Singing up a revolution

Updated: 2011-06-24 10:57

By Sun Li (China Daily European Weekly)

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In 2010, Inglis attended a nationwide singing competition of Chinese Red songs and was judged China's fifth-best singer.

His use of exaggerated gestures and facial expressions during performances has won him many fans. "I'm not making fun of those respectable songs. It's just my way to popularize them," Inglis says.

In the six years he has been living in China, he has tried his hand at a range of things, including management consultancy, teaching English and hotel management.

The 29-year-old now lives in Sanya, Hainan province, with his wife, Yanling, whom he met eight years ago on a flight from Shanghai to Hokkaido.

He decided to move to Sanya in 2007, and as a result of his excellent language abilities - Chinese, Russian and German - soon was selected as the honorary consular warden for the British Consulate General Guangzhou.

Since the recent initiation of Hainan's international tourism policy, he has seen, and is pursuing, more business opportunities in Sanya.

Inglis has settled into Chinese culture and fallen in love with China over the years, having lived in many cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Kunming and Xiamen.

However, the contest experience triggered a wave of invitations to sing Red songs. In 2010, he quit his job as a hotel manager.

"I'm now a professional Red songs' singer," he says.

"It helps me understand China, it allows me to get a spot on State-run television and enables me to make big money. So why not croon the lovely Red tunes?"

This experience not only gave him two-months of media exposure on national television, but also enabled him better to understand Chinese history and to express the friendship between British and Chinese people.

"China is my second home. Although I miss my home at times, China is where my heart is!"

Inglis is joined on stage by two other young expats with exceptional singing voices.

Keson Bernard Tinker is a postgraduate student of business management at Shanghai's Donghua University and a member of the Red song team.

A fascination with Chinese culture and civilization brought Tinker from the Bahamas in 2005 to study the language and he found that listening to, and singing, Chinese songs helped the process.

The 28-year-old was surprised that he enjoyed China's Red songs.

"I thought they were quite different from the other types of music I knew and I was amazed by the passion for the country expressed in the lyrics," he says.

Tinker's soulful renditions of Red songs have won him plaudits and awards.

"I know a black man singing Red songs is a rarity in China. People love to see it," he says. "But I really feel the love expressed in the song. I want to pump my energy and feelings into the song and express my love."

It was love that brought 35-year-old American Haley Yang to China, three years ago.

In 2002, she married Yang Jingying in the United States, and accompanied him to his hometown, Linfen city, Shanxi province.

Currently an English teacher at Shanxi Normal University, Haley says she came to know about Red songs from her husband but later developed her own understanding of them.

"In a broad sense, Red songs could refer to old songs that make you feel good about your country. They are not only associated with revolution themes," Haley says.

In 2008, she participated in a program on Shanxi TV Station that put the spotlight on expatriates, and sang her first Red song, The Beautiful Scenery of Shanxi.

"When I sang Red songs my husband grew up listening to, I could see his eyes twinkling with delight, which also made me very happy," she says.

Haley admits she initially found it hard to understand the song because of the language barrier.

Fortunately, her husband often came to her rescue, teaching her songs word by word. She would also familiarize herself with the new words by using them in her daily life. The song she sang on Show Me First is Azalea, from the film Sparkling Red Star.

"It's the most touching lullaby I've ever heard," she says.

Her favorite Red song, however, is I Love You, China.

"It was the first Chinese Red song that I could easily understand," Haley says. "Because I love my husband ... the song simply speaks out my feelings."

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