Rocker Cui Jian says his music hasn't changed but China has

Chinese listeners may understand my songs differently now they can see the world and take control over their private lives, says veteran singer, whose first album in 11 years was released last week

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 11:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 11:30am

China’s godfather of rock Cui Jian says his basic message of personal freedom hasn’t changed in his new album, even if the world has.

The rocker, who fell out of favour with the government after he sided with demonstrating students during the 1989 Tiananmen protests, said the messages in his songs today may not be different “but the way that you understand could be different” because of the changes China has gone through.

Growing personal wealth among Chinese has created the chance to travel and take control over their private lives, Cui said, a far cry from the tightly controlled society of the 1980s. “They got a chance to make money so this is a big change,” he said.

At the same time, other things haven't changed, says Cui, wearing a stylish business suit and his trademark white baseball cap adorned with a red star. There are still limits on how freely you can talk, and “you shouldn't say black and white, you could say something grey and then make it safe”, he says.

Cui's first album in 11 years is called Frozen Light and he says he hopes his music will inspire Chinese to think about how some things remain static, then “think about whether you take it or you just try to warm it and change it or break it”.

The album was released on Christmas Day in 119 countries, including the US and Japan, according to Cui’s manager, Yoyo. He’ll follow up the release with performances in Beijing and other Chinese cities in the second half of 2016.