Biography of CUI JIAN
Cui Jian, born on August 2 into an ethnically Korean family, is immediately
surrounded by an environment of music and dance. His father is a professional
trumpet player and his mother a member of a Korean minority dance troupe.
Begins learning trumpet at age 14.
Lands a job as a classical trumpet player with the prestigious Beijing
Philharmonic Orchestra. By this time Cui Jian has also become smitten
by the Western rock and roll he is hearing on tapes spirited into the
country by tourists and foreign students. Inspired by the likes of Simon
and Garfunkel, and John Denver, he learns to play guitar and is soon singing
Cui Jian and six other classical musicians form the band - Seven-Ply Board
- playing western pop songs in small restaurants and hotels around Beijing.
It is one of the first bands of its kind in China. This year Cui Jian
also records his first album, Langzigui - a record of syrupy Chinese
pop ballads. Cui Jian does not contribute lyrics and the quality of the
recording is thoroughly substandard. However, the record's attempts at
progressive arrangements and inventive production are fresh experiments
in the world of Chinese pop music. They provide the earliest glimpse of
Cui Jian's musical character as it will later emerge. By the mid-1980's
the bulk of western rock music has found its way into China's cultural
underground and The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, and The
Police are influencing Cui Jian to try his own hand at rock'n'roll. His
earliest effort is a rock/rap number entitled "It's Not That I Don't
Cui Jian first attracts attention with an appearance in a Beijing talent
contest. Even at this early stage in his career, Cui Jian's songs show
a preoccupation with weightier issues than the usual gauzy romantic fantasies
expressed in the pop ballads of the day. He dares to address such sensitive
topics as individualism and sexuality. To a generation numbed by the deadening
propaganda of the Cultural Revolution, the honesty of Cui Jian's lyrics
is like a clarion call. And crucially, Cui Jian's tunes rock with an authenticity
that other Chinese rockers have not yet successfully internalized.
In May, at a Beijing concert commemorating the Year of World Peace, Cui
Jian climbs onto the stage in peasant clothing and belts out his latest
composition, "Nothing To My Name". As the song ends, a stunned
audience erupts in standing ovation. Before long, young people all over
China are banging out Cui Jian tunes on beat-up guitars in campus dormitories
Cui Jian officially leaves the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra. He begins
working with ADO, an innovative Beijing band that includes two renegade
foreign embassy employees - Hungarian bassist Kassai Balazs and Madagascan
guitarist Eddie Randriamampionona. These and other foreign musicians introduce
Beijing musicians to reggae, blues, and jazz, and their participation
brings a rhythmic dynamism to Cui Jian's rough-hewn tunes. With ADO, Cui
Jian releases what he considers to be his first real album, Rock'N'Roll
On The New Long March. The album includes the first recording of "Nothing
To My Name" which remains Cui Jian's best known and most beloved
At the same time as Cui Jian is making a name for himself at home, he
is also beginning to receive recognition from abroad. He performs "Nothing
To My Name" in a special live world-wide broadcast for the 1988 Olympic
Games in Seoul.
Cui Jian participates in the first Asian Popular Music Awards in London,
as well as the "Printemps de Bourges" Festival in Paris.
Cui Jian releases his second album, Solution, consisting of songs
written prior to 1989. Continuing to experiment with his sound, Cui Jian
produces Solution with a new band formed from Beijing's growing
community of rock musicians, as well as Japanese guitarist Amari Kyosuke
who is living in Beijing.
One track from Solution entitled "Wild in the Snow" is
made into an MTV video which receives an MTV International Viewers' Choice
Award and becomes an instant hit throughout Asia. Cui Jian gives his first
performance in Tokyo.
Cui Jian and and sixth generation film-maker Zhang
Yuan jointly produce the experimental film, Beijing Bastards.
In it Cui Jian plays the role of an underground Beijing rock musician
named Cui Jian. He scores the movie's soundtrack. He also performs in
Germany and Switzerland on tours with Chinese rock bands Cobra and Tang
Cui Jian releases his third album, Balls Under The Red Flag, featuring
exceptional performances from saxophonist, Liu Yuan, and guitarist, Eddie
Randriamampionona. The record also highlights a three-piece rhythm section
incorporating traditional Chinese percussion and oil drums. He plays a
four-city tour of Japan to support the album's release. The tour receives
tremendous response from both the Japanese media and audiences. In the
same year Cui Jian makes his American debut at the Bumbershoot festival
Cui Jian is invited to Japan again and plays at the prestigious Budokan
Theater in Tokyo. In the autumn, Cui Jian and the Balls Under The Red
Flag band embark on their first tour of the United States, performing
at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, The Orpheum Theatre in Boston,
as well as The Palladium, The Bottom Line, and The Knitting Factory in
New York City. The tour receives major press coverage and favorable reviews
from the likes of Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Village Voice,
The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, People, Rolling Stone,
MTV, CBS, PBS, and CNN.
Cui Jian and band participate in Denmark's Roskilde Music Festival. Plays
over a dozen concerts in China including Hong Kong.
Release of the underground hit single "Get Over That Day" as
well as an anthology of greatest hits from the last decade. Produces debut
album for Beijing art-rock ensemble, ZiYue. Performs to a sold-out crowd
Cui Jian releases fourth album, The Power Of The Powerless. A work
of digital avant-rock, this record is a marked departure from his previous
efforts. Harnessing the semantic density of rap music, Cui Jian sketches
China's changing social and economic landscape at the end of the 20th
century. He plays 14
shows this year including a sold-out concert in Kuala
1999: Second tour of the USA. Performances at WOMAD Festival in Seattle, The Mayan Theater in Los Angeles, MIT's Kresge Auditorium in Boston, The Bowery Ballroom and Central Park SummerStage in New York City, as well as South Fork Ranch in Dallas and City Stage in Atlanta. In China re-releases his first album, Rock'N'Roll On The New Long March. He plays a total of 22 shows this year.
2000: Cui Jian writes music for the soundtrack of Jiang Wen's controversial movie "Devils At The Doorstep" and attends the movie's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Cui Jian also plays the role of a country music teacher in "The Feelings of Heaven and Earth" directed by Yu Zhong. Cui Jian performs on television and a major stage in Beijing for the first time in 7 years. The Dutch ambassador presents Cui Jian with the prestigious Prince Claus Award for artistic endeavours in the developing world. He plays a total of 28 shows in China this year
2001: For Chinese New Year Cui Jian makes a short tour of Europe, playing medium-sized venues in 4 cities. In February he premieres his dance musical Show Your Colors produced with film director, Zhang Yuan, and the Hong Kong Modern Dance Company. In August Cui Jian tours Europe again playing small clubs and major music festivals in in Cui Jian plays 24 shows this year.
2002: Cui Jian plays shows overseas in Pusan, Seoul, Atlantic City, and New York City early in the year. By summer he organizes and plays the SNOW MOUNTAIN MUSIC FESTIVAL in Lijiang, Yunnan - dubbed the "Chinese Woodstock", the event is the highest altitude music festival in the world. In the last part of the year Cui Jian launches his "Anti-Lipsyncing Movement" - a series of musical/speaking events at universities and other venues thoroughout China aimed at raising public awareness about the insidious practice of lipsyncing pervading China's media. Cui Jian plays 23 shows this year.
Written by Matthew Corbin Clark & Dennis Rea
©2000 Beijing Eastwest Productions