China's Ai Weiwei launches musical career with heavy metal "Dumbass" single

Wed May 22, 2013 1:56am EDT
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By Maxim Duncan

BEIJING (Reuters) - Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei made his first foray into the musical world on Wednesday with the release of the top single from his debut album, a song called "Dumbass" that takes inspiration from his detention in 2011.

The video for the heavy metal song, which was directed by Ai with cinematography by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Doyle, depicts Ai's 81 days in secretive detention in 2011, which sparked an international outcry.

"There was one thing I thought was interesting. When I was detained, there was a paramilitary officer standing there very seriously watching me, and he asked me quietly if I could sing a song," Ai told Reuters at his home in northeastern Beijing.

"At the time I felt extremely frustrated, because I felt terrible, and I realized that in a situation like that, these guards felt just like me, they wanted to hear songs," he said.

The video features Ai having his head and signature beard shaved by his son, and appearing in lipstick and a dress.

The lyrics rail against the authorities, as befit a man who has repeatedly criticized the Chinese government for flouting the rule of law and the rights of citizens, and are also dotted with obscenities.

The album, called "Divina Commedia" after the poem by Italian poet Dante, is a reference to the nickname given Ai by his supporters.

The rest of the six-track heavy metal album is due to be released next month, and contains songs about internet censorship and blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, whose escape from house arrest last April and subsequent refuge in a U.S. embassy embarrassed China and led to a diplomatic tussle.   Continued...

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei stands at the door to his studio in Beijing, May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic