China / My China Story

Rocking Huaihua

By Patrick Globe ( Updated: 2013-01-21 09:41

China Daily website is inviting foreigner readers to share your China Story! and here are some points that we hope will help contributors.

Rocking Huaihua

Patrick (2nd from L) with the guys in his band

"Okay, guys, let's pick up the tempo on this one a little."  As I speak, my rhythm guitarist, a rail-thin twentysomething with a shadow of a mustache, looks up at me.

"Okay." He nods and goes back to tuning his guitar.


I look over at my girlfriend, who nods and starts chattering away in her perpetually, almost incurably, cheerful manner. I've no idea of what she's saying, but after a solid minute of smiling, giggling, and slightly deranged arm flapping, the light of comprehension is brightly aglow above my band-mates' heads.

"Got it, man!"

As we practice, I can't help but smile right along with my girl. I've known these men for no more than a few weeks, but they're quick studies and hard working. And we've gone from being four guys without any songs in common and who couldn't say more than half a dozen words to each other to being a tight four-piece band (the members of which still can't say more than half a dozen words to each other). But the language barrier isn't as much of a problem as you might expect. If you're patient and have a good ear, you can teach (or learn) songs purely by watching and listening. It helps if you can tell everybody what key you're in, but we all understand that much, and my ever-patient girlfriend/interpreter/babysitter never fails to get the more complex ideas across.

People start to gather around the stage, and my brother—also a teacher here—is out there amongst them, slithering about in the way that skinny dudes naturally do and snapping photos with a behemoth of a camera that looks like it would break his neck if he were to actually let it hang from its straps.

The show starts in about an hour, and the dusty sky is streaked with a deep red light. We are nearly ready.


When I arrive in Hunan, I consider my musical prospects with caution. In fact, in my first month or two in the province, I come to doubt if anyone here has even heard of Rock. Music is all around, but the Mandopop and romance-and-heartbreak-soaked crooning that is forever being piped into the ears of my pint-sized students appeals to me almost as little as do the hour-long dance tracks that every motorcycle cabbie seems to relish blasting from the back of his oh-so-stylish 125cc hog. And with six years of experience teaching guitar and bass back in the States, I begin to wonder if I've made a mistake, if what I do is so alien to the people here that they simply will never understand, much less care for, it. Nevertheless, I copy twenty of what I consider to be my best Rock and Metal songs to a flash drive and give it to one of my school's music teachers, who promises he'll pass it around.

So I'm but slightly surprised when a red-haired hipster approaches me on an absurdly hot afternoon as I sweat my way to the canteen and asks, "You, Goble?"

"One of them."

"Huh?" He looks confused.

"Yeah. I'm Goble."

"You rock!"

"Oh," I think for a beat before I respond, "Xièxiè."

I remember (too late) that using Chinese with strangers is a bit of a risk, as the listener is as likely as not to take your first two words as proof of fluency in both Mandarin and the local huà (dialect). So I stand in the sun, looking politely befuddled as said hipster makes his impassioned, if incomprehensible, plea until one of my polyglot Ukrainian friends notices us, stops, and proceeds to interpret between his third language (Chinese) and his second (English) with considerable aplomb. It isn't much of a challenge for him, as he's not only fluent in Chinese and English, but in Metal as well, and in my previous conversations with him, I've gathered that any bands softer than Stone Sour are considered easy listening in Ukraine and shunned by all self-respecting men and boys (and a good deal of the equally formidable women).

I learn that my instant buddy is a drummer, he already has a band, he's heard (and likes) my music, and he is in dire need of a lead guitarist, so I agree to meet him later in the week for a jam session, purely to see how it goes.


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