Sound Kapital: Beijing's Music Underground
by Ashley Eldridge
To the casual concert-goer, China's capital city may seem uncharted musical territory, but photographer Matthew Niederhauser's new book "Sound Kapital: Beijing's Music Underground" places it as a powerful voice among the indie scene.
In a country where sickly sweet Cantopop rules the airwaves, Niederhauser chronicles a small but significant collection of performers that have found their way to D-22, a cramped, grungy hole in the wall in Beijing's university district that serves as the home of the Maybe Mars record label.
For those unfamiliar with the Beijing music scene, Sound Kapital serves as catalog of who's who among the Chinese underground. The spare settings in the photos enhance the raw energy of the musicians and like the performers themselves, the no-frills book keeps it focused. "At the heart, it's really about creating more acknowledgment for the bands," says Niederhauser, who paired it with a compilation CD soundtrack for the retrospective.
Musicians and tunes found within the book and album include the amplified chaos of Carsick Cars, the throaty Mongolian folksters Hang Gai, the rebel rockers Joyside and P.K. 14, the new originals. A recent interview with Maybe Mars founder Michael Pettis, Yang Haisong of P.K. 14 and Zhang Shouwang of Carsick Cars shows the musicians as a refreshing new generation of performers, devoid of motivation driven purely by profit. In it for the rush, the music reflects that purity.