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The Dakou Generation

During the Great Cultural Revolution, the only music available in China was propaganda opera. Utilizing epic wartime narratives to convey themes of economic and ideological class struggle, these impressive spectacles were designed to indoctrinate the public with revolutionary Maoist principles, including the heroism of the proletariat and the virtue of sacrificing for the Party's cause.

Besides the 8 government-sanctioned operas circulating at the time, music was illegal and therefore extremely difficult (not to mention dangerous) to come across. But when the country began processing much of the Western world’s garbage in the 90s, used cassette tapes were shipped to the continent en masse. 

What followed was an underground network of bootleg tapes, also known as Dakou tapes. Translating to "cut" or "gashed," the term speaks not only to the government's failed attempts to destroy all foreign cultural influences, but to the ingenuity of the rebels who developed a means of repairing them. 

Suddenly, the radical youth of post-Tian An Men Square China, sometimes referred to as the “Dakou generation,” were introduced to multiple decades of foreign music with no contextual awareness of what they were listening to. Not bound by the boundaries between genres or any sense of the timeline in which they were developed, the Dakou generation was able to mix and match their influences in a highly original way. Because they didn’t know the rules, they had no qualms about breaking them.

As Andre 3000 once said, drawing inspiration from exclusively one genre or time period is incestuous. Copying your peers will limit you creatively, make your work sound formulaic, and reduce its cultural impact. You already know that the music industry does not need any more poor imitations of something that’s already being done. The top charts already sound depressingly redundant as it is.

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