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Asian underground bands rock outside the box

Musicians get creative amid COVID-19 social distancing rules

Space-rock folk band Buddha Beat play with Mohammad Kamal Sabran at Universiti Sains Malaysia's School of Arts in Penang, Malaysia, as part of the Healing Art Project. (Photo by Marco Ferrarese)

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia -- On Oct. 2, the Chinese singer Dryad stepped on to the stage of Beijing's live music club Omni Space to scream as he hadn't screamed for months. His Buddhist-influenced band Bliss-Illusion unleashed a sonic wall of post-black metal riffs upon an over-excited crowd that had not attended a metal show for the best part of the year. By the end of the set, very few patrons still had their masks on.

"Beijing is now safe, something I cherish more than ever after more than half a year in lockdown," Dryad said from the Chinese capital. His band is among the first metal groups to have returned to the stage despite the rise in COVID-19 infections that has ruled out live music in much of the world -- including the U.S. and Europe, the global epicenters of underground and alternative music.

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