Chinese Rock Music in 1990s for Freedom Favorite 



Jun 4 1989



The rise of rock and roll in the late 1980 was largely associated with the student movements taking place at the same time. Cui Jian, considered by many to be the godfather of Chinese rock, even performed for the students on hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Despite, Cui Jian’s claim that the “rock is a men’s to make people ‘feel real freedom,’ not institute political reform,”[ii] after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, PRC central authorities banned rock music performances. Even the CCP recognized the economic power popular artists like Cui Jian had though, and allowed him to embark on a huge nationwide tour to raise money for the 1990 Asian Games[iii] Though this ban did not last, it represented the beginning of yaogun yinyue’s long battle with the PRC for legitimacy.

After Cui Jian’s rise to prominence “a generation of Chinese rock emerged in the early 1990s that attracted a relatively large audience in mainland China.”[iv] This generation of yaogun yinyue, though drawing on Western music for inspiration, often used Chinese melodies and instruments or band names like Tang Dynasty that indicated China’s ancient glory. Early Chinese featured electric instruments and strong use of guitar, but created a hybrid and experimental sound as well. It often incorporated elements of folk songs and used traditional Chinese instruments as well and the song’s lyrics were primarily in Mandarin Chinese. Especially in the mid 1990s, song subjects to move away from political activism toward the identity crisis of Chinese youth and personal relationships. This growing pool of yaogun yinyue bands faced many obstacles in continuing their popularity however.

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