Biography of CUI JIAN

1961: 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.

1975: Begins learning trumpet at age 14.

1981: 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 in public.

1984: 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 Understand".

1985: 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.

1986: 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 and coffeehouses.

1987: 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 song.

1988: 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.

1989: Cui Jian participates in the first Asian Popular Music Awards in London, as well as the "Printemps de Bourges" Festival in Paris.

: Cui Jian embarks on his Rock'N'Roll On The New Long March tour taking him to arenas throughout the country. Tour profits are to be donated to the upcoming Asian Games in Beijing and huge crowds turn out to see the tour. The tour is cancelled midway, but nevertheless achieves something important in that Cui Jian's appearances inspire the formation of dozens of grass-roots rock bands in China's hinterlands.

1991: 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.

1992: 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.

1993: 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 Dynasty.

1994: 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 in Seattle.

1995: 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.

1996: Cui Jian and band participate in Denmark's Roskilde Music Festival. Plays over a dozen concerts in China including Hong Kong.

1997: 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 in Seoul.

1998: 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 Lumpur.

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.

2003-2007: shows

Written by Matthew Corbin Clark & Dennis Rea
©2000 Beijing Eastwest Productions