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Chinese Rock Star Cui Jian Refuses to Sing Under Censorship

Chinese rock star Cui Jian is not likely to perform this year at China’s spring gala show due to authorities’ requirement that he censor his lyrics.   

There has been speculation about Cui performing at the spring gala show since the beginning of January. Cui’s agent told the New York Times earlier this week that there’s possibility that Cui could perform if no cuts to his songs were required.

The invitation to sing at the spring gala had surprised many due to his controversial role as a rock singer in China. His song “Nothing to My Name” became an anthem for student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In the 1990s, the government banned his performance in big venues due to the political content of his lyrics.

Cui Jian's CD cover "nothing to my name"

Cui Jian's CD cover “nothing to my name”

The Spring Festival Gala Show has been China’s most watched entertainment show as families have the traditional of watching it on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

However, the show has lost its appeal among younger generations during the past few years due to its cheesy and patriotic performances and the rise of online entertainment. Many think the invitation to Cui is an attempt to revive the show.

Cui’s fans have expressed mixed feelings on Chinese social media. While many think it might be a good opportunity for rock and roll to grow in China, some worry Cui’s involvement with the propaganda-style show will damage the rock and roll spirit.

On Sina Weibo, China's most popular microblogging website, “Han Haoyue” wrote [zh]:  

崔健上春晚,是意识形态层面的放开。2014摇滚有复苏的迹象,精神生活苍白的中产阶级需要点摇滚的刺激,舆论场的强大能量会推动摇滚重回娱乐中心。

Cui Jian on the spring gala show means the opening up of ideology. There will be a comeback of rock and roll in 2014, the bored middle class need some stimulation from rock, powerful public opinion will push rock back into the center of entertainment.

However, others disagreed. “Paihuan de Suiliang” wrote [zh]: 

乌托邦永远是小众的乐园。 一旦,它被主流接受很多事情将被改变,会被利用被捆绑,像美国就有很多这样的主流乐队。 摇滚终究属于操场和露天舞台,所以解决的办法是所有乐队一起上春晚,或者直接把春晚改成迷笛。

Utopia always belongs to a small minority. Once rock was accepted by the mainstream, it will be taken advantage of and controlled, just like many mainstream bands in the US. Rock eventually belongs on the playground and open air stage, so the solution is for all bands to join spring gala, or change the show directly to the Midi music festival.

“Xin Changzheng Lushang” echoed the same sentiment:

崔健代表着时代,但是在这种场合这个时段唱自己的歌总觉得有所不搭,崔健的歌没有那么多温暖和妥协,更多的是力量,是挽歌,是思考,所传颂的东西不是春晚这种场合所能驾驭的了的。

Cui Jian represents the times, but singing his own songs on this occasion doesn't seem suitable. Cui Jian's songs don't show warmth or compromise, they're more of a force, an elegiac, and thoughts, not something that the spring gala show can tame and control.

For most fans, they just want to see Cui on the stage. “Chibuzhe tiefanwan” wrote: 

首先崔健上春晚舞台对于摇滚乐的发展没有实质性的意义。春晚严肃性的政治舞台,其实并不适合摇滚乐。其次是选曲问题,十年禁演到上春晚,正如丁丁说社会批叛力会减少。不过看着电视等着崔健的出现对我们来说也是一挺幸福的事儿。

First, Cui Jian at the spring gala show won’t have any significance for the development of rock music. The spring gala is a serious political arena, which is not suitable for rock and roll. Second, the problem with selecting songs, from being banned for a decades to the invitation to the gala show, the rebel spirit and critical force will be reduced. However, the idea of watching Cui Jian on TV is still a happy one.

“Gu feng” predicted danger: 

崔健上春晚具有示范作用,会强力促进摇滚乐队的自我审查。投机、妥协、寻找中间路线将成为中国摇滚乐创作的参照,揭露、发泄、批判等核心摇滚元素在党媒带来的声誉和利益面前亦将远离摇滚。以后我们听到的摇滚可能只是编曲上的摇滚而不是一种人生态度。可以想像在CCTV的舞台上,一群留长发、穿皮夹克的人声嘶力竭的歌唱祖国。

If Cui Jian does well on the show, it will strongly promote the self-censorship of rock bands. Speculation, compromise, and looking for the middle route will become part of Chinese rock, while the exposing, the venting, and the critical elements will stay away from rock given the reputation and interests of the [Chinese Communist] Party. Then we could only hear superficial rock rather than rock as an attitude for life. Can you imagine a group of people with long hair and leather jackets praising our country on the [China Central Television] stage?

Check out one of Cui Jian's songs “A piece of red cloth”

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