Due to the coronavirus, China’s music industry has also been hit hard. All the live-venues were shut down, performances were cancelled or postponed, band members can’t gather for rehearsal. Meanwhile, music live-streaming is suddenly booming. We interviewed Xu Bo, the vocalist and guitarist of Wuhan emo/ math rock band Chinese Football, to try to understand how he copes with living in the centre of an epidemic and how he participates in this extreme social event as a musician.
Basic Info: Name, age, occupation, are you from Wuhan, born and raised?
I’m Xu Bo, 34 years old, musician and label owner, born and raised in Wuhan.
How would you describe the atmosphere in Wuhan right now? What scenery do you see in Wuhan?
There are few people in the street. Because I stay at home every day, so the Wuhan I perceive right now is not too different from everyone else’s —-they are all from the Internet, but being in the center of the storm does enlarge many feelings. There is still a bit of tension in the atmosphere. From the panic at the beginning to the helplessness of the present, I don’t know when it will end.
How did you feel when the city went to lock down? Did you try to leave? Do you know people who left? What did they experience?
It was very sudden to see the news in the middle of the night, but I didn’t want to leave because my family is here. And my flight back to Japan before the outbreak was cancelled. There was no other place to go. A friend drove home all night after the announcement of the closure, and then quarantined himself for two weeks. I don’t think his choice was wrong. Our bassist went back his hometown right before the city closure announcement . It is said that he was closely watched by the community after he returned home, and his family was not allowed to go out, and people go to his family’s apartment and check their temperature every day.
How do you protect yourself? How do you spent the time now or describe your daily routine?
I just barely go out. Every day, I play guitar and sing at home, and I record videos and upload them online.
Do you have friends or family members who get infected? How are they coping?
My former classmate’s family members are infected. It seems a big problem for them to be hospitalized. Everyone helps him to find a solution and asks for help online. Finally, his family was smoothly accepted by the hospital, I wish them a healthy recovery as soon as possible.
How is your band, Chinese football affected by this? For example, how you rehearsing, writing songs, and future plan?
The outbreak had a big impact on our live show plans in the first half of the year and we had to cancel or postpone all of them. But the original plan during the Spring Festival was to write songs at home, so this part has not been disrupted.
How it was affected the alternative music scene in China, and how bands and fans、labels are adapting in these times?
The virus hit the performance market very hard, since performing is the most important way for people to earn money – so everyone is the victim in the scene. At present, fans spend more time on the Internet, while bands and labels are also trying “cloud music festival” and “cloud performances”, that is, playing live concert videos, live-streaming rehearsal or performances to (continue to) expose and connect with fans.
Have you received any greetings from foreign fans or musicians recently? What do they think of the coronavirus outbreak in China?
Yes, thank you for your concern. They are all worried about our own safety. We are all healthy now! I didn’t discuss the epidemic with my foreign friends, and I don’t know what they think of it. For ourselves, there is too much information that needs to be digested and reflected upon, about emergency mechanisms, about bureaucracy, about freedom of speech. I’m also very glad to see lot of active voices on social media these days, whether it’s emotional venting, praising front-line medical workers, or holding the government accountable. I think it all makes sense. And I’ve been able to truly see the kindness, bravery and warmth of many ordinary Chinese people.
Are you involved in any volunteer or fundraising projects? As a musician, do you feel that you have the responsibility to make a voice for the coronavirus outbreak by means of music?
I have participated in some online performance project for free, which may be more important than fund-raising to accompany those who stay at home. As a musician, I think we should find our own way to let our voice to be heard and do what we are good at. There is no need to enlarge one’s responsibility, and each individual deserves to be respected. When it’s time for people to speak up then just do that – this is our responsibility as a human being.
‘Stay Home’ by Xu Bo