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Cao Fang: Life under the indie sky
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Cover of Cao Fang's new EP, "Farther Than the Sky."

"You can download my music, but you can't download my life." -- Cao Fang

In November, Cao Fang released her third offering, an EP entitled "Farther Than the Sky." It is a collection of five simple songs, but is sold at the unusually high price of 65 yuan (US$8.97). At a time when the record industry is being undermined by illegal file-sharing on the Internet, Cao Fang has made a point - she wants to share her musical life, and since that's something "undownloadable," she has packed it into a new CD.

For years, Cao Fang has been making headway as a fixture in China's indie music scene. Her second album, "Encounter Me," was released in 2005 and went on to sell over 100,000 copies, a strong sales showing for an indie musician. However, Cao Fang chose to release her latest EP under her own young label. Its strident indie sound has kept the EP out of mainstream record stores, and because there are no rules for indie albums to comply with, this seemingly idly-made EP is destined to be alternately satisfying and disappointing.

It is disappointing to new fans, who might easily overlook the EP based on its price; even those who reluctantly purchased the album are likely to be frustrated by its incompletion - one of the songs has no lyrics, and all of the songs lack complexity.

But for longtime fans, "Farther Than the Sky" is a satisfying reward. A rich package, it contains not only a CD, but also a poster, two photographs, and a 40-page diary which chronicles the development of the EP. By reenacting her days of making music, Cao Fang paints a vivid portrait of herself that is very different from the nonchalant girl in her previous albums. She shows a girl who loves music, and even more, the life that accompanies music.

"Farther Than the Sky" details a life of independence, unorthodoxy, aggression and dignity.

And that is what Cao Fang's life is all about.
(CRI January 24, 2008)

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