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About Cui Jian

The most influential rock musician in China is Beijing-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and vocalist Cui Jian (pronounced Swan Jen). The former leader of Chinese rock band Ado, Jian's music as a soloist has continued to be embraced by the youth of China. His albums have sold more than ten million copies in Asia. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Cui Jian continues to be an inspiration for China's disenchanted youth." Jian's prime inspiration comes not from politics, but from more personal issues. In an interview, he claimed, "I talk about serious things in my heart and people's lives, including, of course, love. But, mostly it's about Chinese culture, the modern culture. They're not political songs. It's just the truth, the modern truth. I talk about our life in China." Much of Jian's affinity for music was inherited from his parents. His father played trumpet and his mother was a member of a Korean minority dance troupe. A child prodigy, Jian began playing trumpet at the age of 14. By his twentieth birthday, he was proficient enough on the instrument that he was invited to join the prestigious Beijing Symphony Orchestra. Although he remained with the group for six years, he became increasingly influenced by American singer/songwriters including Simon & Garfunkel. During breaks from the orchestra, he began to play guitar and sing original songs as a street musician. In 1985, he appeared on a televised talent contest. The orchestra became so incensed by his involvement with pop music that he was officially expelled. When a military officer heard one of his more defiant tunes, Jian was forbidden from performing in public for a year. During that year of banishment, Jian became heavily influenced by American and European rock musicians including Sting, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. Resuming his career, he played briefly with such Chinese rock bands as the Building Blocks before joining Ado, which included two renegade foreign-embassy workers -- bassist Kassai Balasz from Hungary and guitarist Eddie Randriama from Madagascar. In 1986, Jian attracted international attention when he performed "Nothing to My Name" at the World Peace Concert in Beijing. His debut album, Nothing to My Name (Yi Wu Sao You), released in China as Rock and Roll on the New Long March, followed two years later.

In 1989, Jian performed the title track on an internationally televised special program for the Seoul Olympic Games. Following the government crackdown on the demonstrators at Tiananmen Square, Jian maintained a low profile. Disbanding Ado, he assembled a new worldbeat/fusion band. Although he convinced the Chinese government to sponsor a ten-city tour to promote the Asian Games, the tour was canceled after five dates. Jian has been extremely successful with his musical videos. "Wild in the Snow" received an International Viewers Choice award at the MTV music awards in Los Angeles in 1991. The following year, "A Piece of Red Cloth" received a special mention at the Golden Gate Viewers awards ceremonies at the San Francisco Film Festival. In 1993, Jian co-directed, composed the score for, and made a cameo appearance in the Zhang Yuan film, Buying Bastards. In August 1995, Jian performed in the United States for the first time. Members of his band included Lui Yuan (sax), Eddie Luc Lalasoa (guitar), Kong Hong Wei (keyboards), Quan You (drums), Zhang Ling (bass), Zhang Shu (gu Zheng), and Bateerfu (percussion). ~ Craig Harris

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