Sunday, April 02, 2006

Final thoughts on RSC (RIP?)

Now whatever happens to Rolling Stone China will be a matter of practical finagling, and one thinks it might last. Men's Health and several women's fashion mags also have China editions, but those aren't as sexy to the media as rock 'n roll. Anyway, in case it dissappears, let me get my last thoughts on this out of the way.

From the local perspective, Duo Duo, a rock site webmaster in his early 20s who lives in a basement apartment in the Beijing's ghetto-hipster Haidian District, had two things to say: "I thought it was good," and "I didn't even read the Chinese articles." So for him it was all the translated stuff - the movie and CD reviews especially. I suppose I shouldn't forget that Chinese have a habit of ignoring/ disbelieving the news, though they do maintain faith in info from the
West. The weird effect here actually runs counter to the nationalistic ideas the government seems to be pushing. All the confabulated adoration of US 60s/70s rock and protest culture is just a substitute for two things: 1) the history Chinese rock doesn't have, and 2) the story it can't tell. Now - and this is different from even two or three years ago - Chinese rockers are really finding their roots in the West. Lots of bands in Beijing (Hang on the Box, SUBS, Ret-ros, etc.) are now singing in English, and this is new. And in the Wudaokou record shops, this leaves the playa haters saying, "They're not making music for us here. They're making it for the West, coz they want to be famous."

...also, when I asked about Cui Jian, last week the director of Beijing's major annual rock fest, the Midi Festival, said that in spite of his relative fame - I get the picture he's more famous with the foreign press than the average Chinese - he was still an outsider when it came to government culture and a political hot potato. In other words, he doesn't have good guanxi. "Whenever he does something, it's not necessarily easy." And that's probably why he was the first RSC cover: rock in China is still fighting for acceptability, so it's using the best hero it can muster. I can support this to a degree, but the problem is that once you strip yourself of your values, then it just becomes a power play and the direction of social change becomes an afterthought, which is pretty much how things seem right now.

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