China's heavy-handed censors will now have to endure Ai Weiwei's heavy metal

Mon Mar 11, 2013 6:47am EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei announced plans on Monday to release a heavy-metal album that he said would "express his opinion" just as he does with his art.

The burly and bearded Ai said 81 days in secretive detention in 2011, which sparked an international outcry, triggered his foray into music.

"When I was arrested, they (his guards) would often ask me to sing songs, but because I wasn't familiar with music, I was embarrassed," Ai, 55, said in a telephone interview. "It helped me pass the time very easily.

"All I could sing was Chinese People's Liberation Army songs," Ai said. "After that I thought: when I'm out, I'd like to do something related to music."

A court in September upheld a $2.4 million fine against Ai for tax evasion, paving the way for jail if he does not pay. Ai maintains the charges were trumped up in retaliation for his criticism of the government.

The world-renowned artist has repeatedly criticized the government for flouting the rule of law and the rights of citizens.

Ai's debut album - "Divina Commedia", after the poem by Italian poet Dante - is a reference to the "Ai God" nickname in Chinese that his supporters call him by. "God" in Chinese is "Shen", while "Divina Commedia" in Chinese is "Shen qu".

Two songs are about blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, whose escape from house arrest last April and subsequent refuge in the U.S. Embassy embarrassed China and led to a diplomatic tussle.   Continued...

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei talks on his mobile phone as he walks near the entrance to his studio in Beijing June 20, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray