from: The Australian
August 19, 2002

China's 'Woodstock' rocks on

China's first outdoor music festival rocked on over the weekend with up to 10,000 fans gathered high on the slopes of the 5596m Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in south-western Yunnan province for what has been dubbed the "Chinese Woodstock'.

Despite intermittent rain, rock and roll fans and officials from the government-sponsored event stayed on to watch Chinese and Western rock music well into Saturday night at the high-altitude festival site around 35km north of the picturesque town of Lijiang.

"This has been great, we have been successful in bringing together a lot of people to hear some great music," Cui Jian, China's foremost rock and roll artist and one of the top organisers of the event, told AFP.

"Organising this event has been a mess at times, but it has been a good mess," he said.

Music fans, many from the youthful multinational backpacking crowd that swarm to western Yunnan throughout the year, braved the rain and mud to stay all night for the two-day event, sleeping in tents provided by organisers.

Thousands of local fans, coming from as far away as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Kunming, also flocked to see what has been billed as a music and environmental event in one of China's most beautiful regions.

Cui, 42, known as the father of Chinese rock and roll, has often been banned in China and viewed by the communist government as the bad boy of Chinese music largely due to his use of the rock format and more particularly his politically charged lyrics.

This time, however, his cooperation with the local Lijiang government in pulling off the event has been exceptional, if not unprecedented.

"We've always wanted to do something like this, but Mr Cui Jian came here and proposed this type of concert and really worked to push it forward. We have had a lot of help and expertise from Cui Jian," said Zhang Hongping, vice commissioner of the Lijiang regional government.

"If we are successful with this concert and no problems come up then we will do it again. Of course financially things will have to be economically viable," she told AFP.

Lijiang, nestled in a spectacularly scenic area just east of the Tibetan plateau, is also home to the Naxi ethnic minority, which is renowned for its local Dongba religion, a strong musical tradition as well as its traditionally matriarchal society.

To kick off the festival, an elderly Naxi woman, dressed in the traditional blue and white dress and red turban, sang a spiritual hymn to the mountain as the crowd cheered.

The mountains on Saturday echoed to the sounds of Luo Zhongxu, Zhu Zheqin, Sun Nan, Brain Failure, Spring and Autumn, Dou Wei and Tongue, some of the finest China has to offer in pop, punk, heavy metal and Beijing Opera-based rock.

Dutch band Birgit and South Korea's Lazy Bone were also on the bill.

"Look at all the people here, there are at least 10,000 people, or no less than 7000," He Xianzhong, another of the government organisers of the concert said, in what appeared to be an optimistic estimate.

Some 3 million yuan ($660,000) was needed to pull off the event, he said, with up to half coming from a local government-Hong Kong joint venture golf course near the festival site at Snow Flower Village and the rest coming from local and foreign companies such as Channel V, and the 999 Audio Visual Company Ltd.

"The event has been successful, we are extremely happy and we hope that it can happen again," said Paul Fry, Cui's manager.

"We pulled off this event with the help of a lot of government cooperation, everyone worked together real well, there was no animosity."

Cui's company, Dongxi, was looking forward to promoting more music festivals like the Snow Mountain Music Festival and was hoping to interest more Western acts, he said.