2010 in Beijing: Music is Alive and Well

I don’t usually do retrospectives nor believe in them much but when Max of Rock In China fame emailed asking about memorable events of 2010, I surprised myself at the length of the answer and decided it was worth posting over here! This is just my 2 cents on the situation, nothing special other than a biased perspective.

It’s been the year of Benefit shows showcasing local artists and fans’ ability to come together and face adversity:
– Earthquake benefit at Mako Livehouse that brought the city together for over 10 hour marathon of music raising money for the victims
– AIDS benefit CD in Beijing, while maybe not financially succesful, was a great initiative.
– Folk Rescue series in support of Tong Yan raised 75,000 RMB in Beijing alone before they took the benefit to other cities. This one is a great great display of solidarity by a whole community for 1 person. I daresay it’s raised more cash for one person than any of the Sichuan benefit concerts might have.

2010 has also been the year Foreign artists returned to China.
– Since 2007, we haven’t had this many big names pop up all around the country with such eases. Metal legends Exodus played Beijing, Killing Joke, Lamb of God, Trail of Death, Il Nino and whole bunch of big metal name came by. Pop artist such as Usher, Beyonce, Michael Learns to Rock amongst others have also performed in Beijing/China.

2010 will be marked by the failure of the Show of Peace
well documented after high profile visits by Jimmy Page, news conference at the Ritz carlton with the who’s who of Chinese music. What once was promising to be the biggest event in China’s musical lore has become its biggest “vaporware”

Reggae with the Dragon
I don’t know if French Reggaeman extraordinaire, M’beewan, spending extended time in China over the past few years helped but it sure didn’t hurt. There is Reggae roots in the middle kingdom as evidenced by Xie Tian Xiao releasing a reggae EP in 2010 and Long Shen Dao FINALLY getting thier act together and releasing their record. There are reggae bands popping up everywhere now and they’re all from freaking ningxia…

Miserable Faith on Top
The end of MIDI 2010 in Chaoyang park where Miserable Faith cemented their status as the absolute overall best rock n roll band in China by coming out and rocking unplugged to a crowd of 4000 people starved, wet and cold from hours of rain who stayed behind hoping for some more music.. Not to mention “best band” award in MIDI 2010 and 2009

2010 might be remembered however for people and their influence on Beijing’s music scene:

– Pete De Mola, one of the best music writers this city has ever seen vanished leaving a huge whole in the coverage of D-22 and its band. His opinion and knowledge of the scene are hugely missed.
– some people left China for various reasons including Peter Baird ( one of D-22’s hardest supporters), Jon Campbel ( RandomK(e), Black cat bone), Tofu (the ever charismatic face of 2 Kolegas)
– A few new additions to the scene have helped fill the void left by the old guard: Alex of Beijingguigguide is an absolute lifesaver. Her tenacity at keeping track of gigs and listing them is such a positive thing to have in Beijing. To a lesser extent my own blog has played a small part in the industry whether I like it or not.
– The noticeable improvement of music writers in the foreign rags: While Wang Ge left the Beijinger (a shame), a new generation of passionate kids have taken over: Michelle Dai at the Beijinger and Liz Tung of Cityweekend have both helped improve the quality and the quantity of information available on the expat rags about local bands and shows. Gone are the days when these magazines would only piss over themselves when DJ shmuck came to town.
Liu Mao is back to 2 Kolegas and Beijing will be much better for it. As much as I love that place, when Tofu and Gao Feng were the only ones there, it was too much chaos. things were always up in the air and you never knew what to expect with bands showing up or not. With Liu Maio back, it seems that things are back to being somewhat regulated. We’ve also seen the quality of bands coming to 2 Kolegas go up by leaps and bounds: Hanggai is there, SUBS came to play what will end up being the best show of 2011 most likely, BURNS guitars did their launch there as well. Having him in Beijing, without taking anything away from the other two, is the last drop the place needed to claim “best live venue” place in Beijing.

2010 will also mark the return to form of old Giants of the scene showing they still matter:

– Cui Jian’s name is popping everywhere, Wang Faye has returned to the scene with a bang, Black Panther, Second Hand Rose, Zhao Yirang, Tang Dynasty, have all come back from obscurity/retirement to prove they were still around and still the kings of the scene.

Music knows no passport?
The year was marked with China-based foreign bands making a lot of noise: The Redbucks were the cinderella of 2010 with a great album. Amazing Insurace Salesman beat all the 100% Chinese bands in China to win the China leg of battle of the bands. Mademoiselle finally recorded a CD that’s to die for after signing to a Chinese label. Other bands like Mr. Wolf, Bad Mamasan, Black Cat Bone, Boy #6, Dude and a dozen more are roaming the streets of the capital doing great stuff.

2010 is the year the words “music festival” became a bad thing in China.. no comments on that!

2010 is the year of hope!
For the many years I’ve been around, this is the first time i honestly believe in the future generations and can positively say the industry is heathier and better than it’s been in a while. New bands are doing amazing things like Nanwu, Amazing Insurance Salesman, Residence A, Rustic etc… I look forward to 10 years of seeing them grow and mature as musicians.

Don’t forget to check out the Rock in China blog for their excellent summary of 2010.

What marked 2010 in your opinions?

4 Responses

  1. Jaime says:

    Yep, Beijing is where it is at!! It’s dirty and it rocks! This year for me was about loss of some great people that had some history here…And I agree about the “Festival” word….. Hey Badr, what does BJDF@2K stand for!!! BTW, I need that coach, the metal bus is on dude….3-25! Should be a riot…gig confirmed today.

  2. Yes, 2010 was a great year !

    Hey Badr, i think you forgot to thank yourself for doing a great job making more people know about music in China.

    The AIDS benefit CD actually raised quite a lot of money, i don’t know the exact figure but i know it was a success. The release party for the CD also was a big success and i had a great time playing there with my folk project “Zhang Si’an” !

    It also was great playing reggae with M’Beewan and get new perspectives on music.

    I’m also very happy i could do something with The Amazing Insurance Salesmen, i only thought of that band as a way for me to have fun, i guess the fun we’re having is contagious !

    As for the Jazz scene, it was also very good. Willie Jones III from the Lincoln orchestra came to Beijing, as well as very good players from the Utah Jazz school and one of my friends, Laurent Maur, one of France greatest Jazz harmonica player. We also had Herbie Hancock and The Duke Ellington Orchestra visiting.

    Still in Jazz, i can say i’m impressed by young Chinese players and many others that are the future of Jazz in China

    I wish Beijing music scene an even greater 2011 !

  3. Veronique says:

    Wang Ge already went to Time Out Beijing .

  4. Rick Green says:

    2010 was the year I discovered heavy metal in China when visiting Beijing for the first time.

    Strangely enough, I said to myself before my trip that I wanted to see if there was any hard rock scene. I then read about a six-band show at Yugong Yishan in a newspaper on the plane from Guilin to Beijing. I was there!

    Discovered MAO Livehouse near my hotel, then went back to YGYS for their sixth anniversary celebration. I was hooked. Two of my favourite souvenirs from that trip are CDs: Spring & Autumn and XTX & Cold Blooded Animal.

    Now I’m keeping my eye on the scene, hoping something good will be on when I visit Beijing the next time.