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Exploring Music and Art in Beijing

Aired May 9, 2012 - 05:30:00   ET



DJ WORDY, DEEJAY And PRODUCER: (Inaudible). This is whole area (inaudible) city. I'm going to take you guys to my favorite spot (inaudible) like (inaudible) house, (inaudible) rooftop. You can see the (inaudible). It's an amazing view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does anybody know about this place?

WORDY: Not a lot of people, but people know about this place. (Inaudible) many, many people, so it's like a kind of haven place. (Inaudible).

All right. Here is the place I've been chilling Sunday (ph) afternoon. Look at this view. (Inaudible) city over there and (inaudible) Park over there with the white cover (ph). That's the Bay Head Park (ph). And this whole area is like a central area in Beijing.

Like (inaudible) living here, you know, you know what I mean? (Inaudible). I've got a friend, he -- actually he's from New York and he live in Beijing for like four years. And he come here, say, you, I got to show you this place. I say, why you show me place? Oh, yes. I just come with him, say, oh, yes. That's cool.


WORDY: Beijing's -- if you want to like art, you have to be in Beijing. Beijing is the place to live. I just do my thing and I don't care about other people. I don't care about what I can get from these. I just use my patience to do those things I like to do. I do it the best. Then I think, just things come to me.

In China it's all about right now, you know, money. Money is important, but it has (inaudible) balance, you know. And in China, things like a lot of people they don't care about (inaudible) no more. They just want to make money. (Inaudible) money. Their religion is money. So they don't have the time to think about art and listen to music because that's a problem, I think.

Normal people in China, (inaudible) listen to music every day. Music is not necessary in their life. But only in few like young, young generation, you know, like kind of cool kids, cool people. They will listen to music.

JEREMY GOLDKORN, FOUNDER, DANWEI.ORG: This freeway goes from Beijing (inaudible) the Beijing-Tibet Freeway. So if you follow this road, you could eventually get to Lhasa (ph).

Now we're going to drive past a few famous stretches of Great Wall, and the most famous one is probably Ba Da Ling (ph), which is the piece of Great Wall where Richard Nixon had his photo taken, Obama, and there are millions of people there. So we're going to go past that to a piece of wall that's actually connected to Ba Da Ling (ph) where there's untouristed and unrestored.

WU FEI, MUSICIAN, JEREMY'S WIFE: So we want to go to (inaudible) faster, right?



GOLDKORN: We left early because Beijing has some of the world's worst traffic jams, and it's Friday when things can be even more insane than usual. The freeway we're on is not too bad by Beijing standards.

(Inaudible). So we're stuck in one of these legendary traffic jams. You know, we tried to divert and go the wrong way down the freeway, but we got stuck by traffic piled up behind us. So now we're here and we have no idea how we're going (inaudible).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you do in China?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am in the Internet business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Internet? Can't you do that in South Africa?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came to China early on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you don't want to go back?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You depend on China. China is good.


GOLDKORN: This part of Beijing, the reason why there's so many traffic jams is these guys, big trucks, a lot of them bringing coal (ph) from Inner Mongolia down to Beijing or to the port at Tianjin (ph).

FEI: (Inaudible).

GOLDKORN: (Inaudible).

2007, you know, we go to the countryside every weekend to find new places to walk (inaudible) and came down here, and just -- he had a sign in Chinese, saying (inaudible), which means kind of pleasant family restaurant. And came in here and they made the most delicious food.

And so we kept on coming back. And it's just really, really simple country cooking, nothing fancy. There's no MSG or no fancy spices or anything. It's really just the simple taste of good produce (ph).

FEI: Sorry. (Inaudible)?




GOLDKORN: For me, it's -- I'd go insane if I didn't do this on a regular basis. I really need to get out. And, you know, it's a combination of things, exercise. It's obviously good. But just getting away from so many people. It's very therapeutic.

I grew up in Johannesburg, in South Africa, eventually got a job teaching English, which I did for about a year. And then I kind of got the bug, China bug, and I've been working in China since 1995, mostly in media and Internet. And then I met my wife, Fei, here, who -- she was living in the United States at the time, but then she moved back to Beijing. And we're still here.

FEI: I really came back and wanted to see it, to trace back my childhood, which I couldn't see a lot. And there's only a tiny bit left. I think for anyone, the childhood memory's always beautiful and nice.

