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Live at the Forbidden City offers a singular look at the rapidly evolving Chinese popular music scene, as seen through the eyes of one of the first progressive Western musicians to perform extensively in both China and Taiwan.
In the 1980s and 90s, American author and musician Dennis Rea was an unofficial musical ambassador to the East, playing concerts in venues ranging from sports arenas to illicit underground nightclubs to TV broadcasts viewed by millions of Chinese—frequently under bizarre circumstances and the constant threat of harassment by Communist Party authorities. Spiced with informative reflections on Chinese music and culture, Live at the Forbidden City interweaves vivid, often comical depictions of Rea’s musical adventures with an insider’s look at China’s emergent rock music phenomenon, richly descriptive tales of travels in China’s ethnic minority regions, and an eyewitness account of the violent civil uprising that broke out in the city of Chengdu at the same time as the world—shaking events at Tiananmen Square.
“The adventures of an accidental musical ambassador…[Rea’s] thoroughly engaging chronicle takes readers from his first hour in the country, when a taxi driver backed over his guitar, through his almost five years living and traveling in China and Taiwan…Throughout, Rea employs an agreeably self-deprecating tone and exhibits a musicians ear for euphony and rhythm. Vivid and informative, expressing appreciation grounded in experience.” – Kirkus Discoveries