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Spreading the rock 'n' roll gospel

Updated: 2011-12-02 09:33
By Chen Nan (China Daily)

China's burgeoning music festival scene helps bridge the regional differences when it comes to understanding rock 'n' roll.

In 2010, there were more than 60 music festivals across the country, from the northern grasslands of Inner Mongolia to the southern highlands of Yunnan province.

In 2011, the growth of music festivals has continued, with more than 100 staged across the country.

In December 2011 alone, there will be three outdoor music festivals on in southern cities, including Guangdong province's Shenzhen, Fujian province's Xiamen and Yunnan.

The headliners include the "Godfather of Chinese rock 'n' roll" Cui Jian, rock singer/songwriters Zheng Jun and He Yong, and bands like Miserable Faith and Second Hand Rose.

"We believe the three music festivals will help promote rock music from the North in the southern cities," says Xu Xiaofeng, whose National Music Industry Base has been working with Beijing Beida Jade Bird Co to build a series of platforms for music festivals.

With a 250 million yuan ($39.3 million) investment, the two companies will jointly host 20 music festivals in 20 cities across China in 2012.

"Usually, a music festival gathers some big names and some new faces. But the influence of those bands doesn't last as the music festival ends after several days. What we are going to do is to make the festival longer and more lasting," says Xu, who started preparing the program over a year ago.

"We want to offer fans nonstop enjoyment other media forms, such as rock theme parks and rock music charts, will also be built up."

To cater to the regional differences, organizers will book bands and singers according to local preferences.

Xu says audiences in Shanghai, for example, like Western music. People in the coastal cities are influenced by Hong Kong and Taiwan music.

The one music festival that doesn't have a problem with loyalty is the Midi Music Festival, which began in 2000 as a graduation ceremony for students at Zhang Fan's Beijing Midi Music School.

The small-scale performances later became a cultural phenomenon and paved the way for other music festivals in China. It attracts tens of thousands of fans every year at Beijing's Haidian Park.

When it moved to Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, Southeast China, in 2010, the four-day event drew more than 30,000 people a day.

Second Hand Roses closed the music festival, as fans sang passionately along with their idols.

The lead vocalist Liang Long, who dressed in a flowery skirt and put a red flower on his head, shouted to the crowd: "You love my Dongbei (Northeast) dialect, right?" This conjured waves of shouted approval.

"China is so vast, and it takes time for people living in different regions to accept the same songs," Zhang says.

"I believe the young generation learns fast and is willing to listen to different sounds, which will make rock 'n' roll grow in different cities."

He points out that Second Hand Roses is a good example of this, as they perform northern-style rock 'n' roll but get good feedback from audiences in the South.

"Good music is always the core for success, I believe, though it may take some time," Zhang says.