Friday, October 3, 2014

Hong Kong's Political Anthems




The movie Les Misérables is about a student-led revolution that ends up with everyone killed on the barricades by government troops. And it features the rousing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" (also known as "The People's Song"). 

This particular song, a call to arms, has long chimed with protestors around the world, from angry unionists at Wisconsin’s state capitol building in 2011, to Australians objecting to a local branch of McDonald’s last year, to Istanbulites singing out against president Recep Erdogan. 

And now in Hong Kong, Occupy Central has adopted the song as its anthem. 

In May 2014, a member in the movement, penned a Cantonese version, with lyrics adapted to Hong Kong, and recorded a music video starring an unnamed young girl that duly went viral

“Hand in hand, we fight hard for the right to vote for our future,” the girl sings. One shot shows her holding her hand over her mouth and holding a teddy bear embroidered with the words “Keep Quiet”. 

"Why is our dream still just a dream?" the girl sings. "Who wants to succumb to misfortune and keep their mouth shut?” 

Another favorite among pro-democracy protestors is “Under a Vast Sky” (海阔天空), a monster ballad from the early 1990s by Hong Kong rock band Beyond. 

The 1993 hit has become the rallying cry for protesters angry over a China ruling that limits political reform in Hong Kong. 

Nikki Lau, a Hong Kong resident who is participating in the demonstrations, said protestors had sung the song nearly 10 times each day. As she puts it, this song is part of the collective memory of the Hong Kong people.” 

The song was written by the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, Wong Ka-kui, to express the singer-songwriter’s disappointment in Hong Kong’s music industry in the 1990s. The Canto-pop band is seen by many as Hong Kong’s equivalent to The Beatles because their songs carry strong political messages. 

Lau explained that the song is about Wong and that people are nostalgic for the days when the musician was still alive and they’re longing for “a better time when everything was much simpler.” 

In any case, Hong Kong protesters identify with the lyrics and relate them to their current political struggle: 

"Forgive me for embracing freedom in my life 
But also fear of falling down some day 
To give up one’s hope, it isn’t for hard for anyone 
It would be fine if there’s only you and me"

A protest anthem that is a song of hope.

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