Wang Feng's "Existence" in a post-Covid world | Teen Ink

Wang Feng's "Existence" in a post-Covid world

March 18, 2023
By ditingzhi BRONZE, Nanjing, Other
ditingzhi BRONZE, Nanjing, Other
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Wang Feng is fifty-one now, but as one of the titans of Chinese rock, he remains a symbol of rebellion. His trademark look — scruffy hair, black leather trousers — and raspy voice have long spoken to the anxiety and passion of multiple generations of Chinese music fans, ever since he debuted as lead singer of 1990s act No. 43 Baojia Street. Yet his recently live-streamed online concert spoke to a new generation of listeners. As millions of fans from around the nation gathered in their homes to watch Wang perform multiple hits from his long solo career, they were finally able to yell in temporary relief from the compression of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The concert’s production as a virtual event provided some measure of distance, featuring Wang and his band performing alone, surrounded by sound bites of fans all around the world reacting in real-time to their performance. Despite the aesthetic issues, however, Wang’s performance — especially his hoarse yet soulful vocals — remained the star of the show. He commanded the stage with one gloved hand pointing to the sky, expertly navigating the emotional vicissitudes of a rich career’s worth of hits.  

The highlight of the set was his performance of “Existence,” a 2011 hit ballad that takes on an existential flair in light of China’s pandemic-era policies. At one climactic moment, Wang’s lyrics extend the questions some in our nation have frequently asked in recent months, “Should I find reasons to go with the stream? / Or move on bravely and break away from the cage?” In its slimmed down format, the performance reflects the images that have emerged in pandemic-era isolation: locked down university students fashioning pet dogs from cardboard boxes; three-year-old children whose mouths open instinctively at the sight of cotton swabs; old people alone in quarantine, unable to access care or even food. 

These, together with the empty arena of the live-stream, formed a surreal contrast to images beamed in that same evening from another corner of the world — the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. There, thousands of people from nations around the planet merged into seas of joy, triumphantly shouting at the top of their lungs for international sports heroes like Lionel Messi and Harry Kane. We live in a world of gaping distinction.

Perhaps unintentionally, Wang’s hit has taken on a second life, resonating with the silent majority of the common-place public. People begin to realize that when confinement and chaos become habitual, those days of freedom and liberty once taken for granted are fading away alongside.

“Who knows where we should go?” Wang muses lyrically, “Who understands what life has become?” It is a question all of us should cogitate on, and gain from it the strength to carry on.

The author's comments:

This is a record, or simply a piece of memory for the three years that we have gone through. It shouldn't fade with the passage of time.

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