You think rock music is about rebellion, freedom, and passion? Well, shows what you know. China is here to challenge that and show you just how conformist rock music can be.
Last Thursday, a seminar in Beijing — titled "Review and Outlook on the 30 Years of Chinese Rock Music" — revealed a plan to set up China's first Rock Music Academy, Xinhua reported.
Sipping tea across a typical drab Chinese conference room were some of China's famous rock musicians including Liu Yijun, a heavy metal guitarist from the legendary band Tang Dynasty, and various party officials.
"This meeting," said the deputy party secretary of the Beijing Federation of Literary and Art Circles, "aims to create a distinctive phenomenon of Chinese rock, a symbol of Oriental rock music, and a splendid chapter in the history of rock music."
Just so we are clear: This meeting was serious AF. The attendees talked about the history, development, and future of Chinese rock as well as current issues. "All generations agree upon the values of capturing the spirit of rock," the rock star said.
The aura of obedience that came from the meeting shocked Chinese rock fans, as the genre has always served as a spiritual relief under the emptiness of political discussions – moreover, as a symbol of revolution.
Particularly weird was that "Nothing to My Name," a song by Chinese rock pioneer Cui Jian in 1986, was credited by the meeting as "the song that teaches Chinese people what rock and roll is."
The song's title sang to students' hearts when it was released and quickly became the unofficial anthem of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
I want to give you my hope
I want to help make you free
But you always laugh at me
For I have nothing to my name
Cui sang the song on Tiananmen Square during the protests, which largely encouraged the morale of the students. But for a decade following the protests, Cui wasn't allowed to perform in front of large audiences in Beijing, the geographic base of Chinese rock music.
A Weibo user posted a screenshot during the meeting captioned as "this mysterious country." More than 3,000 users have commented on the post and 17,000 more have retweeted.
Many of the commenters agree on the Kafka-esque nature of the state getting involved in rock music. "I like the ridiculous black humor of it," one said. And many commenters suggested sarcastically that the national grading system in place on other forms of art can be adapted to rock music, so that everybody needs to have a certificate to play punk or heavy metal.
The irony appeared lost on party officials. "The establishment of Beijing Rock Music Academy answers the strong wish and calls of the rock musicians and fans," party official Gang Jie said at the end of the meeting.
Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.
Contact Beimeng Fu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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