Bob Dylan Clears China's Censors, Playing First Shows in April
Censors have cleared Bob Dylan to make his China debut despite worries that the country's authoritarian government would block his planned shows given the American folk icon's antiestablishment reputation.
China's Ministry of Culture said in a notice posted on its website Thursday that Dylan will be allowed to perform in Beijing between March 30 and April 12.
The website of the Dylan fan magazine ISIS reported earlier that Dylan was scheduled to perform in Beijing on April 6 and Shanghai on April 8, although Dylan's official website doesn't list those tour dates.
The Chinese Ministry of Culture did not immediately post approval for the Shanghai show. A press official for the ministry declined comment on whether approval was imminent, asking a reporter to keep checking the ministry's website for updates. He would only give his surname as Zhou.
The Chinese ticketing website MyPiao.com has already listed both the expected Beijing and Shanghai shows, but hasn't started accepting orders.
The approval notice requires Dylan to stick to the program vetted by ministry officials, but didn't give specifics.
Dylan's publicist at CBS Records didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The 69-year-old American legend was expected to meet resistance from Chinese censors considering his association with U.S. protest movements in the 1960s. Songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin" were inspirations for the American civil rights and anti-war movements.
This is Dylan's second attempt to perform in China in recent years.
He was originally scheduled to play Beijing and Shanghai last year, but the dates were canceled. Mainland music fans blamed a financial dispute with Dylan's Taiwanese promoter. The promoter denied the allegations, saying the flash point was a demand from the Ministry of Culture for Dylan to sign a pledge promising "not to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" during his performances.
A veteran observer of the Chinese music scene said he was "pleasantly surprised" that Dylan was cleared to perform in the country, attributing the decision to the calculation that the American singer is now less political and that he is not widely known in the country. China was largely a closed country during Dylan's heyday in the 1960s.
"The thinking is probably that he has gotten relatively innocuous of late. He's not exactly stirring up hornets' nests any more. He invokes more nostalgia than notoriety," said Kaiser Kuo, a Chinese-American musician who was a founding member of pioneering Chinese heavy rock band Tang Dynasty.
Kuo is also familiar with Chinese censorship standards in his role as director for international communication at leading Chinese search engine Baidu.com. He added that Dylan has a mainly niche appeal in China among music aficionados and foreigners working in the country.
"I think if you took 100 Chinese people aged between 21 and 40 and you asked them to name one Bob Dylan song, they probably couldn't even come up with one," Kuo said.
Dylan's China dates are part of a larger Asian tour that kicks off in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, on April 3. He is also scheduled to tour Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The ISIS fan magazine has also reported an unconfirmed performance in Ho Chi Minh City on April 10. Dylan is popular in Vietnam because of his anti-war songs.
In Hong Kong, a formerly British-ruled semiautonomous Chinese territory with heavy exposure to Dylan's works, strong demand prompted organizers to add a second show. Dylan is scheduled to perform here on April 12 and April 13.
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