Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chinese Politics Matter in Music

Chinese bass Hao Jiang Tian
"Lang Lang's choice of music for a state dinner in the US was both lauded and chided, although it has evolved to be another folk song about love of country. Depending on your view, pianist Lang Lang either pulled off a sucker punch or committed a diplomatic faux pas last week. He played a tune from a movie that has anti-American subject matter at the Jan. 19 state banquet US President Barack Obama gave to the visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao. Even though it did not evolve into a diplomatic skirmish, it created some hoopla on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. As a student, before the bass singer Hao Jiang Tian became famous at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he used to moonlight as a piano player at restaurants. One night a Chinese busboy requested he play the song
Lang Lang: enfant terrible?
and afterwards broke down in tears, because he was so homesick. My personal favorite post-1949 patriotic number is "I Love You, China," also from a movie - the 1979 Hearts for the Motherland, starring Joan Chen. It was inspired by a true story, an overseas Chinese girl who returns to China, survives political upheavals and becomes an opera singer. The song is structured like an opera aria and was sung by a classically trained singer in the film - and has been ever since. It depicts various natural scenes from across the country. And it does not have an enemy in the lyrics." [

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