Wuhan (China) (AFP)

It was the Chinese capital of punk before being that of Covid-19. But in Wuhan, pogo pits and concert halls remain closed due to physical distancing, much to the chagrin of the players in the sector.

The epidemic has stuck on this city of 11 million inhabitants of central China an image of outcast and paused the soaring decibels of local musicians.

Because if the new coronavirus has almost disappeared from the country, Wuhan, where the Covid-19 was spotted for the first time at the end of 2019, remains on its guard and still prohibits live shows for the moment.

"We don't know what the possible consequences will be," said Zhu Ning, 48, a founding member of a punk group.

"The most important thing now is to keep (the music scene) afloat," says the owner of the independent concert hall Vox.

The 11-week-long confinement of Wuhan was finally lifted in April after the near-disappearance of the new infections. If the city has since revived, closed gatherings are prohibited.

- Students and expatriates -

"It means no customers. So no income," said Zhu, a few hours after the local police asked him to cancel the broadcast in his hall of a punk concert.

Renowned as a protesting city, Wuhan is home to several universities and their students, and expatriate employees of multinationals. She is known for her openness to new ideas.

Zhu Ning is the ex-drummer of the SMZB group, created in the late 1990s at the same time as other Wuhan bands. They have earned the city its reputation as a melting pot of punk in China - a status it shares with Beijing.

Considered the godfather of Chinese punk, guitarist Wu Wei, leader of SMZB, is known for his provocative lyrics which sometimes criticize the authorities. He founded 10 years ago "Wuhan Prison", another metropolitan punk club.

- 'Angry' -

"It's a place where people come together and transmit their energy," said Ingmar Liu, a local employee and singer in a local group.

Aged 21, her hair dyed green and her arms adorned with surreal tattoos, the young woman explains that the club is now struggling to pay the rents.

"The epidemic has had repercussions on the whole bar and concert sector," she sighs.

With no place to perform, the musicians meet privately for their rehearsals. Until we can go back on stage.

But will Wuhan's traditional tone freedom materialize in future songs about the epidemic?

"I was very angry at the start with the government's management of the coronavirus. But now it's digested," says Ingmar Liu.

"Because this anger is not punk."

© 2020 AFP