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3 decades on, China's migrants still "outside looking in" (3)
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14:05, December 08, 2008

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In 2001, Xu met Wang Dezhi, another street singer who borrowed 100 yuan from him to get back a guitar that had been confiscated by a policeman. "We often played hide-and-seek with the cops in those days," said Xu.

Out of a love for music and the desire to "do something" for migrants, Xu, Wang and Wang's friend Sun Heng, a migrant from the central Henan Province, set up a band in 2002. "It was on May 1, the day the Chinese celebrate the annual labor day holiday," said Xu.

Over the past six years they have traveled to many cities, singing for migrants for free. They composed all the songs, mostly rap and rock'n'roll, to depict the migrants' hard work, tough and often tedious life and longing for a better future.

Their songs have been released on two albums, whose combined sales have topped 1 million.

With 75,000 yuan in royalties from their first album, the band settled down in Picun Village in 2005, with a school for migrants' children, which serves also as a night school for migrant workers in the village.

Six months ago, they renovated a former glazed tiles workshop that serves as a club named "home of migrants." In that club, the museum was set up to tell how China's excess rural laborers have eked out a living and fought for their rights in cities during the country's 30 years of reform.

China's reform and opening-up drive started in rural areas in 1978 with collectively-owned farmland contracted to individual families. This freed about 100 million peasants from farm work.
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