Chinese-American rockstar Kaiser Kuo used to be frontman of the Beijing heavy metal band Tang Dynasty. For Sixth Tone he explains how Chinese culture can make a difference in music. “Drawing on Chinese culture can help bands stand out from the rest,” he says.
Kaiser Kuo, a co-founder of Tang Dynasty, tells Sixth Tone that drawing on Chinese culture can help bands stand out from the rest. “It’s an obvious touchstone for a musical genre that’s aggressive and quite martial,” says Kuo over email. Western metal bands have long drawn from Western legends, and Chinese artists have plenty of their own material to do the same, he says, pointing to the hero-filled epic “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” or Louis Cha’s martial arts novels as examples.
But it can be hard to incorporate Chinese musical influences without sounding monotonous or tacky, says Kuo. What’s more, metal bands with Chinese characteristics can face criticism from Chinese metalheads who suspect the musicians do so just to win over foreign audiences, even though — as Kuo notes — that’s not the only way to gain success. This summer, Beijing metal band Die From Sorrow won the battle of the bands at Wacken, Germany — the biggest metal festival in the world — without any traditional Chinese elements. “Without naming names, I’ve certainly seen some bad efforts to incorporate recognizably Chinese elements … that I suspect had no commitment to it and were clearly doing it in the mistaken belief that it would be a marketing plus,” says Kuo.
Are you looking for more experts on cultural change at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this list.