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C-rock is short for Chinese rock music. C-rock (中国摇滚 zhōng guó yáo gǔn or 中国摇滚音乐 zhōng guó yáo gǔn yīn yuè; literally "Chinese shaking and rolling music") can be performed in any dialect of Chinese language. Some people consider C-rock a subgenre of C-pop.
The history of C-rock before the 1980s is very unclear though it is believed to have existed in the 1970s or even the 1960s.
The first clear sign of Chinese rock was the 西北风 Xi Bei Feng (literally Northwest Wind). Xi Bei Feng is style of folk-influenced punk music, originating from the northwestern area of China, such as the Shanxi and Gansu provinces. The new style was triggered by two new songs, 信天游 Xin Tian You and 一无所有. As time passed, Xi Bei Feng became stronger, more fast-tempo and aggressive. In contrast to the mellow C-pop style, XBF songs were sung loudly and forcefully.
Many XBF songs challenged political views, reflected unhappiness among Chinese youth and individuality and self-empowerment. Both music and lyrics articulated a sense of pride in the power of the northwest's peasantry. Songs such as "妹妹你大胆的往前走" came to represent an earthy, primordial masculine image of China, as opposed to the soft, sweet, polished urban gang tai style.
囚歌, also known as Prison songs or Prison rock, became popular in the late 1980s. Prison rock was more folk-like than the XBF style. Prison rock was led & created by 迟志强 Chi Zhi Qiang, who wrote lyrics about his time in jail and set them to folk melodies from northeast China. In contrast to Northwest Wind songs, prison songs were slow and "weepy", and were characterised by the rude and vulgar language and lyrics showing pessimism, despair, anticonformity and cynicism.
Chinese rock and roll
The birthplace of Chinese rock was Beijing. Rock and roll was not common until the late 1980s. Some rebellious trends from punk XBF were revived. In 1989 and 1990, rock and roll came into mainstream music as a combination of the Northwest Wind and prison song fads.
After the protests in Tiananmen Square rock and roll became part of general urban youth culture in China. Its popularity growth celebrated on 17 and 18 February 1990 when Beijing's largest rock concert was held in the Capital Gymnasium. The concert featured six rock bands.
Chinese rock and roll's peak popularity was between 1990 and 1993. Many rock bands were established and rock music was performed regularly. Rock and roll was not approved of by the Chinese government because many performers had anti-conformist behaviour. The government made sure that rock and roll was not to be broadcast on CCTV, so the main venues remained to be informal, underground rock parties. Some fans and performers had characteristics such as long hair for males, jeans, silver metal ornaments, black leather coats and hippie-style behaviour.
By 1994, rock and roll slowly began to decline. One of the reasons is because of the censorship by the Communist Party of China, such as the banning of rock from television and restrictions on performances. The main reason, however, is the general lack of interest in anti-conformist and anti-Government thoughts and behaviour. In the mid 1990s, people became more interested in C-pop and newer stars at the time such as Andy Lau and the Four Heavenly Kings of Cantonese pop.
From 2000 to 2004, rock in China grew in popularity again, influenced by Japanese rock trends, including pop-rock, Visual kei and Gothic Lolitta and some American rock music styles such as light rock, soft rock, piano rock, post-grunge and alternative rock.
Another important step in the development of Chinese rock music is the Beijing Midi School of Music in Beijing. Established 1993 by Zhang Fan, it was the first school in China offering classes specialising in jazz and rock music. Started as a festival in 1999, the Midi Modern Music Festival became the largest rock music festival in China. Both the school and the festival supported the underground scene in China and allowed foreign bands in 2006 to perform at the festival and throughout the country, including Alev, Monokino, YMA and The Wombats.