. According to Jake Newby[101]:

Last night and Thursday night was their third anniversary and they celebrated with two back to back shows at Yuyintang with a shitload of bands playing across the two nights. I didn't make it to the Thursday show, but I did go last night. The turn out was good and so was the atmosphere.

September 23rd, metal legends Exodus performed in the Mao Live house.

October 1st to 4th, in addition to the May Midi festival in Beijing, the Zhenjiang festival is held on the Shi Ye Island with foreign metal acts Soulfly, Shadows Fall, Finntroll and Loudness.

November 17th, No Beijing band Carsick Cars split due to creative differences and opportunities for members' per­sonal development[102].

December 27th, the 2010 Shanghai Grammys were awarded by the Cityweekend Shanghai focussing on the music scene in Shanghai. December 31st, the second Midi Music Awards were celebrated in the Star Live with performances of Miserable Faith, Ziyo, Nanwu, Nan Cheng Er Ge, Misandao, Hanggai and Finger Family.

Furthermore 2010 saw the departure of several forces in the Beijing music scene including Matt Kagler of Tag Team Records, Jon Campbell of YGTwo, Peter Baird of D-22 and Tofu of 2 Kolegas.


Yaksa at their 15 years anniversary show with other participating bands, Photo (c) Beijing Daze
Suffocated performing at Midi 2011; Photo (c) Beijing Daze
Midi Shanghai 2011
Subs at 6th Anniversary of 2 Kolegas, May 2011, Photo (c) Beijing Daze
Results of the Summersonic Festival band Competition at Mao Livehouse, June 2011, Photo (c) Beijing Daze
June 24th 2011
dazeFEAST 2011, 2 Kolegas, Beijing, photo (c) Beijing Gig Guide
Rock Naadam tour of Mongolia in July 2011
Zhang Fan, Shan Wei, Liu Huan at the August 22nd press conference, photo (c) Midi
SMZB's Christmas show @ VOX Wuhan, photo (c) Shanzai Laowai, RiC Facebook Group

On January 7th, 2011, during their anniversary celebration for the 13th year of Modern Sky, Shen Lihui announced that they are going to deeply integrate with Beijing based label/ promoter/ artist management company Robust Husband (荔芙娱乐) and hence all of Robust's bands are to be considered Modern Sky bands, including Omnipotent Youth Hotel, Brain Failure, Steely Heart, Candy Monster, White Eyes and Go Chic.[103] On January 8th, Yaksa held their 15 years anniversary concert in the Yugong Yishan.

Further in January, the compilation record Generation 6 (VA) is released showcasting amongst Rustic three other young upcoming bands that are part of the Generation 6 band movement.

In March, various benefit concerts for Japan were held including: on March 18th the Japan Benefit Show at the 13 Club Beijing;[104] on March 19th at LUNE, Shanghai[105]; and on March 22nd, the Love You! - Mao Japan Benefit concert at the Mao Livehouse Beijing.[106]

On March 19th, for the tenth time, the 330 Metal Festival happened at Tango, Beijing.[107]

On March 24th, Archie Hamilton released an article at CNNGo about the current state of the underground music and the need for bands to take the next step. Among other statements Archie voiced:

The scenes in Shanghai and Beijing are still largely populated by expats and Westernized Chinese, while Shanghai’s pre-Expo momentum was destroyed by a flood of government-sponsored visiting artists creative who had little to no name recognition in China and (due to a general lack of organization and promotion) left very little impact and generally froze out the local audiences. The second and third tier cities that don’t have the expat populations struggle to sustain even a single live house (although Vox in Wuhan, Nuts in Chongqing, Little Bar in Chengdu and various others are doing their best). What is clear is that more grassroots activity is absolutely vital to move things forward.[108]

Further in March and April, the fourth installation of the Metal Battle takes place in Beijing.

On April 22nd, Maybe Mars releases the debut record of GBOB winner's Rustic.

At the beginning of May a series of cancellations and concert banning took place with the biggest cancellation the postponement of the Suzhou Strawberry Music Festival 2011 alledgebly due to damages by a thunderstorm effecting their power set up[109], however as per China Music Radar, rumours are that the actual reason is a happening at the Zhouzhuang Folk fest the weekend earlier:

Last weekend’s Zhouzhuang Folk Festival, someone sent a message containing “Aye Way Way (sic.)” to the public tweet channel, which has been shown on the big screen. Aye Way Way, the famous Chinese dis-a-dent artist, was ‘kidnapped’ by police at Beijing Airport early this April. The message was deleted immediately, however, it did not stop people from tweeting more. Shortly ahead of Zuo Xiao Zu Zhou, a famous underground folk musician, came up on stage, young folks started yelling “Aye Way Way”. The whole ‘accident’ wasn’t planned at all, but it was one of the greatest reactions within China regarding the authority detaining Aye Way Way.[110]

Furthermore several gigs including a show of Rustic were cancelled in Beijing.[110] In Chongqing raids by the police happened prohibiting foreign and expat bands to perform, alledgebly due to taxation issues.[110] Furthermore all international acts of the Nanjing Blossom Music Festival (April 30th) were banned to perform[111] in addition to bands such as SMZB ordered to not perform their song For Friends and Beer, which they however nevertheless played and let the audience sing the song.[112]

Nevertheless these troubles, the Beijing Strawberry Music Festival 2011, the Midi Music Festival 2011 and other festivals happened around the May holidays. Talking about the Midi festival in Beijing, Beijing Daze stated[113]:

- The musicians were really cool with interruptions and shortened sets judging from their weibo streams. It’s cool that they were all mindful of each other.
- Again, a huge “big ups” to the crowd.. not as busy as the organizers would have liked with about 4000 or so that first day but definitely pulling their weight in!

A couple of days after the Beijing festival, the Midi festival happened for the first time in Shanghai. Mache and Squinzi summaried the festival stating[114] that:

On May 6th to 8th Midi festival happened for the first time in Shanghai. It was great to see thousands of rock lovers together. Midi did well, and the bands that played there did even better (...)

Furthermore, the D-22 celebrated their fifth anniversary in a three-day concert (Apr 30th, May 1st and 2nd) along with those bands that grew big by the help of D-22 including Carsick Cars, White, Snapline and many others.[115] [116] According to Beijing Gig Guide: D-22 might not be the only kid on the block any­more, but they’ve been an impor­tant step­ping stone to many.[117]

From May 13th to 28th, Beijing punk band The Dancers have their national tour, the first and last one in their short existence.

On May 27th and May 28th, the 2 Kolegas celebrated their 6th anniversary marking the bar as one of the oldest open live venue in Beijing. According to Beijing Daze:
oh boy… where to start? As far as parties go, the best ones this year have been at 2 kolegas (see new year bash)! Those guys just know how to throw down the fun times and get a party started. Last year was memorable, this year was even bigger![118]

On June 17th, the Summersonic festival band competition had their finals at the Mao Livehouse with Nanwu winning and getting a stage slot at the Japanese Summersonic festival.[119]

On June 24th, 2011, the dazeFEAST 2011 one-day festival took place at the 2 Kolegas in Beijing organized by Beijing Daze.According to Beijing Gig Guide[120]:

The after­noon scene was lovely. To start off with, it was just twenty-four hours after the city had been com­pletely flooded, and the sun was out and the weather was lovely. It was like a big pic­nic with all your friends, and occa­sion­ally some of them would get up and start singing. (...) The whole thing fin­ished up around 3AM, and really there isn’t much more to say than that daze­FEAST was a roar­ing suc­cess. Every­one I know who went had a blast, and we were not alone.

Beginning of July, a microblog alledgebly belonging to RADIOHEAD appeared on Chinese social network WEIBO, stearing up rumours on whether Radiohead might try to come to China or whether they want to bring their influence one step up.. According to the Guardian[121]:

Account linked to band has attracted 65,000 followers in five days, but could be shut down if used to discuss politics (...) The inaugural three-word post was as bland as it was terse: "Testing the weibo ..." There has been nothing since, but the blog has attracted 65,119 followers, been forwarded 11,085 times and stimulated 4,335 comments.

