More Elton Blowback

After Elton John publicly dedicated a Beijing concert last November to artist-activist Ai Weiwei, the singer was reportedly visited by police wanting his manager to sign a statement saying the dedication was prompted by the singer’s admiration for Ai’s art alone.

Photo: AP Photo
MasterCard Center, Beijing, China

The Guardian did not reveal if the manager complied but said a spokesman for the singer declined to comment.

In any case, a subsequent Elton John concert in Guangzhou was allowed to proceed, even though a state-run newspaper attacked the singer as being “disrespectful” and conjectured that “had [the audience] known that this concert would be dedicated to Ai Weiwei, many…would not have come.”

In addition, the editorial said that John’s action “will make the relevant agencies further hesitate in future when they invite foreign artists.”

Supposedly, China’s culture minister made a remark at a meeting of related officials that only foreign artists with university degrees should be allowed to perform in China, but apparently it was only “a spur of the moment comment.”

John is not a university graduate; nor is Bjork, who caused problems in 2008 by shouting “Tibet! Tibet!” from the stage during a concert in Shanghai.

The Guardian queried a culture ministry spokesman to find out if there were any new regulations related to foreign artists. The spokesman answered via fax that there were none.

However another source told the paper that since the beginning of this year, classical musicians have been required to supply evidence of “qualifications” when applying for permission to perform in China.

Photo: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo
Artist Ai Weiwei plays a video clip he uploaded on Youtube on a computer in Beijing, China.

Several were even rejected.

Another source said that while no new rules have been implemented, “existing procedures” had been tightened.

┬áStill another source revealed that the ministry “summoned promoters” to drive home their insistence that “event rules” should be reinforced.

If there has been a tightening of rules, it doesn’t appear to have adversely affected the JUE Music + Art Festival, which is slated for various venues in Beijing and Shanghai March 8-24.

Among the foreign acts so far announced on the festival’s website are Thee Oh Sees, How To Dress Well, Jeff Lang, Grimes, Frank Turner, and a group whose name alone should raise a few red flags, Gang of Four.

The English post-punk group will be playing alongside local artist AV Okuba, whose second album was produced by GoF’s Andy Gill.