Check out Birdstriking’s new music video for “Monkey Snake”!
The press release accompanying the video explains the band’s name and the song’s title:
“A bird strike is dangerous, but full of speed and strength, just like our music,” says Birdstriking frontman He Fan. In 2009, a rogue flock of geese took out the engines of a commercial airplane, causing a dramatic emergency landing on the Hudson River. Halfway around the globe, a group of college students in Beijing found the perfect metaphor to name the fledging band, just formed at a Carsick Cars concert. “Birdstriking symbolizes the will of the individual, which under certain conditions can overwhelm the group,” adds He Fan, whose lyrics often take on Chinese state power or his peers’ complacency.
The term “monkey snake” (猴蛇 houshe) is a homophone for “throat and tongue” (喉舌 houshe) from the officially repeated notion that state media are the “throat and tongue” of the Communist Party. (Monkey snake is one of the mythical animals dreamed up by Chinese Internet users to evade censorship—“grass mud horse,” a homophone for a local obscenity, is another famous example.)
Directed by Beijinger Lan Qi and premiering today on Noisey, the video for “Monkey Snake” features four birds—that would be the four members of Birdstriking—breaking out of their cages and setting them ablaze. “I want to tell people that they should know the world through their ears, eyes, and minds—not just through TV or the Internet.”
He Fan elaborated and explained to Noisey that it’s not just about Chinese censorship of media:
Noisey: Can you tell me about the meaning behind the song “Monkey Snake”?
He Fan: The song is talking about media, such as the radio or TV. We’re controlled by them but we don’t even know it. With the song, we try to tell people to have your own ideas and not be controlled by something else. That’s why in the video we are flying away from our cages and gradually destroy them.
I understand that the title of the song is a play on words or a kind of code. Can you explain that to me?There are so many things like “monkey snake” on Chinese social media. Like “Caonima” that’s another “animal” but the real pronunciation in Chinese sounds like “fuck your mother.” Chinese internet users like to create new words for fun. With “monkey” the Chinese pronunciation is hóu and “snake” is shé, so it means “throat and tongue.” Or the pronunciation of “throat and tongue” sounds a lot like “monkey snake.” That has another meaning which is “media,” because in China the media is the Communist Party’s “throat and tongue.” So, that’s why we chose the name.
So, it’s a song against restrictions on independent media and restrictions on freedom of information.
Yeah, but we don’t only focus on the Chinese media. I think the media all over the world is the same. They want to control you. They want to make you buy their stuff. We’re all losing our independent minds. We want to tell people to remember how to think for themselves.
In the Facebook post that shared the interview, the band laughed at the Noisey author’s knee-jerk comparison of them to dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
The band is currently on their first North American tour, and we’re giving away a pair of tickets to the show on Monday, 6/15 at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Birdstriking” by Wednesday, 11:59 PM. We’ll choose a winner on Thursday morning.
We’re reviving our mailing list soon. Once a week, we’ll send a newsletter with the weekly events and exhibitions post and other things we’ve posted in the past week. If you want to join our mailing list, let us know in your email.
See other tour dates, stream their first album, which was re-released last week in the US, and find a link to their interview with Brown Noise Unit in our recent post.
The article was updated to include excerpts from He Fan’s interview with Vice.
Image courtesy of the band