On July 8-11, 2011, three Shanghai bands, after a round of fundraiser gigs organized by DJ BO[122] held their Rock Naadam tour of Mongolia. Boys Climbing Ropes, Moon Tyrant and The Horde performed at Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan along with several Mongolian rock and metal bands. As per Mi2N[123] the purpose of the tour is:

1)To promote interest and communication between the people of Mongolia and China
2)To promote China-based acts in Mongolia and Mongolia-based acts in China
3)To encourage interest in live music, especially rock and roll

On July 22nd, Midi announced that they had to cancel their Midi Zhenjiang festival this year as the local government decided to give the location to Modern Sky.[124] On August 22nd, Midi held a press conference explaining the background of the cancellation of the October Midi Festival in Zhenjiang.[125] As per press conference:

Back in 2009, Midi had signed a ten-year contract with Zhenjiang Wenguang, a government-owned group that oversees cultural events in the city, to organize an annual music festival. (Like many music festivals set outside of Beijing, Zhenjiang Midi is financially sponsored by the local government.) Ever since last year’s Zhenjiang Midi Festival, both Midi and local media had been promoting the 2011 Midi Festival as set to take place during the National Day holiday (i.e. the first week of October). The two sides made multiple verbal agreements about it; they signed side-contracts regarding transportation and accommodation for the bands. Midi and Zhenjiang had discussed expenses for the 2011 event and had a verbal agreement to sign a detailed contract in mid-July. (...) Midi proceeded to invite international bands for the festival lineup; they paid for the airfare and deposit for international bands such as Chimaira. On July 11, however, a Midi employee named Liu Chang began to hear disturbing rumors; a promoter for another band in their lineup, German metal band The Ocean, claimed that they had been invited to play another festival (i.e. Strawberry) at the same time in the same city. Subsequently, Liu began to hear similar information from other tour booking agents. Apparently, “that other music festival’s organizer” had sounded very confident when he assured the tour booking agents that there would not be a Midi Festival in Zhenjiang in October. (...) Zhenjiang Wenguang and Modern Sky (...) held a press conference on August 17, mainly to promote Zhenjiang Strawberry Music Festival 2011. Modern Sky is holding the event there after having been invited to do so from Zhenjiang Wenguang, who explained that their original contract with Midi had never specified exact dates for the Midi Festival.[125]

On August 21st 2011, David O'Dell's book Inseparable, a history of Chinese punk, is published.

On October 1st 2011, Jon Campbell's long awaited chronology of Chinese rock called Red Rock is published. On October 15th, the Wuhan Prison Punk Fest II took place with Sharp Pills (Wuhan), CMYK (Wuhan), Blurry (Wuhan), Last Choice (Changsha), Angry Jerks (Nanjing) and No Name (Xi'an) and according to Shanzai Laowai drawing a a hot crowd with a healthy mix of laowai and locals giving props to the all-Chinese line up from around the country[112]

On December 25th, SMZB performed at the VOX bar in Wuhan to a fully-packed house. As per Shanzai Laowai, Hundreds were turned back after the Popo made VOX stop selling tickets around 9..[126]

On December 30th and 31st, the D-22 had their last shows and the venue closed officially, ending 6 years of supporting underground music in Beijing and helping young bands such as Carsick Cars or Birdstriking to become what they are today.[127]

Summing up the year in a number of blog posts, Beijing Daze named the Top 5 Chinese Albums of 2011[128]:

Further, Beijing Daze called out on the best and worst live gigs in Beijing of the year 2011[129]. Here is the list of the best:

  • AK-47 @ MIDI:
  • The Black Snakes @ ‘dazeFEAST
  • Subs @ King of the Road
  • Dongzi @ Jianghu
  • Spring Autumn @ Gulou 121
  • Last Choice @ Mao Punk Fest
  • Out of Control @ Mao Rolling Stones Tribute
  • Abaji @ Jianghu
  • HangGai & La Pegatina @ Mako
  • Bad Mamasan Album Launch @ Yugong
  • Concrete Blonde @ Hangzhou West Lake Festival


Kaiser Kuo and Opeth, February 11th 2012

On January 13th, 2012, the physical record of We Are Shanghai (VA) is released, a multi-band compilation record from Shanghai produced by the combined efforts of Shanghai’s own Zangnan Records, Luwan Rock and Twin Horizons.[130]

Further in January, Chengdu psychedlic rockers Proximity Butterfly tour the Australian continent with their Tales from the Hypnogogue tour 2012.

