Country striking up patriotic tunes

BEIJING – Red songs are no longer the exclusive property of Southwest China’s Chongqing municipality

Women rehearse a dance in praise of the Communist Party of China in Tianshan community of Shanghai's Changning district on June 3. Wang Song / Xinhua

The whole nation has begun a musical campaign to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, which falls this year.

Red songs, the name given to songs written in praise of the Party, the country and the spirit of revolution, have inspired several generations to struggle for the prosperity of the country, and now are filling China with vigorous new strength. They can be heard in schools, communities and villages – even in canteens and jails.

Diners in a canteen at Henan Normal University in Xinxiang, Central China’s Henan province, have been treated during the past two months to 100 red songs performed by students of the university.

“Red songs bear special educational functions,” said Peng Fuqi, Party secretary of the university’s logistics department. “Singing them is a new way to give students an education in Party spirit.”

Street-washing carts in the Qiaokou district of Wuhan, capital of Central China’s Hubei province, recently began playing red songs instead of popular music.

Although all red songs are patriotic, individual songs often have specific themes that make them appropriate for use in certain places. Thus workers’ songs are played in industrial areas, military tunes are broadcast near army bases and songs extolling the country’s reform and opening-up are commonly heard in commercial districts.

In Shanghai, a red song contest pitting teachers against each other was recently held in Shanghai International Studies University. Those in attendance heard many new tunes that expressed a love for China.

“We sang the songs together with our teachers,” said Zhao Chen, a 22-year-old student at the university. “That not only stimulated thoughts about history but also about a bright future.

“But we expect to hear some more new works, which will be more in line with our tastes. We accept the cooperation and collective spirit of the past, but we now place more emphasis on independence and individuality.”

An increasing number of cities across the country, including Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and Kunming, capital of Yunnan province – both in Southwest China – have started campaigns encouraging millions of residents to sing red songs. Chongqing was the first place in the country to start such a campaign.

In April, the revival of red music in that municipality got a boost when the local government encouraged residents to learn and sing 36 red songs recently written for the Party’s 90th birthday. Television and radio stations broadcast the songs, and newspapers printed the musical notations for them.

The campaign is the latest phase of the “red culture movement” begun by Bo Xilai, who started promoting the singing of red songs soon after he became Party chief of Chongqing at the end of 2007.

“Red songs won public support because they depicted China’s development path in a simple, sincere and vivid way,” Bo said.

In July 2008, the Chongqing government said that red songs should be sung at official events held on days of national importance. A little less than a year later, the government announced a series of steps meant to promote the development and prosperity of red culture.

“The city initiated the red song campaign, which sings about the glorious history, awe-inspiring righteousness and harmony of the nation,” Zhang Guozuo, director of the Center of Chinese Soft Power Studies, an independent consulting agency, was quoted by Chongqing Daily News as saying.

“This is great pioneering work aimed at consolidating Chinese ideology and strengthening the cultural power of our country.”

A well-known Chinese song, Flower in May, which praises soldiers who have saved the nation, was composed by Yan Shushi, a math teacher in a primary school in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China’s Liaoning province. Yan wrote it after he had witnessed fighting in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in 1931.

“These people were not educated in music,” said Fu Gengchen, honorary president of the Chinese Musicians Association and a composer.

“They just expressed their pure emotions.”

Several teenagers and children interviewed by China Daily said they like learning and singing red songs.

“When I sing red songs with my classmates in a chorus, I feel my heart vibrating and feel deeply touched,” said Bao Lan, a 14-year-old middle school student in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province. “I sing loudly, and the songs make me more curious about what happened in those days.”

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