Indie rock circles are never short on interesting bands. While most bands fall into the heavy metal, R&B and core music camps, the capital has a couple noteworthy hip-pop artists.
Jiaojin Band is one of the most popular Beijing-style hip-pop groups, founded by locals Tian Qing and Bai Jia.
When Tian returned from overseas in 2012, he and Bai met Liang Xinshun and Xu Bohan, the current drummer and guitarist. The four worked together on their first song, “Welcome to Beijing.”
When Tian graduated a year later, the four old friends went to eat at an old Beijing restaurant near Xuanwumen. That was the day Jiaojin was born.
Later that same year, Wu Yue and Wu Dan, the composer and the keyboardist joined up.
The band started heading in the direction of rock until a few NBA half-time performances turned them on to the world of hip-pop.
The name of the band came from Tian and Bai’s stubborn personality. The two revised many of their songs more than 10 times before recording them.
“We kept catching tiny mistakes or hesitations, so the recording process became a battle with our own patience,” Tian said.
“Actually I think everyone should compete with themselves. That’s what makes us unique from others and what makes people stand out,” Bai said.
There are also other reasons that Jiaojin is picky about their musical style.
The direct and straightforward lyrics of hip-pop make it easier for artists to convey their feelings and easier for listeners to understand, Tian said. “When audiences understand the meaning as well as the rhythm, they start to move their body unconsciously,” Tian said.
“Street culture in America became popular because it’s unbounded. In Beijing, the hutongs are the unique kinds of streets where we grew up. We are looking back to the old lanes to discover the essence of culture,” Tian said.
Tian said he is confident his band’s hip-pop may one day overtake the originator because most of the world is interested in learning Chinese and Peking Opera.
“As Beijingers, we also have a better understanding of our culture and there is more we can put into our lyrics,” Tian said. “For example, the old daye and dama who sit in the hutong and play chess and chat are a key image of this city. To describe two people who were friends since childhood, we say faxiao’er.”
Such local words are common in Jiaojin’s songs.
Jiaojin’s most famous songs include “Model Couple,” describing a newly married young couple leading a poor but relaxed life, and “Forever Xuanwu,” a famous tribute to Xuanwu District.
“The song took only one night to complete and it remains one of our most popular song till now. It was written when Xuanwu District merged into Xicheng. People liked it because it was related to their life and feelings,” Tian said.
Although Jiaojin never lacks ideas for Beijing-style hip-pop songs, they still worry about the band’s future.
Chinese audiences tend to listen to certain kinds of music and are reluctant to try new music styles, Tian said. China also has a poor environment for supporting indie singers.
Now in their 30s, most of the members work day jobs to support the band’s costs. They are recording a new song titled “Rap n Roll” to introduce hip-pop to more Chinese listeners.