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Celebrating a memorable song

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-15 07:00
Li Guyi performs at a concert that featured works by Chinese songwriter Yan Su in Beijing on July 26, 2010. [Photo by Luo Xiaoguang/Xinhua]

Li Guyi is to perform Homeland Love to mark 40 years of China's reform and opening-up.

In 1980, Chinese singer Li Guyi performed a song, entitled Homeland Love, a mellow love ballad written by Ma Jinghua and Zhang Peiji, which made the then 36-year-old singer of the Central Symphony Orchestra-now known as China National Symphony Orchestra-into a household name in China.

"The song was well received by audiences and I was asked to sing it again and again when I performed across the nation then," recalls Li, 74, who once gave 72 performances in 50 days nationwide.

However, her performance also became controversial. Instead of using a solid, wide vocal range while singing, a style which dominated the music scene in the country then, Li sounded sweet, easy and used air-breathing singing, a pop-singing style that challenged the aesthetics of singing in China at the time.

The lyrics of the song were also criticized heavily by critics and some audiences as "decadent music".

Disappointed and sad, Li was set to give up singing the song anymore when the turning point came in 1983.

That year, she was invited to perform six songs at China Central Television's first Spring Festival Gala, known as chunwan in Chinese, one of the most-watched annual shows in Chinese broadcast on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

But Homeland Love was not included on the list.

Then, a lot of viewers called in, asking for Li to perform the song at the gala. And the gala's director Huang Yihe made the decision to broadcast Li's performance of the song.

Since then, Homeland Love has become a hit, and is one of Li's most popular songs.

"It's a beautiful song and most importantly, audience views about art started to change thanks to the reform and liberation of thought that went on through the 1980s," says Li.

"It was during that time that China started to develop its own pop music, which offered a platform for songwriters to create original material."

As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of China's reform and opening-up, the veteran singer will hold a concert in Beijing on Thursday, which will see her perform Homeland Love again.

Li's students, over 20 professional Chinese singers, including Fu Disheng, Wang Lida and Zhang Ye, will join Li, performing over 30 songs written by Chinese songwriters since the reform and opening-up process began in 1978.

"China's reform and opening-up not only brought economic opportunity for the country, but also offered a change for musicians," says Li.

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