The angry young man returns

China's Bob Dylan will play Shanghai as he embarks on a three-city tour of the Chinese mainland.
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Taiwan singer-songster Lo Ta-yu, China's Bob Dylan

Taiwan singer-songster Lo Ta-yu, 63, was once that angry young man who left home. Recognized as China’s Bob Dylan, Lo released the first album in 1982. 

On May 11, he will play live in Shanghai, the first stop of a three-city tour on the Chinese mainland, although some doubt whether today’s youth will appreciate his music. 

The lack of good original music or musicians has often been discussed and attributed to a variety of reasons. 

Nowadays, it is hard for musicians to make money from selling albums. There is lack of exposure on TV although many Internet music-sharing sites are emerging. The young generation is growing up with both more varieties of music genres and cliched reality shows that generated streamlined stars.

In his time, Lo was young and rebellious, abandoning his medical degree to jump into the music industry. He rarely wrote about love, but is often concerned with the future of the culture, the country and the young, quoting from classical Chinese texts and sparking discussions on various social issues, such as solitude and the lack of inheritance from traditional culture.

“Young people today don’t write much anymore,” he says. “That’s the beginning of cultural loss. Writing is necessary. Chinese language is Hieroglyphic, a combination of phonetic and image to represent a unique meaning for each character. It influences our aesthetics and cultural perspective. If you don’t write but just type, it is the computer doing the typing, not you.”

Yet, Lo has also embraced the Internet and social platforms. He used Zhihu, a question and answer site, to ask what songs his fans wanted to hear live.

The Internet and social platforms are where young Chinese, like young people around the world, write, listen to and share their favorite songs.

“I get all of my music feeds from social platforms, mostly songs shared or recommended by my friends on the same sites,” says 15-year-old Jejoy Lin, a local middle school student. “I don’t really care about whether the musician is famous or the song is popular. I’m more about whether the song matches my state of mind at the moment. There are many good young musicians of all kinds of genres on these sites.”

Tencent’s music-sharing site recently launched a competition calling for good-quality original music. The winner will be given the opportunity to produce his or her own music with a team of top international musicians.

Since the platform was launched last July, about 40,000 musicians have registered, uploading more than 110,000 pieces of work. 

“Chinese original music has a huge potential, but most musicians are still at an early stage. What they need most is support for production, marketing, training and performing opportunities, which is usually difficult to get as an indie musician,” says platform executive Luo Yi.

“The Young Man Who Left Home” Lo Ta-yu Shanghai concert

Date: May 11, 8pm
Tickets: 380-1,280 yuan
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Arena
Address: 1200 Expo Ave, Pudong New Area

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