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Atlantic Affairs to Rock China's Musical Boat

Around this time last year, Chinese rock fans were eagerly awaiting the Rolling Stones' historic visit to Beijing; and Cui Jian, the father of rock'n'roll in China, was looking forward to singing with the world renowned band.

However, to their great disappointment, the Stones cancelled their Beijing gig in the end, because of the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

Now, another big name in the rock'n'roll world, Udo Lindenberg, is set to perform in China. And the German group have invited Cui to be their guest singer in Lindenberg's touring musical Atlantic Affairs.

The German rock'n'rollers will perform in Shanghai on February 27 and 28 and at the Beijing Exhibition Hall Theatre on March 4 and 5.

Set in the 1930s, Atlantic Affairs premiered in Bremerhaven in May 2002.

The musical starts with the ocean liner QE2 leaving New York City harbour for Bremerhaven. On board, Lindenberg reveals an unexpected inheritance received in New York -- 20 mysterious suitcases.

He opens the suitcases and finds piles of music compositions, films and stories by German artists such as dramatist Bertolt Brecht, novelist Thomas Mann, director Billy Wilder and composer Kurt Weill, who had to flee from the Nazis to the US and Shanghai in the 1930s.

Lindenberg, the crew of the ship and the passengers check the material and sing the songs in contemporary styles such as punk, engine room-rock and ballroom-ballad.

"The singing of the old songs recalls the destruction, singing them once again in a new way creates a continuity in which memory of the destruction lives on," said the 57-year-old veteran German rocker.

"This is not worshipping the ash, but passing on the fire. Please remember our big artists and rebels. They had a dream and we are here to fulfill it," he added.

The show features such singers as Ellen ten Damme, Nathalie Dorra, Yvonne Catterfeld, Die Prinzen, Tim Fischer and Otto Sander.

For the China tour, Lindenberg has specially added some Chinese songs popular in the 1930s such as Songs of the Four Seasons (Siji Ge).

And Cui will perform three of his signature songs and sing the final number I Promise together with Lindenberg.

Dark sun glasses, black hat, casual suit and pure German rock -- that's the unique image of Lindenberg rocking the world's stage, although he and his group are still unfamiliar to many Chinese rock fans.

He has influenced generations in Germany and has fans of all ages.

His wonderful reputation as creator of German language rock, his songs -- sensitive to political and social problems -- outstanding in their clarity, and his honesty and naturalness are only some of the hints that help explain why the musician so strongly and quickly connects to his listeners' minds.

Lindenburg's career draws heavily on his years of study and travel.

After being continuously "on the road" -- including jazz nights in Germany, performances in clubs in the United States, Tripoli and France, and musical training at conservatories in Duisburg and Munister Lindenberg created his first band in 1969.

In 1973, he formed the band Panic Orchestra which is still together today and performs in Atlantic Affairs.

In addition to being a rock singer, Lindenberg also works as a film actor, writer and an illustrator. In 1996, he published his first illustrated book and gave several exhibitions in Germany.

In preparation for the China tour of Atlantic Affairs, Lindenberg flew to Shanghai last June. At a blues bar, he heard the name of Cui Jian for the first time when he was talking about rock'n'roll in China with some friends and said he would like to co-operate with Chinese rock'n'roll singers in the show.

"Many Chinese friends recommended Cui to me, so I knew he was a big name in China and I called him the next day," Lindenberg said.

Then, thanks to the help of the Volkswagen Sound Foundation, which has mainly introduced world renowned musicians to China and sponsored Chinese young musicians and bands with development potential since it was founded in August 1997, Cui was invited to Germany to see Atlantic Affairs and performed with Lindenberg at Volkswagen's newly established glass factory in Dresden.

Lindenberg also revealed that during that time, they often walked together by themselves, "like brothers."

"I feel the chemistry between us. Both of us are sensitive and willing to get close to each other. We share the same musical ideals and wish for world peace," he said.

Last September, to warm up for the coming shows, the Volkswagen Sound Foundation, sponsor of the show, invited Lindenberg to perform two mini-concerts with Cui in Beijing. The two rock stars thrilled their audiences with their insightful lyrics and catchy melodies at the Yan Club.

Both of them enjoyed the co-operation and are confident about the China tour.

Lindenberg said: "I think Chinese people are open-minded. They like to listen to Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, and I believe they will like our songs."

Cui said: "It's a good chance for both of us to learn each other's rock'n'roll style. And I hope Chinese audiences will get to know more about the latest developments in Western rock through the show."

In order to get in the right mood for the China tour, Lindenberg asked a friend to choose a Chinese name for him: He is now Lin Wudao.

"I have gained an in-depth knowledge of Chinese rock'n'roll from Cui and now, through the shows in China, I hope to get a broader and deeper understanding of traditional Chinese culture, poetry, literature and music," Lindenberg said.

"I am not a star to China. It's a cultural exchange and a chance to establish friendships."

(China Daily February 19, 2004)

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