On February 11th 2012, Swedish metal act Opeth performed in Beijing.

On May 15th, the Rock in China produced compilation CORE IN CHINA (VA) featuring twenty Chinese 'core bands is released and receives good reception overseas in the States, France, Australia and many other places.

At the beginning of June, on the 4th and 5th, in the front-run to the European Championship in Soccer, Modern Sky and CCTV5 hosted a two-day concert and recording session at Tango Starlive filming amongst others Suffocated, Yaksa, Queen Sea Big Shark and several others. The live shots along with interviews were broadcasted during the CCTV5 coverage of the European Championship throughout the tournament.[131] According to Jo from Beijingdaze: It was interesting to watch, each band had 40mins total to set up sound check & record 2 songs. Some, like QSBS, took almost the whole time to set up, others, like LSD, set up quickly and got to play their songs twice. Reflector were super quick & the crowd were calling for more, they had time, but the organisers said no and had to remind the crowd this was not a show[132]

On August 24th-26th, the Fuxianhu Music Festival happened in Yunnan. According to Hugh Bohane: Festival attendance peaked at a few thousand over the course of the three-day event. Tickets were available at the festival entrance for 100 RMB. We were quite surprised by the lack of ticket checking by security, whose presence was actually quite scarce for the duration of the festival. The crowd came in waves. Sometimes it appeared there were at least a thousand people and at other times it felt like there was less than a hundred.[133]

On September 4th, Chen Yuli, music producer for (amongst others) The Gar, Arrows Made Of Desire and Queen Sea Big Shark, passed away during a car accident in Paris, France.[134]

Authorship & Copyright

Restricted / Protected Article

Rock in China is a mainly free community project documenting the Chinese underground music scene. Though some of the content hosted is copyrighted and published with specific permission by the original works' author. This article is one of these and it has been protected / restricted and thereby excluded from the provisions in the General Disclaimer regarding its copyright. The applicable terms are stated below.

History of Chinese Rock Music / Underground Modern Music written by User:Azchael. Full Copyright applies.

For those of you who'd like to use this history article or parts of it, please feel free to do so (except for commercial purposes - therefore please contact User:Azchael), but please refer to these pages (http://www.rockinchina.com and http://wiki.rockinchina.com) and mention them as your source. A typical citing would be as follows:

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Further reading

Special Articles at rockinchina.com

Additional Sources



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  2. 2.0 2.1 Steen, A. (1996). Der Lange Marsch des Rock'n'Roll (32. Berliner China-Studien). Hamburg: LIT Verlag.
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  51. Conversation between Jereon Groenewegen and Sun Mengjin, May 6th 2004
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  53. For an examination of dakou culture see de Kloet 2005
  54. MC Webber, DJ Wordy, Gao Bo, Raph Cooper and DJ VNutz gave various definitions of the underground and the mainstream in interviews and discussions to Mrs. Angela Steele
  55. The DMC is an annual DJ competition that is like the World Cup of turntablism. Participating countries hold national competitions and winners travel to London to compete in the world battle. Learn more at www.dmcworld.com
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  131. As seen live by User:Azchael on June 16th 2012 and as mentioned on Douban
  132. As indicated by Jo on Facebook
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Band Forming:

1989: Huxi (The Breathing), Tang Chao (Tang Dynasty), Yanjingshe (Kobra), Toto, Qingtongqi (Bronce goods), Xiandairen (Modern People), Miankong (The Face)

1990: Baotong (Newspaper Boy)

1991: Hongse Budui (Red Army), Ziwo Jiaoyu (Self education), Huangzhongren (Humans of a yellow race), Zuo Meng (Dreaming), Chao Dai (Overload), Again-Lunhui-YueDui (Again – Soul walking Band), ZhiNanZhen (The Compass)

1992: DD-Band, Xindi (New Sense), Xuewei (Acupuncture point), Fenwu (White Fog), Wazu Yuedui (Band of Wa minority; ethnical minority in Yunnan)