Source: China State Council Information Office 3
Quartet re-forms after 15 years and their unique sound looks set to win over new fans.
The beat must go on. It was not an attempt to recapture that which had gone-the prime of youth, the precious time, shared with friends, the dreams chased and sometimes obtained, and the limelight.
There was another reason for Dada, one of the most recognizable and best-selling Chinese pop-rock bands, to reunite after a 15-year hiatus. A clue is in their latest single, See You Again, released on June 19.
They wanted to meet their fans again and say sorry for leaving the stage so soon. A decade and a half after they released their last album, and silently parted ways, the four are back on stage, again as one.
“Passing through the floating yesterdays, passing through the memories we had … Just for the last time we said ‘see you again’,” they sing in the music video for the new song, which was recorded in the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, their hometown, and the city hardest hit by the coronavirus in the country.
In 2000, the four members of Dada, lead vocalist Peng Tan, guitarist Wu Tao, bassist Wei Fei and drummer Zhang Ming, all from Wuhan, came to Beijing for the first time as a group. It was there they made history as the first ever Chinese mainland rock band to sign with the Warner Music Group.
A year later, they released their award-winning debut album, Angel. They released their second album, The Dada Golden Age, in 2003, then held their first live concert at the Beijing Exhibition Hall Theater the following year.
However, in 2005, to everyone’s surprise, Dada disbanded at the peak of their popularity.
There was no announcement of a breakup, no visible signs of internal squabbling, but just a sudden disappearance, like ships that pass in the night, gone, vanished.
“The name of the latest single, See You Again, is for our fans, to whom we didn’t say goodbye 15 years ago,” says Peng, who composed the song along with guitarist Wu.
“We didn’t have a full closure, and now we are back again.”
The song continues in the band’s music style, which is a mixture of catchy pop tunes and rock beats. The softly-spoken lead vocalist still sings with his clean and soothing voice.
The music video features Wuhan landmarks which they personally hold dear, such as the East Lake, the river port and a local food court. The four members pass through the streets in black and white to indicate their past, heading to a common destination, to record together, in full color.
“I am happy that Dada is back,” commented a fan with the handle 27Age. “Their new song reminds me of my younger days, when I rode my bicycle and listened to their songs on my Walkman.”
“Dada’s reunion brings back nostalgic memories for the band,” wrote music critic Chi Bin on microblogging platform Sina Weibo on June 19.
“When the new song plays, everything about Dada and our young days flashes back.”
Peng, 42, who formed Dada with the other three members in 1996, has similar emotions.
“When we wrote and recorded See You Again together, the process also took us back to our early days,” recalls Peng.
“Back then, we were in our early 20s and all we wanted to do was to release an album.”
Although they “dreamed about a sound cycle of city-to-city music tours followed by new albums and their big sales”, the fact was that they spent three whole years working on their debut album, without knowing if they would succeed or not.
They had sent out numerous music samples to record companies, but got no answer.
That was until veteran music producer-promoter Song Ke, the then head of Warner Music Group’s China office, listened to their sample and was impressed by their original songs.
He invited the band to Beijing and helped them launch their career, which seemed “unbelievable” when Peng and other members first heard the news.
“When I listened to their songs, I decided to see the band in person. I wanted to create a space for them to write music and sing their songs,” says Song.
In its heyday, the band not only gave shows nationwide but also did for magazines and advertisements.
Looking back on their golden days, Peng mentions one show in particular, which was held in a city in northeastern China after they released their second album.
There was a huge crowd welcoming the band. The band was overwhelmed by the noise and chaos. “We were treated like stars. It seemed like that the craziness had nothing to do with our music,” recalls Peng.
Strangely, it was this type of feeling that made them all uneasy. They were reluctant to adjust, as fame demands, to the diktats of others. So the band decided to split up and each member pursued their own interests.
“During the days after our breakup, I didn’t want to mention the name of Dada again,” drummer Zhang Ming says.
Zhang considered Dada as an “ex-girlfriend” that would evoke nostalgia and a bit of embarrassment.
Peng released a solo album, titled Teen Spirit, in 2007, and also became an actor in theatrical productions.
The four members of Dada are all married and some have become fathers, including Peng. He married model-actress Chang Chunxiao more than a decade ago and they had a daughter in 2016. The couple even released a few singles together.
In June 2019, they had the chance to perform together as a band again at the Cactus Music Festival in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan province.
That chemistry worked its magic once again, and they sang their old hits, such as South and Waiting.
The band announced their reunion a few months later and signed to Modern Sky, one of the key indie music companies in China.
“Though we headed in different directions after the split, we’ve still managed to get back together by singing our songs. We felt it was the right thing to do to be Dada again,” says Peng.