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SEPTEMBER 27, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 12


Xinhua
Cui Jian, shown here in a 1990 concert at Workers' Stadium.
WORKERS' STADIUM: Music for the Masses, 1986
Rock 'n' Roll
By CUI JIAN

On a cool night in 1986, I was invited to take part in an unprecedented concert, held at the Beijing Workers' Stadium. The place was packed. I sang an original tune, Nothing to My Name, which people seemed to like. When the concert ended and I stepped outside, I saw some kids on the street imitating my moves. Few Chinese, myself included, really knew what rock 'n' roll was back then. But we knew it was something that gave out energy. It was music with a message.

My musical odyssey began early. My father, a trumpet player in the People's Liberation Army, began teaching me the instrument when I was 14. My tastes were strictly classical. In 1981, I joined the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and played in it for seven years. Things began to change in 1985, though, when the British group Wham! gave a concert at the Workers' Stadium. A year later I heard my first Beatles tape. I started listening more and more to rock and writing songs. I learned to play an electric guitar that a friend of my father's had given me. After the Workers' Stadium concert, I formed a band and made rock my life.

    ALSO IN TIME
VISIONS OF CHINA
China's Amazing Half Century
Navigate through the People's Republic of China and discover the 50 places where history was made

China's Wild Ride
The early years of Mao's new republic were exhilarating and disastrous. Deng Xiaoping brought the country back from the brink

Essay: Happy Birthday to Me!
A Beijing writer recalls what he was doing when the People's Republic celebrated some earlier birthdays

  VISIONS OF CHINA
50 years of the People's Republic
presented by CNN, TIME, Asiaweek and Fortune

Asiaweek
Quest for Dignity
The success of the Communist revolution climaxed a century-long drive by the Chinese to reclaim their historical greatness

I performed at Tiananmen Square in 1989, 15 days before the crackdown. I sang A Piece of Red Cloth, a tune about alienation. I covered my eyes with a red cloth to symbolize my feelings. The students were heroes. They needed me, and I needed them. After Tiananmen, however, authorities banned concerts. We performed instead at "parties," unofficial shows in hotels and restaurants.

Things are different now. Rock has become commercialized, and the performers want to make money--by playing the same music. Yet there is also a younger scene keeping the spirit alive, playing in fringe bars. Rock 'n' roll is about equality. Some Chinese are slaves to Western culture; others look East. I say f___ all of them and be yourself. That's what I like about rock 'n' roll. You can talk straight.

Cui Jian is China's most famous rock performer

ALSO SEE:
GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE: Birth of a Nation
ZHONGNANHAI: The Inner Sanctum
BEIJING BOTANICAL GARDENS: Humbled Emperor
PEKING UNIVERSITY: Creating Chaos
DEMOCRACY WALL: An Open Challenge
BEIJING FILM ACADEMY: Making Marvelous Movies
TIANANMEN SQUARE: Hope and Repression
CHINA ART GALLERY: An Avante-Garde Explosion
HAIDIAN DISTRICT: A Silicon Valley of China's Own


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