GOLDKORN: You know, in some ways, China is so open now compared to any time in its history. You know, and the Internet is a case in point. China's Internet is extremely vibrant. There's a lot going on there. There's a lot of discussion, a lot of expression of people's ideas that you never used to see. But it's almost as though you have a lot of freedom inside a big cage. And I don't see that cage really changing.

But you can get up to a lot inside the cage. In the course of this, you know, the last 15-16 years, China's opened up a lot. China feels like it's risen to a place that it always felt it should be on the world stage, which is that this is a big, important country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll introduce you to (inaudible) first. It's a gallery for artists. I'm so lucky. It's like (inaudible) in the United States. Here it's almost the same, you know, so I think I'm real lucky as a musician.


XIAO BAIER, ARTIST (from captions): Nanluoguxiang is hundreds of years old, existing from the time of the Qing Dynasty. Years ago this place was nothing like it is now. It was very quiet. It's become very commercial but still maintains features distinctive to both China and Beijing.

This place has a lot of original artworks. The people who come to Nanluoguxiang are quite unique. A lot of artists come here.

HE SHUZHONG, CULTURAL HERITAGE PROTECTION CENTER: This is (inaudible). This place is incredible. It is part of Beijing's old town. The Imperial Academy is just steps away from here. It is the center of Confucianism in China. It is no exaggeration to compare it to what Mecca is to Muslims.

This area is very Chinese, very Beijing, very old Beijing. This is the "real" Beijing.

BAIER: Whenever people ask me what I do, I just tell them I'm a painter.

But painters can do anything -- illustrations, manga, tattoo design. They do everything.

After graduating, I worked for a company but I don't think my character really suited working with so many people, especially in such a cutthroat environment.

One good thing about being young is that you can make mistakes. You have time to go back.

There isn't a definition that says Beijingers are this type of person.

You would think that the many faces of Beijing would clash. But in reality, there is no clash at all.

SHUZHONG: The new cafes and bars are necessary because the tourists need them. But there needs to be a real balance. You need to satisfy the tourists. But you also need to preserve the characteristics of old Beijing.

MICHAEL PETTIS, FOUNDER, D-22: I was talking to a musician inside, an American musician. He was telling me that really a generation in China lasts four or five years. And I think that's absolutely correct.

And that's part of the excitement of China. It's changing so quickly that whenever you think you know what's going on, you find that you're almost immediately out of date.

Once young Chinese musicians look at other Chinese musicians, who are their heroes, then you know that you've really crossed a line, that the quality of music has very much changed. And we see that a lot now. So man's life in DK-14 and Hisakaras (ph), they're on the list of everyone, you know, all the cool kids' favorite bands and that trust is very, very important.

YANG HAISOOG (PH): I'm (inaudible) and that's my hometown. And I formed a band to (inaudible) and moved to Beijing two years later in like a 1997. That's my background. (Inaudible).

We are seven and eight at the (inaudible) factory. You know, it's quite arts area now in Beijing. And it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Become a cultural hub, I guess?

HAISOOG (PH): Yes, yes. You can -- yes, I would say that.

China is, you know, the closest so long time. So when the doors open in the later '70s, young people was very hungry about the music, about the card shop, about everything for the -- to the Western world. This is very interesting. (Inaudible) vinyl, it's -- yes, it's mid-1980s. The economy at that time is really bad, so we've been made with a very, very cheap material.

(Inaudible) introduce (inaudible) first. It's a gallery.

Beijing, it's so high (ph), it's so strong. So you have to -- you have a lot of things you want to say onto (inaudible), onto against. So that's why I'm like a musician or artist. (Inaudible) Beijing (inaudible) good. It's good (inaudible). People always first (inaudible) very (inaudible).

And so (inaudible) Chinese (inaudible). And sometimes I think I'm so lucky because I saw this heaven. I mean, for a musician, for artists, it's so lucky. It's like '60s in United States. Here it's almost the same. We are -- so I think I'm -- we are lucky as musicians.

Here is our old capital, government's office, whole China and now, today, it's just a part of it. It's a club for the new Asia. It's very (inaudible) clubs -- club in China. OK. So, come in.


DOMINIC JOHNSON-HILL, ENTREPRENEUR/TV PERSONALITY: It's the sort of place that you wouldn't notice. If you walked past it you'd never think it was an entrance into an underground city.


JOHNSON-HILL: Here we are (inaudible) tunnels, secret entrance.


