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About the Author
Ken Smith currently divides his time between New York (where he writes for Gramophone magazine) and Hong Kong (where he serves as the Asian–performing arts critic for the Financial Times). He is Co–Music Director of the recordings Dong Folk Songs and Miao Music for China's MediaFusion Group, and he won an ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 2008 for his liner notes to Gil Shaham's recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin. Ken is also the author of Fate! Luck! Chance!, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.

Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Blog

I Love “I Love Beijing Tiananmen”

Whenever I need a quick pick-me-up, I click on the song “I Love Beijing Tiananmen.” Really, how can you not get excited hearing dozens of cheerful schoolkids calling for Chairman Mao to guide them forward? I’d first heard it in the opening credits of Cina Chung Kuo, a 1972 documentary by Michelangelo Antonioni, whose music consultant Luciano Berio apparently liked the song as much as I do. (I like this film so much I actually saw it twice last year, once in New York during the Asia Society’s Cultural Revolution retrospective and again at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.)

By writing this tune, composer Jin Yueling was fast-tracked into the Central Conservatory’s Class of 1978, bypassing all entrance requirements. Although Jin Yueling’s colleagues may well share Noel Coward’s unflattering swipe at the “potency of cheap music,” I’m sure many of them would have traded a future award or two to have written any kind of tune—propaganda or otherwise—as catchy as this one. It’s still a karaoke hit in China, and Jin is now the music editor of the Shanghai Record Company.

Posted by Ken Smith

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