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2007-02-11 Xu Wei
    2007-02-11 17:19:48     CRIENGLISH.com

Broadcasting time: 2007-02-11

  Listen to more on China Beat

Sunny (晴朗) 

The song you’re hearing is called Sunny, from mainland singer/songwriter Xu Wei’s latest album “On the Road”. Composed by Xu Wei, Sunny was originally sung by Lao Lang. And, thanks to its touching melody and lyrics as well as Lao Lang’s delicate vocal performance, the song became a big hit as soon as Lao Lang’s self-titled album hit the stores couple of years ago. Now, with the release of Xu Wei’s own version, we have a chance to discover qualities that come solely from the writer himself.

An Advertisement of singer/songwriter Xu Wei’s latest album “On the Road”. [File Photo: tom.com]

Hailed as a “Musical Poet”, Xu Wei has been pursuing his musical ideals for over ten years. Born in 1968 in the ancient western city of Xi’an, Xu Wei was among the earliest rock artists in China. He began to learn guitar at the age of 16, and won the city’s first guitar contest two years later. Deeply obsessed with music, the rebellious teenager forfeited the chance to sit the university entrance exam in spite of his parents’ objections, and hit the road with his buddies, touring city by city for a whole year. At that time all he wanted, it seems, was to be like his song, “Free and Easy”.

Free and Easy(自由自在)

At the end of 1987, Xu Wei returned home to Xi’an, where he joined the army as a member of the performing arts corps. There, he spent almost his whole day practicing guitar and learning musical theory. Even when he was on point duty, he didn’t let go of his harmonics book. When he was demobilized from the army, he gave up the opportunity to enter a local prestigious military medical university and again chose the lonely road of his musical dream. Now we’re about to hear one of his early trademark songs, Persistence. The song is initially titled “don’t cry, baby”, and it was dedicated to his girlfriend.

Persistence(执着)

After so much solitary musical exploration, Xu Wei finally formed his own band “Fly” in 1993 in Xi’an. At first, their life was very difficult. Xu Wei once recalled that at that time, even getting enough to eat was a big problem for them. Quite often, the five men in the band shared one bowl of noodles. However, with persistence, the band quickly became the most influential rock force in western China. Late in 1993 Fly gave their first public performance at the Xi'an Foreign Language Institute. Three thousand people squeezed into a thousand seater hall to see them. But, out of some reason, the band decided to call it a day the very next year. Enveloped in desperation, Xu Wei wrote the song “Two Days”, to commemorate the short-lived band.

Two Days(两天)

After the band broke up, Xu Wei worked for three months as a radio host at the invitation of a DJ friend. Recommending music was fun, however, his heart was still set on making music. So, taking his DJ friend’s advice, he traveled to Beijing to seek a record contract. Things went well. Soon, he secured a contract with Red Star, an influential label well-known for promoting original music in 90s. In 1994, he released his first single, “Two Days”. But it was not until his debut album “Elsewhere” three years later that he made his name in Beijing. Produced by Zhang Yadong, the album is commonly regarded a rock classic, and here is the title track, Elsewhere.

Elsewhere (在别处)

We’ve just heard the title track of Xu Wei’s debut album, Elsewhere. In the album, the early turbulent life of the singer echoes from the opening track to the very last note, creating an atmosphere of desperate despair. Anyway, just as Xu Wei was trying to build his career in a still somewhat alien metropolis, his collaboration with Red Star collapsed. Disputes over royalties and the renewal of his contract led him to leave the company. This meant not only a commercial breach, but also meant leaving the stimulating communal environment of Red Star, where artists and record company staff all lived and created together in the beautiful setting of Beijing's western hills. This was a big blow to Xu Wei. He wanted success so badly that at this change of fortunes he became depressed. The song we’re hearing now is City That I Miss – a song of homesickness that Xu Wei wrote during his drifting days in Beijing.

City That I Miss(我思念的城市) 

At the end of 2000, Xu Wei’s second album was released under Red Star with so little fanfare that Xu Wei didn’t even know it until a friend rang and told him. But this lack of promotion didn't stop Xu Fei's album finding an audience through word of mouth. However, the lonesome Xu Wei, who was then sheltering at the home of a close friend, wasn’t aware of that. Bored of his wandering musical life, Xu Wei thought about quitting. On this album, the brief biographical track “that year” delivers a picture of those aimless days.

That Year (那一年)

That year, by Xu Wei. It was actually the year 1999, and it was a helter-skelter year for the 30-year old singer. The struggle between dreams and reality, swinging between embracing and escaping the material world, these themes struck a chord with people. But just as his music was beginning to be widely played on Beijing’s streets and in college students’ dormitories, a disappointed Xu Wei had already retreated to his slower-paced home city. He even considered opening a grocery store for the rest of his life. During these days, he exercised everyday, practiced calligraphy and chatted with parents, and gradually his depression lifted.  Then an encounter with some boys who were performing his songs in the city’s underground made Xu Wei realize that his songs really did have an audience. This gave him hope. So, at the end of 2002, he returned with the album “Time, Roam” under If Music, a branch of EMI. The album is a witness of his profound change. “Despair”, “lonely” “disoriented”, those words that has been so common in his previous works had all disappeared, instead, warm and introspective lyrics complemented with peaceful and easy tunes.

Blue Lotus(蓝莲花)

That’s Blue Lotus from Xu Wei’s third album “Time/Roam”. With a heart increasingly open to Buddhism and China’s ancient philosophers, Xu Wei had moved far away from his painful memories. His music-making also entered a new era. In 2004, Xu Wei released his fourth album, "It’s New for Every Moment". Either drinking a cup of tea, or sitting on a mountain, observing the sky and the passing of clouds, all these fragments of ordinary life are touchingly described with his meditative lyrics and melodies.

The Sky Beyond (悠远的天空)

The song by your ears is Sky Beyond. I’m afraid we don’t have enough time to play it over. If you enjoy the song, please visit www.crienglish.com where you can find more information about Chinese contemporary music and listen to past editions of China Beat, which of course includes today’s feature on Chinese veteran musician Xu Wei. And this is Yuting in Beijing saying goodbye to everybody there. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.  

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