What has Wm. Berger been doing since he left the WFMU airwaves in 1999? Well, a lot of things. Among them, amassing a collection of great Chinese pop and rock music. Mostly by way of recommendations from online friends in China and Taiwan, I've collected a handful of great, contemporary Chinese rock albums, and I have to assume that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
China has emerged in recent years as an economic giant, also seemingly in the midst of some dramatic cultural changes. The children of upscale Americans are learning Mandarin, a language that may soon be as common here as Spanish if the Chinese have their way with the global marketplace. Chinese hit movies like Hero and House of Flying Daggers play here (undubbed) to massive box office response. There's no time like the present, then, to get acquainted with some of the Republic's rock underground.
Anthony Wong / Anodize - Hong Kong cinema star Anthony Wong Chau-Sang has acted in over 130 films since 1985. He made a name for himself playing opposite Yun-Fat Chow in blockbusters like Hard Boiled and Full Contact, and won awards for his portrayal of Wong Chi Hang in the notorious Bunman film. I watch every Anthony Wong film I can get my hands on; he's a wonderful actor of great range and depth, bringing humanity and a dark, personal humor to even the seediest of roles. He's also a musician, having released several CDs of idiosyncratic punk/new wave-inspired rock, sometimes accompanied by the metalpunk band Anodize. His album of covers, Bad Taste-But I Smell Good (2002), is perhaps the most well recognized internationally. Here's a nifty Anthony Wong page with some good photos, a (Japanese) fan page, and links to my IMDb comments for two of his films  . (He should not be confused Anthony Wong Yiu-Ming, another very successful Hong Kong singer and actor, whose music is more the syrupy radio-pop variety.) [mp3] [mp3] [mp3] Anodize - [mp3]
Second Hand Rose Band - Part of the Beijing scene, Second Hand Rose derive part of their sound from traditional "Northeastern" music, blending Chinese folk instruments into a standard rock format. Vocalist Liang Long always performs in drag, often in traditional garments. Musically, they bring to mind 70s glam pop, especially Roxy Music. Second Hand Rose have also made a splash in Switzerland for some reason, performing at several cultural festivals there. Here are some Web pages about the band, in German and English. [mp3] [mp3]
Gayamyan - English information on this band is scarce, though I can tell you that they're a popular "indie" band, and their members appear all over the Chinese rock family tree in other projects and collaborations. These tracks are from the e.p. East Wing West Wing (2003), not the self-titled CD that comes up most often in Web searches. Here are two pages of band photos  . [mp3] [mp3]
NO / Zuoxiao Zuzhou - Zuoxiao Zuzhou is a musician, poet, celebrated novelist and true giant of the Beijing scene. He formed the band NO in 1990, as singer, songwriter, guitarist and violinist. The NO albums are perhaps my favorite Chinese rock recordings, unique and experimental, bringing to mind (at times) vintage Pere Ubu. The album Trip to Temple Fair is nothing short of a masterpiece of post-punk art rock. With NO disbanded, Zuoxiao now has a very successful solo career. Here's his homepage (in English), featuring a discography, tons of photos and a downloadable video. [mp3] [mp3] [mp3]
Just for some extra fun, here are two tracks of Hong Kong film music from my archive: