January 30, 2011

"My motherland" - a Chinese 'Red" Song Played by a "Wolf" Pianist in White House

Opening of Chopin Year in Warsaw.Image via WikipediaRecently a famous Chinese pianist Lang Lang played a "red" song "My Motherland" during his performance in White House. This song was a theme song in a movie about a battle in Korean War during 50s. Because of this "political" or historical context, so in many Chinese people's eye, this is "anti- America" song, and Lang Lang's performance consequently stirred a huge discussion and arguments in within Chinese online communities - while many felt utmostly inappropriate, many felt proud of the performance.

A while ago, I started a thread on Blogcatalog about the musical value of "political" songs, expressed my understanding about how a song may convey different meanings by its different aspects of art form: while the lyrics can be political, the music part can be totally musical or artistic. This song "My Motherland" happens to be one of my favorite "red" songs. Despite of it's historical context, I personally think it is one of the most beautiful Chinese folk songs. The lyrics is mostly about the love to motherland (China), about a understandable patriotism. I don't see any any pro-communism and anti-America slogans. So the only reason that this song reminds Chinese people about Korean War simply is because it was used in the movie.

I might have to agree that it was not the best choice to play this song in White House but, it should not be such a big deal.

I heard radio NPR interviewing Lang Lang about his performance, he denied that he knew about the context of this song. However, when he was interviewed by Chinese news media, he expressed his "pride" of being able to play something that glorify the power of China in front of so many powerful politicians of many countries.

One thing worth to mention is, the name of this pianist "Lang", sounds exactly like "wolf" in Chinese. It happened that he was raised by a father who is as ambitious as "tigar mother", so his father was call as "wolf father" by many Chinese people. He possesses every idea the "tigar mother" does, except he is more physically powerful than that woman. In Lang Lang's biograph he remembered once he missed 2 hours of piano practice his father asked him either swallow a whole bottle of pill or, to jump from the window.

Lang Lang is now considered as a music prodigy and super famous pianist in China. His father of course is also very famous by his "superior" way of raising his "genius" son, though "it's a little too hard to understand" by normal people, as one of interviewer from a Chinese television mentioned. But because of Lang Lang's huge success, I personally believe many Chinese people would still prove his father's "hard work". And if this was true, I guess very soon more children will jump through window (or swallow pills) without their parents' pushing them.

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  1. A little insensitive, perhaps. :-) Good post.

  2. "Insensitive", that's right! Thanks Ana!

  3. You might be interested to know that the name of the museum in Ho Chi Minh City dedicated to the Vietnam War – it’s actually called the American War there – was changed from the War Crimes to the War Remnants Museum after relations between the US and Vietnam improved, and American tourists started to flood in!

  4. Very interesting to know! Thanks! Most Asian countries (and people) have "love &hate" relationship with US. I know Japan is like that. So is China.

  5. "Wolf fathers" and "tiger mothers"-what a misnomer? Wolves and tigers would never treat their young so cruelly.

    I agree that music trumps message every time. I'm basically an atheist, but even the silliest religious songs spouting their spiritual nonsense can move and enrapture me, if the tune is good.

  6. np, i totally agree that "wolf""tiger" are inapropriate words for such kind of human beings. there is something "degenerated" about this parenting.

  7. Good article. I think the only reason that that particular song could be considered inappropriate is the current fawning over communist ideals that is going on in the Whitehouse recently, with the General Mao Christmas decor last year and several legislators who have recently come out and praised well known communist dictators - even Adolf Hitler - as being "political genius" and great strategists. There is too much leaning toward socialism in US politics today, which should really bother people who have come to America to get away from it. Other than that, music if being performed solely for aesthetic considerations - the piece is beautiful - and it may be fine since the US was hosting China at the time, but could be considered to be in poor taste because of our current political climate.