Mainland music 'is all about business'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am

Cui Jian, the so-called father of Chinese rock, says music on the mainland has become a well-structured business providing a livelihood for thousands of people.

At a screening of the Independent Short Film and Video Awards on Monday night, Cui (right) said mainland music now relied on packaging, promotion and sales and was no longer made simply to be appreciated.

He said musicians such as himself were like live fish in a dead pond in the 1980s. 'Now the water has become a lot more active, but some fish have been suffocated. Maybe the real talents have been washed away by the current.'

Born into an ethnic Korean family, Cui's father was a professional trumpet player and his mother a member of a Korean minority dance troupe. Cui started his musical career in 1981 at the age of 20 as a classical trumpet player with the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra. Soon after he was turned on to western rock through the poetic works of Bob Dylan.

In 1986, Cui released his first album proper, Rock 'n' Roll on the New Long March, featuring the song Nothing to My Name. It went on to sell more copies than any other album had in China.

Asked why more mainland music groups were playing punk and hip hop today, Cui said it was a transitional period. 'We used to be more westernised, having songs written in English but we were almost embarrassed,' he said.

At a concert in Beijing in May 1986, held to mark the Year of World Peace, Cui walked on stage in peasant garb and belted out Nothing to My Name. The song stunned the audience, who gave him a standing ovation.