Beyond Tiananmen - rebels fail to strike a chord

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 February, 2001, 12:00am

The bands name themselves Fly and Sober and belt out tunes of angst about conspicuous consumption and degrading traditional values. But more than 10 years after China's first rock 'n' roll star Cui Jian faced China's youth with a red blindfold over his eyes and became the official anti-establishment spokesmodel, the rock movement, including Beijing bands like Fly and Sober, has not managed to move beyond club gigs and small crowds.

Rock music, it seems, will remain as the underground music scene as Canto-pop stars like Leon Lai, Aaron Kwok and Faye Wong infiltrate the young generation, with the blessing of the Chinese Government. In Beijing, smoky clubs frequented by young lads dressed in dirty denim is where you will find live rock music. Recordings are sold through a string of small and inconspicuous stores around the city, notably on Wangfujian Street.

No musician has lived up to Cui's reputation. Part of the reason for Cui's appeal is that he is able to walk the thin line between conformity and rebellion. His irreverent songs, none of which can be officially banned because they do not openly criticise authorities, strike a strong chord with the young generation because of his poignant views. 'A lot of people think it's about policies,' Cui said in an earlier interview with the South China Morning Post. 'But it's not really, it's about the society we live in.'

But without good music, none of his ideals would endure.