Mastodon Jean-Michel Jarre and his concerts in China – Sascha Wübbena

Jean-Michel Jarre and his concerts in China

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that music had influenced me from a very early age. While my father listened to a lot of Beatles, Dire Straits and others from the rock and pop universe, he also had a passion for electronic music. I vividly remember the Kraftwerk record (Radioactivity), which I knew inside out. The very first CD my father bought was also full of timeless synthesizer music by Jean-Michel Jarre, Axel F, Vangelis and so on. And it was precisely this genre that had a lasting influence on my taste in music — to this day.

At some point, a double LP turned up at home. I may have been five, six, seven or eight years old at the time. It was a live album by Jean-Michel Jarre called The Concerts in China. What fascinated me with my childish perception was the fact that you could turn the cover 180 degrees and it always showed a face 1. But it was the music that made sure that I didn’t listen to anything else for weeks and months. And even after almost 40 years, this album hasn’t lost its appeal.

Rare pieces

A concert is usually attended with the expectation of hearing the songs live that you already know from the studio albums. That’s the rule. But special highlights are the tracks that nobody has heard before. And there were quite a few of them at the concerts in China. It was probably also a special experience for Jean-Michel Jarre to perform in China. Because until then (i.e. 1981), no Western musician had ever performed in China. And since Jarre does nothing without superlatives when it comes to performances, he also went all out musically.

In addition to well-known pieces by OxygeneEquinoxe and Magnetic Flieds, there are gems such as Arpegiator. This track did not reappear on another of his albums and was not recorded again in a studio. It was unique in the truest sense of the word and is one of my favorite pieces by Jarre.

The special thing about these concerts from 1981, however, are the many Chinese musical influences. Jean-Michel Jarre wanted to give the Chinese guests a gift, so to speak, and responded to their musical culture. So the then 33-year-old electronic pioneer was not alone on stage. The Peking Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra was also there, playing a variety of styles of ancient Chinese music that could hardly have been more impressive. There must have been an incredible amount of guzhengs (tremors) and other original instruments being played. The various orchestral parts of Fishing Junks at Sunset were only interrupted by short electronic soundscapes that built a bridge between past and present.

Speaking of “bridge”. Some of the pieces are transitioned with atmospheric sounds from Chinese cities. Again and again you hear voices speaking Chinese. As a listener, you really feel as if you are in Beijing, Shanghai or somewhere else. Even if Chinese culture doesn’t appeal to me that much, you still immerse yourself in it.

The last track is an exception to the music. In a way, Jean-Michel Jarre has composed a thank you. He recorded Souvenir of China in the studio and placed it at the end of the album. It is a quiet piece, accompanied by the sound of a camera. He makes it clear that he has taken many memories from China with him. This track was performed at another concert in the Forbidden City in Beijing in 2004.


You either like Jean-Michel Jarre’s music or you don’t. It’s all a matter of taste. But for all Jarre fans, the live album The Concerts in China is a highlight. Maybe it’s because of the many memories from my childhood that make it even more intense for me. But even when listening to Jarre’s complete works, this album certainly stands out.

When I write a review, I only write about music and albums that I particularly love. The fact that this is my first article and my first review has come about for some unknown reason. I stumbled across it by chance today. But looking back, it’s only logical. Alongside Radioactivity by Kraftwerk, The Concerts in China was my first musical love. And it deserves a special place – even here in this brand new blog.



I created the cover image for this post with ChatGPT. The rights to the album cover shown are owned by the label (Sony Music) and Jean-Michel Jarre.

  1. If you want to understand this, simply turn the monitor upside down 😉 ↩︎

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