Rock and Rivals: Two Cities Duel for China’s Music Capital Crown
From barbecues in the industrial city of Zibo in eastern China to village soccer in the southwestern Guizhou province, multiple Chinese cities and provinces are looking to leverage viral campaigns and social media as tourism gradually recovers.
Amid this race to entice domestic tourists, two cities, almost 350 kilometers apart in different provinces, are aiming to strike a chord with music enthusiasts and cement their position as China’s unrivaled rock music capital.
On July 16, Shijiazhuang, capital and the most populous city of the northern Hebei province, saw the opening event of its “rock and roll hometown” festival, set to last until October. The city plans to hold nearly 20 performances per day around the city on weekends and invite local musicians to perform impromptu gigs on public transport.
The city has historical ties with the growth of rock and roll in the country, with two of China’s first rock music magazines “Popular Songs” and “I Love Rock and Roll” launched in the city in 1986 and 1999 respectively, according to local media outlet Hebei Youth Daily.
The city is also the birthplace of several famous Chinese rock bands, including Omnipotent Youth Society, whose 2010 song “Kill That Shijiazhuang Man” immortalized the city among the country’s rock fans.
The city government has heavily promoted the events, releasing a promotional video on Monday titled “The Unkillable Shijiazhuang,” inspired by the famous song bearing the city’s name. History aside, local officials have also sought to highlight the city’s name — its first syllable, shi, means “rock,” while the second syllable, jia, means “home.”
Local media reported that a company in Shijiazhuang has even registered the trademarks for “ROCK. ROCK. YOU” and “Rock City” under education and entertainment categories. According to Qichacha, a database focused on public companies, the company is indirectly wholly owned by the Shijiazhuang State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
But now, another city is challenging Shijiazhuang for the title of China’s rock capital.
Xinxiang, a city in the central Henan province, has also proposed to create a “rock and roll hometown” and called itself the “birthplace of (Chinese) rock and roll.”
In a WeChat post on July 6, the local Xinxiang government put forward its credentials for the title, including the fact that the city launched the “Chinese New Music Concert” in 1999, a rock music festival that saw legendary Chinese rock acts such as Tang Dynasty and Cui Jian, known as the “Father of Chinese Rock,” perform.
The competition to become China’s “rock and roll hometown” has been widely discussed on Chinese social media platforms. On microblogging platform Weibo, the discussion has attracted more than 100 million views.
(Header image: People at a rock roll concert in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, July 16, 2023. IC)