The Beijing Olympics aren't just about athletes and world-class competition. They are about world-class music too, and Chinese composers are seizing the chance to have their music broadcast to a worldwide audience at the opening and closing ceremonies.
The official Games album was recently launched in Beijing and about 30 songs were chosen. Light the Passion, Share the Dream, I Am a Superstar, Forever Friends, We Are Ready and many other popular songs are included, but star billing goes, of course, to the popular Beijing Welcomes You, also known as Beijing Huan Ying Ni.
The catchy ballad was unveiled to the public on April 17 to mark the 100-day countdown to Beijing 2008. About 100 Chinese musicians took part in composing and performing the song, whose aim is to express Chinese people's hospitality. Established stars including Liu Huan, Na Ying, Jackie Chan and Wang Leehom, as well as up-and-comers like Zhou Bichang, Li Yuchun, Jolin Tsai, and Jaycee Chan are hoping for a boost from Olympic exposure.
Beloved stars gathered together on April 30 at Taimiao at the Beijing Working People's Culture Palace to celebrate the 100-day countdown to the Beijing Olympic Games. [CFP]
The lyrics were written by Hong Konger Lam Jik and the music was composed by Xiao Ke, who describes Beijing Welcomes You as a ballad. Using a five-tone ballad style traditional in Chinese music, the soft melody was Xiao's way of expressing China's hospitality to the world.
"I chose the old ballad form, which is simple and nostalgic because you can sing it no matter how old you are," Xiao says. "When I accepted the task of composing the song, I knew it needed to express a natural Chinese feeling and give an instant look at Chinese culture and history instead of just being a slogan."
The Beijing-born musician was inspired by a local ballad called Shui Niu, or Snails which is quite popular among Beijingers. "I remember when I was little, kids in Beijing liked to play with snails on rainy days. When we caught one, the snail usually hid its head inside the shell and we would sing the ballad while waiting for the snails to come out. Snail, snail, first comes your horn, then the head.' Just a few sentences: It's innocent. It's tolerant. It's full of hope and expectation. This simple melody led me through the creation of the whole song," he says.
Indeed, Beijing resonates through Xiao's work and there is often a sense of "the good old days" in it.
The 37-year-old says that he felt pressure more from Chinese listeners than from overseas. "China is now the focus of the world and the song is for Chinese people whose recognition is much more important for me," he says.
Production of the song began in early March and took six weeks to complete. It took a fortnight to compile recordings by 100 singers and six days to complete the final production.
The music video features Beijing landmarks, from Olympic venues like the Bird's Nest and Water Cube, to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall; from the National Center for the Performing Arts to Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital Airport, as well as traditional courtyard houses.
Cooperation between nearly 100 pop singers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan was vital. Singers recorded at different places and then gathered together at Taimiao at the Beijing Working People's Culture Palace to celebrate the 100-day countdown to the Beijing Olympic Games on April 30.
The choice of singers involved lengthy debate. The first two singers, Liu Huan and Na Ying, were confirmed by Xiao immediately. "because they represent the Chinese pop music scene".
"Jackie Chan is definitely a martial art master," he says. "When he entered the recording studio, we felt his humor and strength. The song is soft but Chan's voice adds power, which is quite impressive." Chan also recorded the one-year countdown song to the Games, We Are Ready.
"Historically," says Xiao Ke, "the Olympics were always a gathering not just of athletes but of artists. Music has always been as much a part of the Games as epic poetry and players. It is also an opportunity for the world to know Chinese pop music scene."
(China Daily August 5, 2008)