Still in the Motherland…

Red Rock‘s first China event, at the Shanghai International Literary Festival was, in no small part thanks to the man with the guitar, below, a rousing success.

Graham Earnshaw “Books” played moderator to my ramblings and then played a tune called “Socialism” to a very warm and welcoming crowd — a vibe that I wasn’t sure if I expected, knowing full well the potential for the Shanghai v. Beijing rivalry to rear its head. It did not. The audience, the festival, the venue — all class. All good.

And, as any yaogun writer worth his salt, I headed from my festival slot across the mighty Yangpu river, deep into the heart of Pudong district, into the belly of the Mercedes Benz Arena. Ever wondered what an arena full of cosplay-dressed-up Chinese girls screaming for their favourite Japanese pop rock band looks like?

That’s the best I can do. But know that it was an amazing, awe-inspiring and downright awesome experience to bear witness to such a sight.

Alas, evidence of my first Bookworm Festival event, in Suzhou, will have to come from memory as I didn’t have a chance to whip out the camera. But know that alongside Shanghai music blogger, scenester, chronicler and more Andy Best, there was talk of many yaogunny things, things that seemed to be of serious interest to those lucky enough to have made it into the room.

On Monday and Tuesday, it was down to the business of representing Canada, and yaogun, to the next generation of Chinese university students. I began my Canadian consulate program at Shanghai International Studies University, where post-doc students in the Intercultural Institute — post-docs with personal experiences and recollections of the earliest days of yaogun — were a most exciting and eager group to address and converse with. Their sophmore counterparts in the journalism department, though, who I had the chance to address in the afternoon, were another story, and what strikes me is going to sound like the whingings of a grumpy old man, but most of the students seemed pretty unaware of what’s gone on over the last few decades (or years) in this country. Nanjing Arts University’s Pop Music School was my Tuesday destination. “Warmly welcoming Canadian Yaogun Writer Jonathan Campbell to Our School to Speak” reads the red banner thrust above the stage where my first Chinese-language event was to be held. The pop students here, as evidenced, at right, by the show of hands, know a bit about yaogun, which was nice to see.

Also nice to see: A quick performance by a quartet of folks whose name I can’t recall, but who assured me that their rendition of “Play that Funky Music (White Boy)” was not the usual sort of stuff they played. They’re more into pop-punk, “but this is for school.”

Bidding Shanghai farewell, I rolled, inna high-speed-train style, up to Beijing. And there is where I will leave you. Beijing updates to come…