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Spoofing patriotic songs leaves many crying foul

By Wang Keju | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-30 09:33

A viral video of an amateur comedy performance set to accompany a well-known revolutionary song has reignited criticism - including from the composer's descendants - over what some consider "disrespectful" use of the tune.

Footage posted to video-sharing website Bilibili on Thursday shows four men and eight women lip-syncing the words to the Yellow River Cantata while shaking their heads and making exaggerated arm and leg movements.

It is unclear when and where it was recorded, but Chinese media have reported the performance was at a company's annual meeting. The video, which has since been deleted, was titled "Psychiatric Hospital Choir's Interpretation of Yellow River Cantata".

The song was originally composed in Yan'an, Shaanxi province, in 1939 during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) by composer Xian Xinghai and lyricist Guang Weiran.

"I am strongly opposed to such a performance," Xian Nina, the composer's daughter, told China National Radio. "My father wrote the song, and it embodies the soul of the Chinese nation. Serious music cannot be ridiculed in this way. It's a betrayal of one's history."

Yang Yuqing, a professor of modern Chinese history at Renmin University of China, said the song reflects the courageous struggle for survival, and called the spoof a desecration of history and a deterioration of the national spirit.

The video comes almost four years after a similar spoof performance on comedic TV talent and variety show Xiaoao Jianghu rubbed many the wrong way. Back then, nine contestants from Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, progressed to the second round after performing an erratic dance to Yellow River Cantata.

"I liked your show very much," actress Song Dandan, one of the show's judges, told the performers at the time. "I really think it's necessary to put some serious things up for ridicule, which we're lacking. Actually, nothing cannot be made fun of."

However, Zhang Andong, the son of lyricist Guang, told CNR shortly after he could not accept the spoof as a form of public entertainment, calling the performance "unforgivable".

"What I'm particularly indignant at is that those who organized programs like Xiaoao Jianghu are experienced enough to be familiar with the war. But they reacted as if insensitive or even numb," he said.

Since then, similar videos have seen from time to time. Over 10 such videos by companies, schools and universities uploaded in the previous month can be found on the internet, some of which even changed the lyrics to talk about year-end bonuses.

Zhang Qian, a professor of sociology and music communication at Communication University of China, said spoofs are a dynamic and attractive way of reinterpreting classic works when they are based on creativity and more importantly, critical thinking. Sometimes the spoof can even outperform the originals they spoof in terms of entertainment value.

"But I don't see any of that in the video. All I see is pure nonsense with nothing artistic and thought-provoking in it," she said.

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