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1. Black Panther (黑豹乐队)
Not to be confused with the famous box office superhero movie, the Black Panthers were established in 1987 and are one of the earliest and most influential pop-rock bands in China. If you want to know Chinese rock music, start with Black Panther. Ever since the band was founded, the Black Panthers have changed more than ten lead vocalists, but with the addition of lead singer Zhang Qi (张淇) they’ve created a new style and charm to this middle-aged band. The Black Panthers guided many rock and roll youths in the 1990s, and they still maintain their pure love for music now and continue to shine on stage.
2. The Flower (花儿乐队)
The Flower debuted in 1998 as the first teenage band in China, utilizing the unique sound that could only be found in teenage rock. Wowkie Zhang (大张伟), the main vocalist of the band who was still in middle school at the time, pointed out the generational disconnect in Rock. He said that although it was good he "couldn’t understand it very well." The Flower broke into the music scene singing about the confusion teenagers experience during adolescence and the burning hearts hiding under school uniforms rebelling against society. Their music soon replaced the old rock that only sung songs reminiscing about the past. However, as a group of Beijing natives, their songs still contain a lot of traditional Chinese music elements with one of the main elements being Beijing rhyme drum elements to further distinguish their sound from others.
The Flower is sometimes like a group of rowdy children just out of school, running on the streets with their school bags on their backs. Sometimes they are like sleepy classmates sitting in class at 2:30pm, gazing out the window, with math books full of mindless doodles. The Flower brings out the adolescent that has been made dormant and rekindles the youthful fire in its listeners’ hearts.
3. Omnipotent Youth Society (万能青年旅店)
Omnipotent Youth Society is an indie rock band from Shijiazhuang (石家庄) founded in the late ‘90s. Despite being a niche rock band, they are recognized and praised by many renowned singers in the Chinese music industry. The regional style of Hebei is vividly reflected in their songs. Omnipotent Youth Society always show the multi-faceted sides of themselves with the mix of sounds used in their music. They’ve even been described as "romantic, woeful, persisting through the new century, out of touch with the times, realistic" with their lyrics and song composition. Omnipotent Youth Society's songs describe the lives of ordinary people who are not willing to be ordinary in an ambiguous time that is bright yet uncertain; quite an accurate representation of society even to this day.
4. The Wild Children (野孩子)
The Wild Children is a Chinese folk band founded in 1995, consisting of 5 members. As a local band that came out of the vast land of Lanzhou (兰州), The Wild Children know very well how to portray the pure and natural beauty of China. The first time I listened to the acoustic version of The Wild Children, I was shocked. The music is a perfect blend of harmony and soundtrack, and blends into the unique traditional Chinese folk music genre with rich folk colors. From the slight bitter coldness to the comforting warmth of the vast northwest lands surge to my head when listening to their music, truly a soul cleansing experience when surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the big apple.
5. Landlord's Cat (房东的猫)
Landlord's Cat is a relatively recent folk group in mainland Chinese, established in 2013 by two young girls who came into the public eye with just a microphone and a guitar. Their songs are like a warm summer’s breeze, bringing leisure and comfort to people overwhelmed by this era of constant news, events, and drama.
Put on some headphones and imagine yourself stretched out on a warm sunny afternoon as you listen to their singing slowly flow into your ears. Just like the name of their group, channel your inner cat self as you lay on the grass, squinting and enjoying the sunshine through the branches.
Thank you to the wonderful Xiaoxuan Laoshi for sharing her music expertise with us and expanding Manhattan Mandarin's taste in music. With her help, we are able to dive into the histories of rock bands in Mainland China and come out with a more refined palate for music. It is our pleasure to be a platform for her extensive knowledge.
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