Wuhan, coronavirus ground zero, is also China's punk music capital

"Punk," says a Wuhan hardcore band member, "is a way to help me keep my mind fresh."

The wonderful Aaron Stewart-Ahn tweeted today, "Something you haven't been told about Wuhan during this outbreak is that it is China's punk music capital."

And he's right.

Excerpt from "In Wuhan, Punk's Not Dead," a fascinating 2016 archival item by by Lin Qiqing at sixthtone.com — which obviously predates the 2020 Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV epidemic —

Nathanel Amar, a recent doctoral graduate of Paris' Sciences Po university where he specialized in Chinese underground culture, says the trajectory of China's punk scene over the past two decades is closely tied to the country's drastic socio-economic pivot. In the '80s, a decade marked by the growing exposure of China's economy and society to Western cultures, Chinese youngsters fixated on a brighter future turned to rock music. Flagbearers of the genre were generally musically trained: Before his distorted guitar became the call to arms of a disillusioned generation, "godfather of Chinese rock" Cui Jian was a classically trained trumpet player.

However, says Amar, the '90s brought about a widening income gap and, with it, a new generation of disillusioned youth: economically disadvantaged urban youngsters who did not necessarily share the musical tastes of their forebears from the previous decade. Punk, driven not by musical complexity but guttural emotion, was their weapon of choice. "If you knew three chords, you could start a band," says Amar. Indeed, fiddles and tin whistles come and go, tempos change, but those very chords — the root, fourth, and fifth — are a constant throughout many of SMZB's songs.

In fact, Wu believes that his music has changed very little over the past 20 years. "There's no big change for myself," he reflects. "Maybe the only difference is that the lyrics are heavier and more serious, as so many things have happened in society."

In Wuhan, Punk's Not Dead [sixthtone.com]