Celebrating Chinese New Year 2016
Cohan Chew

16:51 8th February 2016

8 February 2016: As we celebrate Chinese New Year and welcome in the year of the monkey, we take a look at some of the best bands to come out of China.

When people think of China and music, traditional erhus and high-pitched operatic singing tend to come to mind. Either that, or seedy karaoke bars with bellowing drunkards tend to tar the image of the Chinese music scene.

However, in the entire nation of China’s 1.3 billion people, it seems absurd to think that no amazing new punk or electro bands were birthed. Indeed, China has produced some fantastic rock and roll bands that continue to inspire and shape the Chinese music scene to date.  

From the quirky outfits of Queen Sea Big Shark to the hard rock power anthems of Black Panther to the poetically political lyrics of Zuoxiao Zuzhou, here are 13 of the best rock artists from China.

Happy Chinese New Year!

  • Black Panther - Power chords, shredding guitar solos and heavy riffs are in abundance with this rock band that date back to the late 80s. They were a seminal band during the birth of Chinese rock music and continue to shape the scene today.

  • Mayday - Enshrined as 'the Chinese Beatles', this Taiwanese five piece brought rock and roll to China in the late 90s. They paved the way for bidding Chinese rockers and continue the new generation to pick up their guitars. Mayday has performed over 1000 live concerts to over 10 million fans globally.

  • Hanggai - Hanggai are a Beijing folk group that blend Mongolian folk music with punk rock. It's an interesting and creative infusion that exposes Mongolian culture to Mainland China with the energetic attitude from the likes of Rage Against The Machine.

  • Brain Failure - One of the few Chinese bands to sing in English, Brain Failure is a seminal band from the Beijing punk scene. They have also earned international recognition by touring the US with the Dropkick Murphies, the Unseen and the Street Dogs.

  • Dou Wei - known initially for his work with Black Panther, Dou Wei established his own name for expanding his solo work into the direction of ambience, folk and post-rock. His debut solo album Dark Dreams was influenced heavily by The Cure and Bauhaus, whilst Bark Psychosis influenced his albums.

  • Queen Sea Big Shark - pitythecool.com described the performance of the band's lead singer Fu Han as "almost Bowie-esque" referring to her 80's throwback style and artistic craftsmanship. Many of their songs are performed in English too, which gives their band a more international appeal.

  • Hang on the Box - HOTB were the first all-female Chinese punk band. In an otherwise conservative culture, HOTB tested the boundaries with their sexually driven lyrics and politically forward manner. 'Bitch' from their 2003 album, For Every Punk, Bitch and Arsehole, is indicative of their views.

  • Hedgehog - In 2005, the West was being immersed in an abundance of indie bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and the Kaiser Chiefs. In China, Hedgehog was being born. This Chinese indie band has developed a respectable reputation for their energetic performances and catchy indie songs that would not feel out of place on a western indie album.

  • Beyond - These Hong Kong rockers were formed in 1983, whilst Hong Kong was still an English colony. The band were heavily influenced by Pink Floyd's progressive rock and are now considered to be one of the most successful and influential Cantonese groups, despite the unfortunate passing of their lead singer, Wong Ka Kui in 1993. 'Under A Sky' became the unofficial anthem of the 2014 Hong Kong occupy movement.

  • Silver Ash - More of a visually appealing band, Silver Ash mix the flamboyant styles of Japanese visual kei with dark gothic themes, emphasised with glam rock outfits and hairstyles.

  • Zuoxiao Zuzhou - this poet, novelist and musician founded Beijing's East Village artist community along with activist Ai Weiwei. Today, he is recognised as one of the most creative and experimental Chinese rockers who provides an honest narrative and reflection of contemporary politics. Just like Ai Weiwei, freedom and human rights are high on his agenda and remain prominent in his lyrics.

  • Carsick Cars - Self crowned as the best Chinese indie band, this group reflect the vitality of Chinese youths driven by their newfound artistic freedom. The band were so successful after their debut album that they supported Sonic Youth on their European tour and even performed at South By Southwest. Their songs may not be politically powerful as some of their competitors, but their narrative on government censorship strikes a chord with citizens.

  • Re-TROS - their acronym stands for Rebuilding the Rights of Statues and accordingly, their music is as anti establishment and politically heavy as a Sex Pistols record; war, police, revolutions and protests are all featured in their music. Brian Eno also collaborated with the band on three of their songs after hearing them record in New York.

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Photo: Press