Heard a story on NPR the other day that combines two of my favorite subjects, Reggae and China. Sorry, but I just cannot pass up the opportunity to post on Bob Marley, of whom I am such a fan that at one point in my life I had the goal of collecting all recordings of the song, Get Up, Stand Up. Of all the people who did that song — other than Bob Marley — the best was by a group called the Butts Band, led by John Densmore and Robby Krieger, both of whom had been with the Doors.
Marley’s songs were slyly (and sometimes not so slyly) revolutionary. The NPR piece focused on how Bob Marley’s famed album, Legend is now on sale in China, nearly a quarter-century after it was released in the West. The piece focused on the question of whether reggae will “retain its political underpinnings in China, or is it all about the rhythm?” This Slate article claims marijuana smoking college students in America have already weakened Marley’s political impact, but I digress.
Some say that if there’s a Bob Marley figure in China, it has to be Cui Jian, who is known as the “Father of Chinese Rock and Roll.” Cui Jian rose to fame in the 1980s, singing about the plight of China’s everyday people. The government banned him from playing large concerts until recently. He dismisses the suggestion that he could be Bob Marley’s Chinese equal.
“Don’t make that comparison, I’m embarrassed to even think about it that way,” Cui says. “Maybe you could say we are his heirs, that we’ve inherited a part of his legacy. His influence was an element of our success.”
Reggae and China go way back. It was Chinese immigrants to Jamaica who opened some of the first recording studios in Kingston. But can China produce a reggae superstar?
Comments are open. What do you think of China’s music scene now mon?