I know I mentioned this in my last music post, but I really do find the implications of music and popular entertainment in society as a whole to be incredibly fascinating. While the ramifications of pop culture are evident worldwide, the mirroring of social, political, and economic issues in entertainment seems especially obvious in East Asian entertainment. Here, kpop has been used as an economic export and a form of cultural diplomacy; it is a way for South Korea to ingratiate itself with its neighbors; as well as a way for the PRC, as a primary consumer of Korean entertainment, to impose economic consequences in response to THAAD. Kpop even played an indirect role in the recent Taiwanese presidential elections and cross-strait relations. As someone who wants to work on international relations/conflict resolution in East Asia, the role and ramifications of pop culture cannot be ignored, and instead offer insight into the mindset, value-set, and relationships of its consumers. Furthermore as a NSLI-Y student, pop culture is simply another side of the “cultural diplomacy” we’re already tasked with as exchange students and language learners. (And I do totally want to have a place to fangirl about my idols, so there’s also that.)
Ok, so beyond kpop, I adore listening to Chinese music. QQMusic and YinYueTai are great specifically-music sources, while Youku functions a lot like YouTube, and can be used to find both music videos and other trending video content such as tv dramas. Once you get there, what are some songs/artists you should seek out? Below, find a list of nine of my favorite Chinese songs to get you started!
- “再見” by 张震嶽： a folksy-rock song by Taiwanese singer Zhang Zhenyue which I listen to whenever I miss China
- “甜蜜蜜” by Teresa Teng: a classic 80’s pop song by Taiwanese artist Teresa Teng; also a nice updated cover by modern-day Chinese idol Luhan
- “微白城市(Winter Song)” by 鹿晗：a non-ballad pop song by the aforementioned Luhan
- “Jie Guo Lie” by Da Mouth: a pop song by Taiwanese hip-hop quartet Da Mouth
- “復生” by 喬任梁：an uplifting pop-rock song by Chinese artist Kimi Qiao
- “Play我呸”: fierce pop song by Taiwanese goddess Jolin Tsai
- “皇冠” by Ztao: pop song by singer/rapper Ztao; the closest thing to a ballad here
- “WeChat” by the Higher Brothers: a fellow NSLI-Yan recommended this song to me; real Chinese hiphop/rap right here!
- “Call Me Baby叫我” by EXO: pure pop by mega-popular South Korean-Chinese boyband EXO
- BONUS: “小苹果” by Chopsticks Brothers– if you haven’t seen it, go watch the video. All of the video. It’s required listening.
So, now that you have some fantastic songs to listen to, 你怎麼辦呢？To be honest, a lot of the time, I just listen to Chinese music for the sake of listening to it, without actively studying. That won’t really improve your Chinese, but it is fun! When I do want to actually learn however, there are a couple of techniques I use:
- Looking up the lyrics in Chinese characters and copying them; this isn’t so much learning as it is writing practice
- Writing down unfamiliar words and the line context they’re used in
- Using said Chinese lyrics and creating translations in Pinyin/Zhuyin and English
- Looking at lyrics and identifying grammar patterns I’ve learned; can be helpful to print out lyrics and make notations on them
- If I want to memorize new vocabulary, I try to first try to memorize the song lyrics, and the meaning of each line of the song. Once I know the meaning of complete lines, then I can focus in on the individual meaning of words as they’re used in the song. This method helps on repeat listenings, as you associate the general meaning of entire lines with the specific meaning of individual words.
- This also helps when learning new grammar patterns, and provides you with a ready example for context!
Anyway, I don’t think anything I do is particularly exciting or revolutionary, but it is fun! I hope this post was interesting, fun, and maybe informative. . .and if anyone has recommendations, I’m all for them!