What Was He Thinking?

by Cathy Barbash

China’s president Hu Jintao called for increased cultural exchanges during his remarks at yesterday’s luncheon of leaders of American business and foreign-relations organizations in Washington. Though often a step-child at State Visits, culture fared well this time. Hu’s remarks are consistent with recent U.S.-China diplomacy: our countries launched the High Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange during Secretary of State Clinton’s May visit to Beijing. The direct discussions between PRC Ministry of Culture and State Department officials that began there will continue when the second round of High Level Consultations is convened in Washington DC this spring. Once China’s Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Years) is over, preparatory work is sure to begin in earnest at relevant US Embassy and Ministry of Culture offices.

I was also delighted by the all-star jazz line-up for the State Dinner. Some of those artists had previously toured China: Herbie Hancock and Dee Dee Bridgewater played Beijing as recently as last May, Chris Botti as early as 2007, and Randy Brecker back in the late 90’s. Also on hand was Lang Lang, embodiment of the Chinese American Dream and inspiration to countless young Chinese pianists.

However, there is controversy brewing about one of the pieces performed. I’m not sure how I feel about the inclusion of the Chinoiserie that is Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes from Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye, offered as a four-hander by gala-worthy odd-couple Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang. However, brouhaha is sprouting online over Lang Lang’s choice of My Motherland as his solo turn.

Screamed one blogger, 

“Do you know what Lang Lang is playing? He is playing Anti-America Song Called “My Motherland”!!! Lyrics and music of “My Motherland” was called as “A Big River” is a song written for the Chinese movie Battle on Shangganling Mountain (1956). The song was written for the movie about Korean War in 1950s.”

The blogger quotes the text:

    Great mountains, great rivers and an amazing place
    Every road is flat and wide
    When friends are here, there is fine wine
    But if the jackal comes
    What greets it is the hunting rifle

Another blogger was more sanguine:

“I am totally surprised by his choice …. I guess either Lang Lang doesn’t know the history, or he does not wish to play at White House anymore.

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