My motherland, right or wrong? (3)

08:27, January 28, 2011      

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Every song has a back-story. The beauty of the popular ones is, they capture a mood or emotion that cuts across a large swath of the public and transcends the time and the occasion. The theme song from the television adaptation of Outlaws of the Marsh is ostensibly about Chinese Robin Hoods who lived 1,000 years ago, but the lyrics strike home today, when there is a widening rich-poor gap.

Had My Motherland, Lang Lang's song in question, contained words such as "US aggression" or "helping out Koreans", it may not have lasted, but would instead have been confined to one war film. Because the lyrics are less obvious they have resonated with successive generations, even those who know little about the history that created it.

It is for the same reason that many Chinese musicians pick folk tunes for international performances. Folk songs, by and large, have two topics: love and homeland. They transcend all boundaries and are never controversial.

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.

As a side note, life has more twists than art: The singer, whose life the movie is based on, left China for New York shortly after the movie was released. She recently returned, when her career in the US petered out.

I bet I Love You, China will be in the repertory of every Chinese soprano no matter what happens. Maybe Lang Lang should have chosen this one as the melody is equally beautiful.

Source: China Daily
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