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What Yaogun (Chinese Rock) Can Teach Rock & Roll – A talk by Jonathan Campbell, April 20, 2012


Available for download as audio (.mp3 – 45.0 MB) or video (.m4v – 255.2 MB).

Question and Answer Session

Available for download as audio (.mp3 – 45.0 MB) or video (.m4v – 255.2 MB).

Jonathan Campbell graduated from Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, in 1998 and received a Master’s in International Studies from the Jackson School for International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington in 2000. He moved to Beijing in 2000 to study Chinese and within weeks he began his descent into the local rock world, first, as drummer in several bands and later as chronicler, booster, promoter, agent and then some. Campbell’s writing has appeared in a range of local, national and international media outlets while, beginning around 2005, he turned his attention to putting on gigs and tours for bands from around the world. Over the years, he’s taken and sent rock, folk, punk, classical and metal groups to somewhere in the neighbourhood of two dozen cities across China as well as helping a few Chinese bands get overseas, including garage-punk band Subs (Chinese site), for whom he managed several international tours. He did this work under the banner of YGTwo Productions, and still does. Visit Yaogun 101 for more on Chinese rock and roll.

Campbell has worked on and off with several Chinese music festivals and, since 2005, produced a Jazz Series at Peking in theatres across the country. He has appeared in many documentaries, reports, books, articles and theses, and attended many international music conferences as part of China delegations. He has been called a “stalwart of the Chinese music scene” (China Music Radar); an “instrumental behind-the-scene (figure)” (Beijing Daze); “hutong guru” (Rock in China); “busiest man in Beijing showbiz” (CLUAS.com) and “the Dr. [Norman] Bethune of China’s rock scene” (Tian Jianhua, of punk band Reflector). Kang Mao, vocalist for garage-punk band Subs, said, in the documentary about her band, Rock Heart Beijing, “He’s a good guy. He’s smart, and knows how to drive a car. He is able to bear hardship.”

Red Rock: The Long, Strange March of Chinese Rock & Roll is Campbell’s first book. Rock and roll music has traversed the globe, but nowhere has it met with the kind of reception and treatment as it has in China. Like many Western phenomena, rock slowly and chaotically seeped its way into a nation hungry for and deeply suspicious of contact with the rest of the world, and one still dealing with the devastation of the previous decades. As a growing number of kids got their hands on rare recordings and stole glimpses of this alien culture, a realization set in: Rock didn’t just represent a new chapter in their lives. It was revolutionary – and this was a nation that knew from revolution.

Rock’s journey through the Middle Kingdom echoes the nation’s coming-of-age and meeting with the rest of the world. How the music was processed by its newest – and biggest – fans produced not only a strange path, but also a unique music: Yaogun. Yaogun’s story is not just that of the awakening and rise of the world’s newest superpower, but of the power of the music. The future of the nation will determine yaogun’s path, just as it defined its past. But if yaogun lives up to its potential, it just might change the nation — and rock the world.

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