SOUND KAPITAL – BEIJING’S MUSIC UNDERGROUND
Over the past decade a new wave of Chinese musicians took Beijing by storm. Working outside of government-controlled media channels, this burgeoning group of performers gigged wherever possible across Beijing’s mutating landscape. They provided an eclectic, but steady stream of punk, experimental, rock, electronic, and folk performances. For now, China remains in a liminal state between the socialist idealism of old and a calamitous drive for wealth spurred by free-market reforms. This seemingly unbridgeable gap tears at the country’s social fabric while provoking younger generations to greater artistic heights, especially in the realm of music. The unique sound emerging from Beijing’s underground illuminates this void, aggressively questioning the moral and social basis of the fragile modernity on which it subsists. In large and densely populated China, patterns of conformity belie an attendant undercurrent of counterculture — people want to stand out from the masses. This increasing tendency toward individualism, coupled with newfound forums for public expression, represents the cornerstone of China’s emerging civil society, as well as the musical outpouring I document here. In a country renowned for creative conformity and saccharine Cantonese pop, they are a fresh, independent, and frequently irreverent voice in Beijing. The Sound Kapital portraits are a comprehensive survey, culled from tens of thousands of photographs of more than a hundred bands, taken over a three year period. They strive to capture a moment in time in China’s musical evolution. Shot against the same red wall in D-22’s back room, the musicians featured are some of the most important contemporary performers emerging from the underground. They constitute a formidable new wave of artists striving to expand their creative limits in an autonomous and compelling fashion. Even though it is too early to tell what may come of the innovative strides made by these musicians, there is no doubt that they will continue to break ground within Beijing’s nascent artistic landscape, helping to push the boundaries of an already expanding realm of independent thought and musical expression in China. Sound Kapital was published as a monograph by PowerHouse Books. Visit the homepage for more information, media coverage, and additional images.