Zang Tianshuo (臧天朔), part of the first wave of Chinese rock musicians who emerged in the early 80s as the country began to loosen its social shackles, will spend the next five years in jail. Zang had been arrested in September 2008 for being behind a gang fight that left one man dead back in 2003. In November last year the Beijing People’s Court found that Zang had organised the attack after a business dispute with the co-owner of one of his bars on the outskirts of Beijing.
Zang appealed the decision but Chinese courts rarely make mistakes, and the appeal was dismissed last week. Zang, who drifted out of the music industry and into China’s shadowy “black hand” (ie organised crime) world, will remain behind bars until 2014.
Zang began his music career in a band called Tumbler, along with one of the legends of Chinese rock, Ding Wu – lead singer of arguably China’s greatest rock band, Tang Dynasty. He then played keyboard for the Godfather of Chinese rock, Cui Jian. Zang formed his own band, 1989, named after the year it was formed. That year, the year of the Tiananmen Square protests, was a tumultuous one for rock music’s biggest fan base, university students. Zang himself gained a reputation as a rebellious singer, and became known as one of the bad boys of the music scene.
1989 the band was short-lived, not surviving much longer than the year itself. Zang had a successful solo career which peaked in the early years of this century. His 2001 single Friends, is one of the most popular songs of the past decade, and in 2002 he released his fifth and possibly best-received album, Folk Songs of Zang Tianshuo. In 2003 he was awarded Most Popular Mainland Singer-Songwriter at the Chinese Music Awards, the same year in which it all started to unravel for him.