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Festival Putting Rock and Roll on the Map of China
2006-05-09 09:09:06      AFP
Over 20 years after the so-called birth of Chinese rock and roll, music promoter Zhang Fan and his legions of metal, punk and hip hop bands believe the time is finally ripe for a major breakthrough.

Around 30,000 people attended the opening day of the Midi Music Festival in Beijing, seen here, last week, which in its seventh year has now firmly established itself as the nation's most successful rock event(AFP/File)

Around 30,000 people attended the opening day of the Midi Music Festival in Beijing last week, which in its seventh year has now firmly established itself as the nation's most successful rock event.   

For the past two years the event has been held during the May Day holiday in Haidian Park, right next to Peking University, with over 45 bands on this occasion belting out their tunes on four stages over four energy-packed days.   

Most of the bands -- with names such as Twisted Machine, Nuclear Fusion and Miserable Faith -- were made up of musicians in their 20s from across China, while 14 were overseas acts.   

Around 75,000 people attended the festival in total, according to organizers.   

Zhang, the event's promoter and principal of the Beijing Midi School of Music, partly attributed the success to a slow awakening by authorities that rock music was not a threat.   

"In the past the government restricted the development of rock and roll, but things are changing now, the government might not always support rock and roll but at least there are a lot less restrictions," Zhang told AFP.   

This year's festival was the easiest to organize because Beijing's Haidian district government actually encouraged the event, according to Zhang.   

"The Haidian government is now saying they want the Midi Festival to be part of the image of the district, they want a yearly festival," Zhang said.   

"I would say that they now see rock and roll as entertainment and not as social instability."   

This is seen as a major breakthrough after years of festivals being cancelled at the last minute by nervous officials and police fearing social chaos would erupt as soon as an angry amped-up guitar player mounted the stage.   

"I would say that the role of the Midi Festival in developing rock and roll in China has been to let the government know that rock and roll is not dangerous," Zhang said.   

"We have advocated more tolerance for rock bands and we want equal treatment with other music genres for air play on the (state-controlled) television and radio."   

Even after 20 years, there is still no radio station dedicated to rock music, with very little coverage on television and only a smattering of rock magazines.   

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