China Cancels Bon Jovi Gigs over Dalai Lama Pics

bonjovi3Bon Jovi’s first ever concerts in China was suddenly cancelled by government officials on September 9th. The band had been due to play Shanghai and Beijing next week.

The concert organizer AEG posted the cancellation on its public account on Sina Weibo: “We are sorry to announce that Bon Jovi’s concerts in Shanghai (September 14th) and Beijing (September 17th) have been canceled for some reason. A full ticket refund will be arranged. We apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment.”

Inconvenience and disappointment indeed. Many fans have been waiting for this concert for years and were thrilled about the upcoming gigs. Fans who don’t live in Shanghai or Beijing have booked flights and hotels just for the concert.

Weibo user “Z_SCAN” comments,

“We purchased the concert tickets in June and booked the flights and hotels. The concerts is due on 14th and you told us it’s canceled on 9th? Do you think the ticket refund could solve all the problems? What about the flights and the hotels we’ve booked? Do you have any idea how upset we are?”

Angry, disappointed, regretful and helpless. Chinese fans are fed up that the organizer did not even offer a reason for the cancellation as usual.

“What was the reason?” user “Aoe518” asks, just like a lot of other fans.

“If it’s the same reason with Maroon 5’s concert in July, then I’m wondering how Bon Jovi’s concert got approved in the first place? If the organizer can’t handle the authorities and Culture Ministry (文化部), please do not invite any international performers over to China! It has happened so many times in the past already.”

Although no official reason was given for the cancelation, netizens and fans have figured that it was political related. As media reports suggest that the Party discovered the US rock band had performed in front of a picture of Dalai Lama at a concert in Taiwan five years ago and had previously tweeted about the spiritual leader.

The issue of Tibet has always been sensitive in China and it’s extremely sensitive at the moment as the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region is approaching.

Bon Jovi’s fans on Weibo call on “let the music away from politics”. User “Zhao_Z” says,

“Music can heal and comfort us. It is a way to express individual freedom and make us think deeply. China is doing really a bad job on this. The government has closed the door to so many great musical and television works. We have the right to hear other voices and opinions!”

User “Star Commander” criticizes that China is a narrow-minded nation.

“Bon Jovi is such a good public figure – positive lyrics, healthy performance form, no sandal, etc. The gig got canceled in China simply because of  a picture of a monk? This is unbelievable. If China keeps being so narrow-minded, we will always be looked down upon by other countries.”

Other netizens can’t help but tease that the gig’s name should have been

“Long Live the Community Party · Jon Bon Jovi China Live”.

Gao Xiaosong, song writer as well as the Chairman of Alibaba Music Group also posts on his Weibo page that Alibaba Music had to postpone a lot of projects due to political reasons.

“(The government) wishes only if they could provide each Chinese individuals with a political advisor (政治辅导员) and each company with a political commissar (政委).”

However, not all the netizens are disappointed about the cancelation of the gig. Some believe that the government has made the right choice. User “Lakeshire” insists,

“As a celebrity, you are not supposed to interfere with other countries’ politics, especially if you are about to make tons of money from that country. Since Bon Jovi has chosen to support DL (Dalai Lama), he should get prepared to be banned.”

She continues that Chinese fans shouldn’t support any separatist to perform in China.

“What if they play all of these pictures of DL (Dalai Lama)during the concert in Shanghai and Beijing?”

Chinese netizens rarely talks about Dalai Lama on Weibo. Dalai Lama (达赖喇嘛) and Dalai (达赖) are not searchable on Weibo according to the relevant laws and regulations (根据相关法律法规和政策). Weibo users are “openly” commenting on the cancelation announcement, replacing the key words with “DL”, “some Lai (某赖)” or “the monk”.

The more national, the more international

One of my American friends took me to an instrument store in Xujiahui (downtown Shanghai) a few days ago and I was amazed by the Guzheng (a 21 -stringed plucked traditional Chinese instrument) they sell in the store. The Guzheng I have seen is made from wood but they are selling the electronic ones with pink and blue panels.

It immediately reminds me of the band called Beautiful Energy which is consisted of 12 pretty Chinese girls playing Chinese instruments. They have changed the way how we play our instruments and people define it as the new style of traditional music after they made a name for themselves in the US and Japan.

What makes it new? Firstly, they get rid of the antique wood instruments and play the ones out of recognition. Secondly, electronic effects are wildly used in the music which totally kills the special tones of traditional Chinese instruments. Some tones are even created by computer. Thirdly, these 12 girls swing and dance with the beat which is contrary to the sprits of peace and calmness of the “old” style.

Some people say every girl in Beautiful Energy is excellent instrument player with glorious education background. But I think they are just the products made from star-forming factory. Audiences like to see them dancing and wearing sexy outfits. All the skills and artistic accomplishment don’t count that much any more. Is this what we are purchasing?

As a professional pipa (Chinese lute) player and teacher, I worship Chinese traditional music and I hope I can make more people both home and abroad know about our music through my own efforts. Our traditional music should be reserved and developed with its own style and characteristics, instead of the new modern style, which has completely twisted and changed the aesthetical standard of how people see traditional music.

When the new style just established, people considered it as the succession and development of the “old” one. However, with this kind of performing style becoming mature, more down sides came up, such as finger-synching and exposed dress. This is absolutely not what we have expected. New Chinese traditional music has turned Chinese music into being vulgar and commercial. It breaks the tradition and essence to meet audience’s needs, which is not the highest state the traditional music desires to reach.

The new style adapts western music elements and adds electronic elements into Chinese traditional music which in my eyes seems neither fish nor flesh. The more national, the more global. Chinese instruments are charming and mysterious to westerners. I don’t think most of them would appreciate this new style. They want to hear and see something they haven’t experienced in the west. My Belgian client once told me that she didn’t like the idea of Chinese instrument playing western music at all because it fails to outstand Chinese instrument’s characteristics.

I was invited to play pipa in a documentary shot by a French TV station the other day. The idea was to introduce Shanghai to French audience and I was asked to wear Qipao and play a typical Chinese song. The performance was a great success because I showed the quality and spirit of traditional Chinese music. The director wouldn’t prefer a pipa player wearing low cut and mini skirt, let alone playing pipa like guitar.

I understand that nowadays people have become more blundering and have request for higher level of art. But it doesn’t necessarily mean traditional Chinese music has to put down self-esteem to meet the ordinary taste. We should definitely keep its traits and meanwhile look for a way to create more great works.