Brooklyn/Beijing/Tokyo/Pyongyang: Rock ‘n Roll Can Rescue the World

Chuck Kraus carries some great links and analysis of the current academic and popular craze for Chinese “underground” rock music:

Then we have the Japanese band Electric Eel Shock, who have been rocking audiences for years, with their song “Rock ‘n Roll Can Rescue the World.”  I was fortunate to hear this band in 2005 on their first North American tour in a gritty Beachland Ballroom outside of Cleveland Ohio in the middle of a raging blizzard that left the band playing for a screaming crowd of about twenty people, but they rocked like it was a giant, packed, arena.  Completely unforgettable.

After the show, I spent some time chilling with the band over an icy PBR.  I asked them, “Have you performed in China?”  (One of their albums starts with a song entitled “Give Me Chinese Food.”)

“Oh, yes,” they nodded vigorously, “but the government asked us not to come back.”

“Why is that?” I asked, realizing that there was very little specific political content in the songs.

“Well, it’s him,” the guitarist said, pointing out the drummer.  “He doesn’t like to wear clothes during concert.”  I think you will see what I mean.

On classical music, I contributed some thoughts on a New York Times blog on Guitar Hero (scroll down for the comment) and found a wonderful story of a French Horn player who ended up in Pyongyang with the New York Philharmonic last year.

Thomas Joestlin, French Horn, fresh from "the geopolitical rabbit hole"

Besides the fact that he took 54 auditions before getting the gig with New York, the money quote from his interview is:

…during the concert, we played the North Korean anthem and then the American national anthem, and the Koreans gave us a huge ovation. It was very moving. Ultimately, I don’t know whether the visit did any good. As a boy, I once visited relatives in communist East Germany, so I thought I’d be prepared to visit another communist nation. I was wrong. East Germany seemed like a paradise compared to North Korea.

Maybe Rock n’ Roll won’t rescue the world after all?  No, just oust that thought!  Read some Stephen Epstein on Korean punk music!  And get that naked drummer to Pyongyang, pronto!

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