Rock music takes aim at China's smaller cities

Updated: 2013-08-02 13:38

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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People are talking about second- and third-tier cities, as well as more interior and provincial regions, as the new horizon for growth in China's music festival industry.

Rock Play will be held in Hefei's Three Ruins Park on Aug 23-25 with a lineup of 25 Chinese acts. In the past two festivals, a number of well-known musicians and bands have performed on the festival's two main stages, including Cui Jian, Tang Dynasty, Yip Sai Wing and MC Hotdog.

Rock music takes aim at China's smaller cities

This year, the festival's organizers will introduce a third stage - the Small Stone Stage - to provide student bands and new bands an opportunity to perform. During the festival, tryouts will be conducted and the winners will be able to perform on the big stage.

"For me, the big difference when I go to these festivals in China is truly in the festival-goers," says Fontenay, who is based in New York. "I know a lot of people who have been to the Midi festival, but claim to not like rock."

Instead, Fontenay says most Chinese go to music festivals purely for the festival experience.

"But through the process, they are being introduced to other forms of music, even if it's done natively," he says.

Most acts at these festivals are homegrown rock, punk and hard metal bands.

Fontenay says rock music is not very present on Chinese television or radio, so accessing this kind of music mainly comes by searching the Internet or by attending festivals.

"I think festivals have really led to the growth of independent music in China," Fontenay says. "Whereas radio was the big way for people to discover new music in the US in the old days, festivals in China are the big way to do it."

He says he has also noticed a change in everyday youth culture.

"You've got punks, you've got metal heads, you've got - oh! a diversity that I would suspect 15 years ago these people would have seemed really weird and really would have been marginalized," Fontenay says. "Today, you can walk down Gulou Road in Beijing and see (people wearing) spikes, and it's almost become acceptable."

Fontenay says China's rock is still more of an underground phenomenon that he believes will change in 10-15 years.

"Rock makes people individuals," he says. "You want to look different. That's the whole core of rock. At its core is a rebellion."


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