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The CCP has been adapting folk culture since its founding, but so have others. Cui Jian and Beijing rockers fused folk with Western beats to create the sound track for the late 1980s. They kept exploring, needing to come to terms with new realities in the 90s.

For mainland musicians, however, gaining an audience beyond the underground was almost impossible. Hong Kong and Taiwan dominated pop music, setting the pace into the new millennium: Jay Chou’s Chinese Wind, blowing from Taiwan, chimed nicely with official refashioning of Confucianism, and cutesy singer-songwriters from across the Strait gained huge followings among dreamy mainland ‘young pure and fresh’ hipsters.

But some things have changed.

From 2000, open-air music festivals gradually grew to attract tens of thousands of fans. Rock could now be heard outside of the usual underground bars.

After Supergirl hit screens in 2004, TV talent shows have provided a new platform for a wide range of aspiring musicians, including those playing ethnic music. Despite this relative diversity, however, in the end the patriotic power ballad prevails.

Through new social media, silly divine songs have ‘gone viral’. Appealing to cynical white-collar workers and urban ‘losers’, these novelty hits have made unlikely heroes of some. Conversely, the same platforms have assisted the spread of local adaptations of Korean-style boy bands and European electronic dance music, upbeat expressions of national positive energy.


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