Born in 1978 in Jintan, Jiangsu Province, Li Zhi is a singer-songwriter who began his career singing and writing about politics. He has enjoyed commercial success in recent years, but has maintained an honest self-awareness and commitment to the independent music scene.
At age 17, Li bought his first guitar, and at 20 he began to study music composition while living in Nanjing, as a college student. After dropping out and living briefly in Beijing, he returned to Nanjing and began performing in bars, teaching folk guitar, and following his passion for music to far-flung regions of China.
In 2004, Li borrowed 5,000 yuan from a friend and recorded his first album, "The Forbidden Game" (《被禁忌的游戏》). He released two more LPs by 2006 and began to gain a wide following in China. Tickets to his shows are known to demand hefty prices and sell out fast. The artist has drawn controversy for his comments about China's music scene. Ahead of a national tour last year, China Daily reported:
"People take it for granted that folk and rock singer-songwriters should cater to a minority taste and lower their tickets price. I don't think so," says Li.
Tickets for his national tour cost as much as 880 yuan ($142).
He adds that there are few independent singer-songwriters in the music industry "because their attitude and spirit are not independent".
"An independent singer-songwriter should have a clear understanding of his music and his audience, rather than counting on images designed by the record companies," he says. [Source]
Li is also known for his outspoken views on Chinese politics. In 2010, just after Google announced its decision to move out of China, Li wrote a blog post on his frustration over the curtailment of expression in China. "We're like pigs, just sitting around and fighting with each other in the pen they put us in. Ignorant and unable to think for ourselves, we are clubbed down a narrow channel of nationalism, becoming mere tools at our rulers' disposal."
As Li has gone more mainstream, his work has become less political. Two of his earlier songs, "Goddess" and "The Square," elegize the 1989 protests and their violent suppression around June 4 of that year.