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Dissident Chinese activist Ai Weiwei to explore his music side for the first time

Ai Weiwei

Whilst perhaps not as widely known as the likes of Andy Warhol, Damien Hurst or Banksy, Chinese counterculture critic and prolific artist Ai Weiwei is certainly one of the People’s Republic’s most recognisable citizens – which from a population of over 1.3 billion is fairly impressive.

As great as that is for him, why are we bringing him up? Well, the dissident political activist has confirmed that he is to release a heavy metal album!

Despite having been involved with installations, architecture, photography, sculpture and film, he has apparently never delved into music, and so this promises to be quite a departure.

Ai is famous for having been imprisoned by the Chinese government for almost three months in 2011. He’s always been outspokenly critical of his country’s ruling party, and accusations of underhanded tactics are nothing new against the world’s most populated nation, so his confinement was understandably treated with some suspicion. Calls for his release came from around the globe – including a high-profile “free Ai Weiwei” street art campaign - and despite eventually being freed, he described his interment as “hellish” – but is forbidden by the authorities from saying much more.

One experience he has described, however, is that his guards would often get him to sing. This apparently caused him embarrasment, as he wasn’t familiar with music – all he could do was attempt Chinese People’s Liberation Army songs – and it is this experience which is understood to be the sparking point for his musical sojourn.

Rumoured to be called Divina Commedia – a reference to the famous 12th century poem by Italian Dante Alighieri – Ai would be handling the role of lyricist and vocalist, with rock musician friend Zuoxiao Zuzhou handling the musical side.

We’re obviously not entirely sure what form this album will take, and indeed if it will be any ‘good’ – we’ve all born witness to a friend’s first band, and with his assumed unfamiliarity with the genre it’s anyone’s guess – but it will be genuinely interesting to hear the work of such an acclaimed artist in a new form of media for him – especially at the age of 55.

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