The Yaogun Diaries, part 5

Part of a series dealing with rock music in China, mostly Beijing because that's what I know. 摇滚 (yáogǔn) is the Chinese word for rock music, the two characters literally meaning "shake" and "roll".


Moving even farther astray from the punkish side of Chinese rock, we find this band, known sometimes by the Chinese version of their name, 牛奶@咖啡 (niúnǎi kāfēi) with the @ often not pronounced. I suppose you could say they’re not a rock band at all (see below for their own take on the question), but I have a pretty broad definition of rock. To pick a Western genre for them, I would probably choose “indie pop” but I don’t regard anything including the word “indie” as an actual genre. They are basically the duo of Fu Yan (富妍), known as Kiki, singing and 格非 (Ge Fei) on keyboards, guitar, programming, and so on. In a live setting other players are added to fill out the sound.

Their first album was called 燃烧吧!小宇宙 (ránshāo ba! xiǎo yǔzhòu), officially translated as Burn! My Cosmos, and came out in 2005.
I really enjoy this happy music, which reminds me of some of the Japanese bands I like. Here’s a track for you to get the idea.


This song, called “Lasia” actually garnered them some success in China, apparently hitting #3 on some kind of chart (I can’t find documentation of this, just a reference on Baidu).

There’s also a fun video for the title track of the album:

The first time I saw them live was at the Beijing Pop Festival in September of 2007. You can read my original post here.
By the end of the set, they had a whole bunch of extra people on the stage dancing and singing the chorus of a song that wasn’t on the CD; even then I knew enough Chinese to make out the title “Wo bushi rock ‘n’ roll” which means “I’m Not Rock ‘n’ Roll” – ironic since it was the most rock oriented tune they played.
The next time I saw them live was in a much more controlled setting, MAO Livehouse, in July of 2008 as part of a “girls’ night” featuring all female-led performances. While I didn’t write a review of the show, I did post some pictures. Here’s another one:
I found myself grinning like an idiot pretty much throughout their set. Kiki is so charismatic, cheerful, and cute you would have to be a real grouch to dislike her. There was a charming bit where she brought out a sequined top hat and a sparkly cane to do a little dance. The hat later ended up on the guitarist.

I even took some video of their final number.

Later in 2008 they released their second album, which has the happy title of 越长大越孤单, More Grown up, More Lonely.
When I got it, I was very happy to see it had the song I remembered from their festival performance. 我不是 Rock ‘n’ Roll (I’m Not Rock ‘n’ Roll).

I’m Not Rock ‘n’ Roll

About the same time as the CD came out I saw them again, this time at the Modern Sky Festival. Again, they got only a few photos instead of a full review.
It was a really fun performance, what with the pirate hat and bubble machines and all, and the crowd was so big I couldn’t get anywhere near the stage. This was by far the biggest stage I’ve seen them on, and they had a great time. The backing band was a little different, featuring a female keyboard player to fill in while Ge Fei concentrated on guitar.

In addition to their own CD releases, Milk@Coffee was involved in an interesting little project put together by Modern Sky Records: a CD for children called 星猫 (xīng māo Star Cat).
I hope this project is successful – it will be great to have a generation of kids exposed to music other than sappy pop.

Rock in China entry: http://wiki.rockinchina.com/index.php?title=Milk@Coffee

Note: All images and audio files presented here are in the interest of increasing awareness of Chinese rock in the English-speaking world. If you are the owner of the copyright in any of them and object to this free promotion, let me know and I'll remove the offending media.

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