Strong like a rock

Updated: 2012-11-29 14:12

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Chinese veteran rocker, Cui Jian, has been entertaining his fans for 26 years. Chen Nan catches up with him on his upcoming concert and plans.

Chinese godfather of rock 'n' roll, Cui Jian, plans to open a security guard company.

Strong like a rock 

Cui Jian, known as the Chinese rock 'n' roll godfather, wants to change the perception of rock music in China. Feng Yongbin / China Daily 

His intention is triggered by his observation at rock concerts in China, where security guards are seen stopping audiences from standing up and interacting with the performers.

"The concept about security guards is confused here. Security guards should be those who are paid to protect audiences and performers," asserts the 51-year-old.

"I want to have a company to train people to become real security guards - serving instead of controlling the audiences and guaranteeing that the audience has a good time."

Wearing his trademark white cap with a red star on it, Cui reveals his idea during a press conference in Beijing to promote his upcoming concert at Mastercard Center, the former Wukesong Arena, on Dec 15.

He also wants to change the perception of rock music.

"Rock music has been considered noisy and dangerous in China for the longest time.

"But I can tell you that rock fans are very peaceful, pure and simple, just like rock music itself. They shouldn't be managed in my concert," Cui adds.

It has been 26 years since Cui launched his debut, Nothing to My Name, which became an instant hit and turned Cui, who was 25 years old then, into a legend.

His reputation as a rock star remains strong up till today.

The musician is proud to say that he has never stopped performing in live shows, either at small venues or on big stages.

Thinking and moving on to new ideas, he says, are just as important as keeping an onstage presence.

One of his new ideas was to use color to describe the various elements of rock music and life. In his 2005 album, Show You Color, Cui used red to signify rock music, blue for electronic music and yellow for pop music.

The lyrics of his song, Blue Bone, go: "Red, yellow and blue represent human being's heart, body and wisdom".

Cui hopes to transform his upcoming concert, also titled Blue Bone, from red to blue, which to him represents wisdom and free spirit.

"Blue also means freedom and innovation for music and thoughts."

Blue Bone is also the name of Cui's first film, as a director. To be released in early 2013, he wrote the plot in 2005 when he released the album Blue Bone.

Divided into three parts, it tells the story of a young underground rocker and network hacker who encountered an unknown singer. The two found out their parents' sad love story during the years of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

"I wasn't trained in filmmaking. I made the film like how I would sing a rock song, telling stories in my own way," Cui says.

"I did not have commercial pressure from the film market. If I had, I wouldn't have done it."

Many of Cui's fans go to his concerts for his old tunes, but Cui always surprises them with new elements.

In 2009, he used strong visual effects at his concert at Beijing Exhibition Center Theater. Then a year later, Cui collaborated with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra to present rock music with a classical music approach.

For the upcoming show, he has prepared a line-up, both familiar and unfamiliar to the audience, including some of his classics like A Piece of Red Cloth and Nothing to My Name, and new songs like The Lost Season, which was featured in director Ning Hao's film Guns and Roses.

Audience will get a preview of his new song from his 2013 album, titled Girls Out There, which has English lyrics in it. The song is about a village boy from the farm who longs to see the outside world.

"The English lyrics are not designed for foreign listeners, but to create a fusion effect," he says. "I don't design my music intentionally. All the elements I used serve the music.

"I want to try new ideas. Even when I sing Nothing to My Name today, I want to remix it with different musical ideas. But I will keep to the melody," he adds.

Off stage, Cui says he spends his spare time watching various shows, from young local rock bands to modern dance performances.

He also likes hanging out with his old friends, like Liu Yuan, the renowned saxophonist, whom Cui befriended during his days with the Beijing Song and Dance Troupe.

He doesn't smoke, and usually drinks a little before performing, according to You You, Cui's long-time agent, who is also his good friend.

"His life is simpler than most people's. He is an artist living for art's sake."

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