NPR logo

China Embraces Reggae; Will Its Message Follow?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/7489307/7489310" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
China Embraces Reggae; Will Its Message Follow?

China Embraces Reggae; Will Its Message Follow?

China Embraces Reggae; Will Its Message Follow?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/7489307/7489310" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Bob Marley's classic album Legend is now on sale in China, nearly a quarter-century after it was released in the West.

The question: will reggae retain its political underpinnings in China, or is it all about the rhythm?

Some say that if there's a Bob Marley figure in China, it's got to be Cui Jian, who is known as the "Father of Chinese Rock and Roll." Cui Jian rose to fame in the 1980s, singing about the plight of China's everyday people. The government banned him from playing large concerts until recently. He dismisses the suggestion that he could be Bob Marley's Chinese equal.

"Don't make that comparison, I'm embarrassed to even think about it that way," Cui says. "Maybe you could say we're his heirs, that we've inherited a part of his legacy. His influence was an element of our success."

Reggae and China go way back. It was Chinese immigrants to Jamaica who opened some of the first recording studios in Kingston. But can China produce a reggae superstar?

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.