Small Towns Are Hearing Punk (And Seeing Foreigners) For The First Time
Like we said, there's a heavy focus on traditional music in China. Rebellious youth have also grown fond of rap and hip-hop, but these genres aren't always gateways to the wider world. For starters, there are those pesky bans on seditious lyrics. And then some of China's most popular rap songs are so damn patriotic that they go all the way to the other side and become inflammatory toward all outsiders. Take this lovely gem, which starts out with the phrases "stupid foreigners" and "fuck your mothers."
You'd think the government would clamp down on that sort of thing, but it's possible that Chinese censors aren't 100 percent consistent with their standards.
Rock is new to many Chinese audiences, and so are foreigners. It's not unusual for a punk band to perform for an audience that has literally never heard rock music before ... or seen a white person up close and personal. "There's almost a freak show element, in that some people just come to see foreigners, regardless of the music," says The Captain. When people approach band members after shows, they often don't talk about the music. "They just run through some conversational cues to practice their English."
Because of this novelty, punk bands often find themselves sandwiched between bigger acts, like those aforementioned traditional Chinese performers. This means any hip youngsters looking to stick it to the man are forced to share space with chess-playing grandpas who want to hear the bamboo flute music they grew up with. "The promoter," says The Captain, recalling one such show, "told us that the old men at the bar were complaining about the punk bands: 'The singers can't sing!' The age gap between the two audiences present was obvious."
But hiding in the sea of grumpy old men and wide-eyed punk rock virgins is a handful of rebellious youth who absolutely understand the point of the genre, even if they don't understand the lyrics. "This one girl," says Lt. Bugs, "who knew a little bit of English, kept buying us rounds of Tsingtao and baijiu shots and saying 'revolution revolution' over and over to us." She never quite figured out the group's actual name, so she called them the "revolution band." And really, there was no reason to correct her.
Shore Leave appeared in a documentary on this subject alongside Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, The Descendents) and Steve Terreberry. Watch it online for free. Listen to their music and buy their album to support them here. Fight the power with Carolyn on Twitter and Instagram.
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For more on the crazy overseas life, check out The 4 Strangest Things Nobody Tells You About Life in China and 5 Insane Facts Of Life In Rural China.
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