China Fest Goes Green

This year’s Midi Modern Music Festival, the eighth installment of the event, was co-sponsored by environmental organization Greenpeace and featured 90 bands over its four days.

Held May 1-4 at Haidian Park in Beijing’s university district, the Midi is China’s biggest rock festival. About 50,000 people attended the opening day performances, with 30,000 showing up for each successive day, according to various media reports.

Local bands like Brain Failure, Catcher in the Rye, and Reflector were all encouraged to sing "green songs" for the festival, in line with this year’s environmental theme. In addition, British singer Imogen Heap and former Eurythmic Dave Stewart closed Friday’s blowout with a new Greenpeace anthem called "Go Green."

Midi began in 2000 as a showcase for the Midi Music School, China’s first academy specializing in rock, rap, jazz, blues and techno styles.

Western popular music still isn’t completely accepted by the Chinese authorities and neither is the kind of environmental activism advocated by Greenpeace.

For those reasons, Midi founder Zhang Fan told the Jiji Press, the tie-up this year was a natural one. More than 300 student volunteers from Greenpeace worked at the festival, which also hosted the premiere of a new Greenpeace documentary, "The Planet," about the impact of global warming.

Zhang has pointed out that the reason the authorities tend to look askance at pop music and rock in particular is that they believe the "rebellious nature" of the music encourages opposition to the Communist Party, which is why Midi emphasizes training and technology. The mantra of his school is "rock ‘n’ roll is not dangerous."