JOHNSON-HILL: My name's Dominic Johnson-Hill. I've been in Beijing now for nearly 19 years. I came here as a backpacker in 1992-93. What kept me here was opportunity. And then after I learned the language and I got to know the people, that was what really made me stay, because Beijing is -- Beijing is (inaudible) fantastic people in the world. I love the city.

You get to some of the areas of Beijing, say, for example, the Forbidden City, it's actually quite empty. But (inaudible) the living part of the city, the soul of the city. It's quiet. As I say, the bikes (inaudible).

It's great community and it's right in the middle of one of the biggest and most important capital cities in the world. And you get to live like you're in a little village. So for me, it's ideal. This guy here makes some of the finest snacks in Beijing. New found wealth, he's got a car now.

JOHNSON-HILL (through captions): Can I please have some of your snacks?

JOHNSON-HILL: This guy's been making Beijing's best snacks for the last 20 years. This one is a particularly stodgy one, nice big fried vegetable ball, and it appeals to a Brit like me.

Thank you very much.

These guys are from out of town, local migrant workers, obviously, having a game of cards in the sunshine.

JOHNSON-HILL (through captions): England is written on your back. Are you English?



JOHNSON-HILL: He's not English.

JOHNSON-HILL (through captions): Where is your hometown?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through captions): Zhejiang province.

JOHNSON-HILL: He's from Zhejiang province. So from out of town. Similar to me. I'm from England.

JOHNSON-HILL (through captions): I'm English. Both of us are outsiders.


JOHNSON-HILL: We're going to go right now to the underground city, to the nuclear tunnels. It's only a stone's throw, really, actually from my shop. But it's the sort of place that you wouldn't notice if you walked past it. You'd never think it was an entrance into an underground city.

Here we are. Entrance to the nuclear tunnels. Secret entrance. You can see how thick the door is here, which is actually lined with lead. The people that live here above the tunnel actually have set up their kitchen down here.

So you can imagine the crazy life that they lead living above nuclear tunnels and using parts of the tunnels for part of their lives. Here we've got a kitchen and there's even a bathroom further on down, which they use.

So there you've got the first (inaudible) tunnels. And then we go down here, which is actually the deepest section in this area. The tunnels are very, very short and you have to -- so someone tall like myself would have to crouch down to walk through them. But these lower level tunnels are reserved for really important people and so they're very high.

And you can see again some more beds and bicycles and being used for storing for the local government here. So up these steps, I was told, was the office of a very important person who has a bedroom and an office, and there's a little escape tunnel as well that takes you up to the surface. It's very, very interesting.

(Inaudible) here. It's a nice little cow there. You can see all the great places for growing mushrooms, probably. This is his own personal suite with escape tunnel, very 007.

This particular section of the tunnels was built around 1969 and went on until 1972. They were built really, really, quickly and just when things were going -- all the relationship between China and Russia went sour, they just -- Mao said we're building an underground city. And this is the result of that.

And it's huge. And what you're seeing today is sort of a very small section. But it leads all over Beijing. It goes all the way up to the north. You had drills where everybody would flood down here and get ready for a nuclear attack. But there was never a nuclear war. So they were never used.

It's kind of spooky, actually. The reason why they're being destroyed is, well, they're expanding the subway network around Beijing, so they're going to get in the way and also because essentially it's because they lead into so many people's homes and important places they need to seal them all off now. So it's a bit of a shame. It's part of Beijing's history and it's nice we get to film it before it all disappears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where are you taking us now, that way?

JOHNSON-HILL: Right, well, I'm a man. I like my beer. And fortunately, a very enterprising young American chap has started his own microbrewery just around the corner from where I live. And so this is my regular and it's really off the beaten track. I mean, it's fairly new. It's the best beer in Beijing if not the world.

Really personifies Beijing, you know, an entrepreneur started his own business and puts a lot of heart and soul into it. And you just feel right at home here. It's fantastic.

CARL SETZER, GREAT LEAP BREWING: We're literally in the middle of 20 million people and being in the Hutoms (ph) makes you feel like you're in a small community in the countryside. You can see the stars at night. The people are amazing. You hear children laughing and playing in the alleyways. If bizarre wasn't such a negative word, I would say it's bizarre, but it's just so refreshing.

JOHNSON-HILL: Beijing's just a fascinating place. It's just culture and history everywhere. And I feel very privileged to live here and get to live amongst all this.