90s Punk Rock: He Yong (何勇)

There’s a minor punk and hardcore metal scene in China, mostly centered in Beijing and Shanghai. It seems only fitting that just about the only alternative to sing-songy ballads and western-imitation pop is music that often rejoices in being inaccessible and hard to listen to. There are quite a few bands involved, but my favorite singer is He Yong.

He Yong is an aging 90s punk rock star that still drags himself out to big events in Beijing from time to time. I like his raw emotion and particularly the song, “garbage dump” which weaves the wonderful metaphor of life as a pile of trash and people as the flies that owe both their lives and their depravity to the trash.

Despite the anger of the song’s sound and the bleak image, the song is actually more of a rally against complacency with lines like, “We can’t stop fantasizing” and “Don’t you have any hope?” But punk music shouldn’t be over analyzed.

Of course He Yong is just a small part of hardcore metal and punk music in China. Barring visiting some Beijing clubs, one of the longest running of which, D-22, just closed due to financial concerns, there’s a pretty sweet documentary on the Beijing Punk scene. On the plain old rock-n-roll front, there’s a new book about the history of rock music in China called Red Rock (Coverage on PRI).

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