Success blooms for Neon Garden

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A struggling Chongqing rock band, along with other original Chinese musicians, are being propelled into the spotlight by a musical reality show, Chen Nan reports.

When he was 13-year-old, Tan Congchong fell victim to school bullies. Being angry and depressed, he listened to Chinese rock music, such as singer-songwriter Xu Wei and the band Tang Dynasty, which, to his surprise, comforted him.

"I became a rock music fan overnight. The lyrics made me feel strong and healed me. The melody gave me power," recalls the 24-year-old. He has since taught himself to play the bass and has started to write songs.

In September 2017, as bassist and lead vocalist, Tan, who is also known by his stage name, Cong Cong, formed his own band, Neon Garden, along with 22-year-old guitarist Xia Bing, 24-year-old guitarist Wan Jiahao and 22-year-old drummer Zhao Yang. The four Chongqing natives, who all share the same passion for rock music, play in local bars to make a living.

On March 9, however, they made their debut appearance on reality show, Chuang, which was launched by Chinese online video platform Youku.

The 12-episode reality show gathers over 100 groups of Chinese musicians and aims to catapult them to stardom.

Neon Garden's original rock songs impressed the three judges of the reality show, Taiwan singer-songwriter Jam Hsiao, Hong Kong rapper and singer Jackson Wang, and Beijing-based singer-songwriter Chen Li. Hsiao describes Neon Garden's music as "the most authentic Chinese rock music" in the show.

One of their original songs, But I Love You, was written by Xia and is based on his own personal life.

"The song is about romance but we deliver the song in a direct and raw way," says Xia, who once ran a tattoo shop in Chongqing, where he met Tan.

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