I have been lucky enough to travel quite extensively; one of the things I enjoy the most is checking out the local punk scene wherever I am. I lived in China for several years and this post is about a very important band in the history of the Chinese punk scene.
“Never Release My Fist” is a documentary about Chinese punk pioneers SMZB, it was released in December 2016 but for some reason I have only just come across the full stream, which you can watch below.
I lived in a city called Zhengzhou and while I was there I saw SMZB play; it was the only punk gig I ever went to that attracted more than 20 people. China has a very small punk scene, mainly in the capital Beijing with a core group of bands that keep the scene alive such as Hell City, Demerit, Gum Bleed and The Demonstrators.
I wanted to share this documentary with you guys because SMZB played a very important role in introducing punk to China. They were one of the earliest punk bands to form in the country back in 1996 and introduced punk to the city of Wuhan. Standing out and openly rebelling against the system is not something to undertake lightly in China; the Communist Party is fast to crack down on voices of dissent. In fact many Chinese punk bands try to use English in their songs as a way of making it more difficult for the authorities to understand the content. SMZB have had their albums removed from stores, been banned from performing, had their lyrics censored and even had their phones tapped.
“I couldn’t care less. It won’t change my style or subject matter” is the defiant response from vocalist Wu Wei.
Through all of this they stayed strong and committed to using music as a way of opposing the system and making people question aspects of society. Over 20 years later they are still doing it.
Punk is making a comeback in China though, The Exploited, Sick Of It All and The Casualties have all played there in the last couple of years, a positive sign of things to come I hope. But this style of music is still rejected by the majority of people who have either never heard of such a thing, or associate it will violence and other negative ideas. And if you’re outside of the capital it is far worse. I fondly remember walking through the streets of Zhengzhou with Hell City, two of whom had massive pink and blue mohawks; people had never seen anything like it before, they looked at them like they were from another planet!
Every country needs punk, either as a form of rebellion, for fun or just a way to let out your frustrations. In a country with problems such as overpopulation, censorship, extreme pollution and an increasing gap between the working and middle class, punk music is needed more than ever; so I take my hat off to these guys for creating and maintaining the scene against all odds.
So give the documentary a watch; I’ve also included my favourite song of theirs “No Solution” so you can get a taster if you wish. This was back when they were a little more raw and fast, now they have included bagpipes and violin and are more of a celtic punk band.
And if you ever find yourself in Wuhan or Beijing go check out a show or have a chat with the local punks who you can usually find at the lovely restaurant “Punk Rock Noodles”. Enjoy.