Since its inception in 2002, the Beijing New Worker Band has become a representative art group formed by and dedicated to migrant workers. Changing its name three times in twenty years, the band has demonstrated a strong capacity to adapt to uncertain political tides, subsisting in the exploration and expression of art and culture with a new working-class consciousness in postsocialist China. The status of the group has been bolstered by an array of artistic output, such as theater productions, literary writings, and Spring Festival galas. Although overshadowed by some of the better publicized, more successful creative activities, music has been the group's steadiest form of self-expression. Appropriating Roland Barthes's concept of musica practica, this article interrogates the unique status that music has enjoyed in this group and explores three interrelated aspects—album writing, live performances, and community and relationship building—with an emphasis on “practice.” It investigates how musica practica constitutes a pivotal mechanism that enables the group to form and transform as main stakeholders in the making of the new working class, and to imagine and experiment with what cultures of labor in the twenty-first century could sound like.

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