Cui Jian’s Wild Horses

Cui Jian (pronounced “sway jen”) is generally acknowledged to be the father of Chinese rock. Born in 1961 of Korean-Chinese parents, Cui Jian was a classically trained trumpet player who joined the Beijing Philharmonic at the age of 20. By the end of the ’80s he’d strayed from the classical tradition and started to play guitar-based Western pop songs. In 1986 he debuted “Nothing to My Name,” which electrified the burgeoning Chinese underground music scene by fusing Chinese and Western music and lyrical themes. On its face “Nothing to My Name” is a love song but many, such as the student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 who adopted it as their anthem, view it as a thinly veiled political statement of discontent with the Communist regime. Throughout the ’90s Cui Jian became an icon of the Chinese underground, both for his innovative music and his overt defiance of Communist leader; his appearance in 2003 on stage with The Rolling Stones was a milestone moment for Chinese rock.