Wednesday, 24 October 2012

On Beijing Punk

We often think of punk music and chinese people as polar opposites, but it has recently come to light that these two can sometimes merge into one and produce some of the most promising punk rock bands, at least according to Shaun Jefford's documentary "Beijing Punk".

His documentary follows a few Beijing based punk groups: Demerit, Misandao and Hedgehog. All three are underground punk bands and all three of them have the same motto: truth. What you find in common between these bands is not the anti-Chinese government lyrics but rather a search to expose truth and to "stay real", in their own words. When asked if they wanted to become famous and live the lives of real punk rockstars, they simply answered " We just want to stay true". A nice philosophy nicely put in action when we see their houses and their recording studios. Most of these bands share a little flat in the dark areas of Beijing, but admit they wouldn't trade it for anything. Between the lack of financial support, the censorship from the government and the bad reputation they have to deal with (Misandao, in particular, have been known to strike fights during their concerts), these punk artists are finding it a real struggle to have their music streamed internationally. All three bands sing in English about their conditions of living, the Chinese mentality, and of course, alcohol and drugs.

What is striking about these young adults (Demerit and Hedgehog) is that even though they might have some recognition in the punk underground scene of Beijing, they still really are trying to have fun with everything they do. The documentary follows several of them on a night out, drinking cough syrup to get high, illegally smoking weed on the outskirt of Beijing, and generally waking up with no memory of the previous night. A particularly funny incident occurred when the cameraman drank too much cough syrup and Chinese "Bai Jiou" (A strong chinese alcohol that "kills you if you drink too much of it"), and consequently ended up in the hospital for a diabetic shock.

When asked about the Chinese government, the chinese Olympics and their way of living, most of them are completely lucid and aware of what is happening. They sing about it in their songs, but rather than calling themselves rebels or anarchists they simply call themselves musician. All of them make a point of making themselves apolitical when it comes to governments, although one does get the sense that everything they say is doused with double-meanings and innuendos. On one occasion, Misandao's manager had to censor some words for fear of being caught by the government, who greatly disregards the Chinese punk scene.

Not all chinese punk bands struggle to strive internationally, Misandao has toured in Germany and Hedgehog just finished their American tour. As to Demerit, they were denied Visas and are still trying to perform in Europe. 

What finally emerges from this documentary and these punk "skinheads" screaming Oi is their will to explore, to live passionately and to produce good music. As the lead singer of Demerit said : "We don't care about the future". Rather focus on the good right now, right in front of us.

Watch the trailer here: Bejing Punk

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