Re­mem­ber­ing rock of ages

Thirty years af­ter Cui Jian per­formed Noth­ing to My Name in Bei­jing, a con­cert at the same venue will com­mem­o­rate the event. Chen Nan re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Thanks to that era, when young peo­ple needed that kind of en­ergy and the mes­sage de­liv­ered by that song, it be­came a hit and I be­came fa­mous.” Cui Jian, rocker

On May 9, 1986, Cui Jian was in­vited to per­form at a con­cert at Bei­jing Work­ers’ Sta­dium.

At the packed venue, the then 25-year-old Cui per­formed Noth­ing to My Name.

That song opened a chap­ter in China’s rock mu­sic story at a time when few Chi­nese knew what rock ’n’ roll was.

The song also marked the start of a jour­ney, which would later make Cui China’s god­fa­ther of rock ’n’ roll.

Now, 30 years later, to mark that event, a con­cert, ti­tled Rolling 30, will be held at the same venue where Cui first per­formed that song.

When the con­cert was an­nounced in Bei­jing re­cently, his fans were ec­static.

Zhang Youdai, a vet­eran DJ, who was the host of the press con­fer­ence in Bei­jing, says: “When Cui blew our minds with his mu­sic in 1986 I was a fresh­man at the Cen­tral Academy of Drama.

“Now, decades later, I or­ga­nize live shows at uni­ver­si­ties, which is away to pay trib­ute to Cui.”

It’s al­ways im­por­tant for singer-song­writ­ers to get close to young peo­ple and get their feed­back.

Speak­ing of the 1986 per­for­mance, an­other of Cui’s fans, Zhang Jin, who was then study­ing at Pek­ing Univer­sity, says: “I was there when Cui per­formed that song in 1986, and now I am stand­ing next to him.”

Zhang, who was at the press con­fer­ence, and who plans to be at the up­com­ing show with his univer­sity class­mates who were at the 1986 con­cert, says: “Over 100 stu­dents from Pek­ing Univer­sity, who were rocked by Cui’s mu­sic 30 years ago, plan to come in from dif­fer­ent parts of the world to at­tend the con­cert. He is a re­minder of what it was like when we were young.”

But un­fazed by the adu­la­tion, Cui, 55, wear­ing his trade­mark white cap with a red star on it, says he is “the big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary of the song”.

He makes that point when he says: “Whenyou com­pare it with my other work, Noth­ing to My Name is not the best I have done.

“But thanks to that era, when young peo­ple needed that kind of en­ergy and the mes­sage de­liv­ered by that song, it be­came a hit and I be­came fa­mous.

“The song is a col­lec­tive me­mory. But I pre­fer to re­mind peo­ple about the other songs I have writ­ten,” he says, re­fer­ring to songs, such as Rock ’N’ Roll on the New Long March and Green­house Girl.

Mean­while, an­other rea­son why Cui is ex­cited about the up­com­ing show is be­cause he will be per­form­ing with Ste­wart Copeland, the drum­mer of the leg­endary rock band The Po­lice.

Speak­ing of the up­com­ing show, Copeland says in a video he recorded in Switzer­land for the press con­fer­ence: “I am very ex­cited to be in China for the first time, not just as a tourist but also as a part of Cui’s con­cert.

“It will be an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me to learn about the coun­try by play­ing with the artist.

“I can’t wait to be there. I have so many ques­tions about China.”

Re­fer­ring to Copeland’s ap­pear­ance at the show, Cui says: “When I thought about guest per­form­ers, I wanted to have some­one who in­spired me mu­si­cally.

“Copeland is def­i­nitely one of them,” says Cui, adding that one of his fa­vorite al­bums is

The Rhyth­ma­tist by Copeland. Copeland recorded the al­bum in Africa in 1984, and it fea­tures African per­cus­sion and other mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.

“Copeland is known for reg­gae-in­flu­enced drum­ming. I like reg­gae and I hope we can re­ar­range some of my new songs and also The Po­lice’s songs.

“If it’s pos­si­ble, I also want to sing with him,” says Cui.

De­spite his achieve­ments, Cui, a clas­si­cally trained singer-song­writer, who joined the Bei­jing Sym­phony Or­ches­tra in 1981 as a trum­pet player, hates to wal­low in past glory.

What matters to him is the fu­ture.

Also, Cui’s achieve­ments are not just restricted to mu­sic. Be­sides mu­sic, Cui has also starred in movies, such as The Sun Also Rises, di­rected by

award-win­ning film­maker Jiang Wen in 2007.

Cui also re­leased his di­rec­to­rial de­but, Blue Sky Bones, in 2013, which fea­tures his own mu­sic.

On the mu­sic front, Cui re­leased his lat­est al­bum, Frozen Light, in2015. Re­garded as his mu­si­cal come­back, and 10 years af­ter

Show Your Color, the lat­est al­bum ex­plores the theme of light, dark­ness and space with tracks such as Fish and Bird,

Out Side Girl and Cool Melon Tree.

The al­bum re­ceived mixed re­views.

Cui says he had ex­pected this, adding: “I do ex­per­i­ments with my mu­sic and I be­lieve in the longevity of my mu­sic.

“It takes a long time for me to com­plete a song and each of my songs needs a pro­cess of di­ges­tion.

“There are many songs which be­come pop­u­lar overnight. But this kind of re­ac­tion dies soon.

“My songs are not like that. I don’t re­ally care about ti­tles like ‘god­fa­ther’. It is some­thing up there and not real. It has noth­ing to do with the real me. I pre­fer be­ing a real per­son.”

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Cui Jian will hold a con­cert Rolling30 at Bei­jingWork­ers’ Sta­dium on Sept 26 to mark the 30th an­niver­sary of a per­for­mance that made him fa­mous.

GENG YUHE / FOR CHINA DAILY

Cui per­forms in a con­cert in Lianyun­gang, Jiangsu prov­ince, in 2015.

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