This early excerpt from Open All the Buddha Boxes chronicles the rise of two seminal Beijing bands, Hang On The Box and Chui Wan, as they carve out a space for themselves in and outside of China. We follow members of the two bands as they develop their sounds, identities and aesthetics, and we see how they affect and are affected by Beijing’s underground music scene
Co-creator Krish Raghav’s illustrations are better than ever in this new work, where he avidly captures the visual texture of the musicians, their sound, and the places they inhabit. There’s a certain earthy, gritty quality to his drawings that perfectly accompanies the atmosphere of Beijing and its obscure subcultural spaces.
One fascinating sub-plot that emerges from this excerpt is the urban development of the city of Beijing itself. While the focus of this excerpt is on the people, the city is ever-present as the backdrop for their endeavors. Throughout the excerpt, we bear witness to the modern history of Beijing as it relates to its underground music scene — the spaces that open and close, the effect of the 2008 Olympics, and Beijing’s relationship with the wider Western world.
The larger Open All the Buddha Boxes book aims to chronicle the Beijing underground music scene during its most formative two decades, starting way back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Beijing was the center of cultural production for a new China. It’s no coincidence then that the book’s creators, Josh Feola and Krish Raghav, are not only long-time residents of the city but actively involved with its music scene as well. The excerpt ends with them proclaiming that “this is [their] love letter to the music that defied, then defined, the Chinese capital for the 21st century, ” and with a promise that the full book will be released in 2020. Let’s hope they live up to their word.