An inspiring story showing the importance of being able to adapt quickly. Enjoy.
For those who don’t know what Wukan Motorcycle is about, I wanted to share it with you now, cos it’s important to me.
I wrote it for playing on tour in China earlier this year. I needed something to bridge the musical gap between what I do and what most people over there are used to hearing. And also I wanted to have something with some relevant purpose. So this tune is about the Wukan Uprising of 2011.
Wukan is a village in rural China. The government seized some farmland, owned by local families, and sold it off to developers. The local people weren’t too happy about that, so they held a peaceful sit-in protest. Sadly the government sent in the scary secret police guys, who arrested one of the protest leaders (a local craftsman and father), and he died the next day in police custody from “a heart attack”.
(His name was Xue Jinbo, and he died 2 years ago to the day the video was released, last week.)
After that the protests got more vigorous and the police were rounding people up off the streets at night. When I saw it on the TV news, they were interviewing this kid who’d been riding round the village at night on his little motorbike, looking out for secret police down back alleys. And if he saw one, he’d shout a warning to the other villagers through his megaphone, then speed off, with bullets whistling past his ears. Which is represented in the last minute or so of the song.
So this song is for that courageous kid, wherever he is.
This event was all over the news around the world, everywhere except China. So I told this story on stage every night on tour there. Which resulted in all manner of sh*t happening to me. For example, you might remember this:
Insane night last night in Hang Zhou. During my set, the security staff were wondering around the audience (who were already even more quiet and timid than most Chinese audiences) with their walkie-talkies blaring out.
I asked them to turn them down, but they were too ignorant or arrogant to care. After around 30 minutes, they pulled back a big black curtain in the room revealing the rest of the venue, which was a busy pool hall, which ruined the atmosphere even more. In a very un-Chinese act of rebellion, someone in the audience went and drew it closed again.
A huge security dude pulled it back open. So I got off the stage, gave him a special British death stare, and drew it closed myself. I went back on stage to resume playing, and there was no sound! My interpreter told me they wouldn’t let me play any more! I was just stunned by this childishness. But anyway, they clearly didn’t know how acoustic guitars work.
I just played the rest of the gig unplugged. This transformed the audience, they were electrified by the intense intimacy of the totally acoustic, hold-your-breath-or-you’ll-break-the-spell atmosphere. Together we had stood up to authority, and won! Now we could share jokes about their government, and I could tell them the story of my new song about the Wukan Uprising, which has been kept secret in China.
If all I achieve on this whole tour is bringing this one tiny moment of rebellion to this small crowd, then it was worth the trip.
P.S. The Chinese government doesn’t bother banning Western music anymore, because it’s not a threat. This is the most damning indictment of the modern music industry I can think of. If you make any kind of art, don’t forget your responsibility to make it with meaning, intent and real, honest freedom.
Thanks for reading, I hope a little light was shed.