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Young rockers put talent to the test

By CHEN NAN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-16 07:01

Hui Shou De Pang Zi, which translates as "little fatty to lose weight", and Xiao Gui Dang Jia, or Kid Rock Star, are among the children's bands competing in a national competition. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The stage was set, the lights dimmed, and the audience was ready to rock.

They had gathered to listen to Xiao Gui Dang Jia, or Kid Rock Star, a band from Sanya, Hainan province, that has made a distinctly early start in the music business.

The group comprises 10-year-old lead singer Wang Congrui, lead guitarist Luan Ruiyifan, also 10, bassist Wei Lai, 9, and drummer Lei Yuyang, 8.

Wearing black self-designed T-shirts and jeans, along with smokey eye makeup, the band was cheered by the audience when it completed the heavy metal song, Hey! Kids!.

"Hi everyone, we are Xiao Gui Dang Jia," announced Wang, who performed the song, which was written by the band members and based on their everyday lives.

The lyrics included: The alarm clock woke me up in the morning. I have to think about explaining unfinished homework to my teacher on the way to school… The sunshine is great and my head is full of ideas about having fun after school.

The group, which was performing at this year's Midi Kids Band Competition in Yantai, Shandong province, on July 26, won third place in the children's section, open to competitors in the 6 to 12 age group.

Now in its fifth year, the competition, which was launched and organized by Beijing Midi Art Communication Co, saw more than 400 bands compete from May last year to July this year. In addition, it attracted more than 1,300 applicants in categories for individual instrumentalists.

The company also organizes the Beijing Midi Music Festival, one of the oldest and largest events of its kind in China.

The festival was launched in 2000 by the Midi School of Music in Beijing, which was founded in 1993 and is the first contemporary music school in China. The school plays an important role in the nation's music industry by training young talent.

Bing Yang, the founder of Xiao Gui Dang Jia, which will celebrate its third anniversary on Dec 16, said: "It was the first time the band had competed in the Midi Kids Band Competition. I am proud that I have taken part with groups at the festival and that my music students carry the rock spirit on by performing in the competition. It feels as though a tradition has been passed down."

Since 1999, Bing has performed with numerous rock bands in China in roles such as lead singer, drummer, lead guitarist and bassist.

In 2007, he jointly founded his band The Great Scientists, in which he was lead singer. Bing has also toured nationwide and performed at major outdoor music festivals.

He said he long wanted to found a children's rock band. After sensing the members of Xiao Gui Dang Jia's passion for performing, and getting permission from their parents, Bing brought the four together to inspire them to write original material and rehearse.

The band's name was inspired by the movie Home Alone, which features an 8-year-old troublemaker who protects his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left at home by his family during the Christmas vacation.

"These children are just like the boy in that movie played by Macaulay Culkin, as they are smart, brave and good at making trouble," Bing said.

By "brave", Bing is referring to the musical genre the band is known for — heavy metal, which is also played by his group, The Great Scientists.

"We try different music styles and we worked together on Xiao Gui Dang Jia's first song, Hey! Kids!, which is totally heavy metal. Their lyrics are like a diary — simple, real and opening doors to their world, which I love," Bing said. "When they performed the song during the final round of the competition, the audience was amazed and cheered, as they had seldom seen a children's rock band play heavy metal."

Guitarist Luan knew from the age of 4 that music would be a huge part of his life, and for the past seven years he has been learning to play piano, African percussion and guitar.

His parents are both music lovers, especially of rock music. In 2019 and 2020 Luan spent the summer vacation with his parents watching the popular reality show The Big Band, produced by online streaming platform iQiyi. The show features some of China's best-known indie rock bands, such as New Pants and Queen Sea Big Shark.

"What really mattered to us was how the bands performed, not the results. I enjoyed each of their performances and I asked my parents to take me to outdoor music festivals to watch live shows," Luan said.

Xiao Gui Dang Jia gained popularity after appearing in the competition, with its performances enjoyed by veteran Chinese rock musicians.

One of the band's videos, in which it performs We Come From Underground, a hit song by established Chinese rock band Twisted Machine, won praise from the latter group's bassist Laodao, who shared the video on his social media platform.

Wang, the lead singer, said: "It takes lots of time to practice. When we play together, we have to learn to cooperate. We enjoy performing onstage, singing loudly, and being confident." He added that the band's rehearsals are arranged after school.

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