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Eric Lee blends fresh elements into erhu. Provided to China Daily
Stereotypically the erhu, a traditional two-stringed bowed Chinese instrument, is known for its plaintive melodies.
For Hong Kong's Eric Lee, however, it's also great for pop, sexy jazz and dynamic reggae.
The 48-year-old musician behind "new Chinese folk" uses Chinese folk instruments to present modern aesthetics, in performances both domestically and abroad.
Lee moved to Hong Kong from the mainland in 2010, longing for a wide stage for his erhu music. He rose to stardom in Malaysia and has released 16 best-selling albums of his new Chinese folk since 1995, mainly in Malaysia.
His 1996 album release witnessed record-breaking sales for a Chinese folk album of 100,000 copies within three weeks, outselling established pop stars.
Lee is so popular in Malaysia that in 2004 the Malaysian prime minister at that time invited him to perform in front of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, at the Sino-Malaysia Friendship Evening in Beijing.
"Music has vitality only when it can convey emotions strongly to the audience and strike a chord in them. To be infectious, music needs to be presented in an updated, familiar way," Lee says.
"If musicians keep playing erhu music that the general public cannot understand without professional input, the instrument will gradually become out of date and end up as a forgotten museum piece."
Lee was born and raised in Shanghai, along with his grandfather's old erhu. He plucked his first note on the instrument at the age of 7 and could perform most of the erhu music classics - such as The Moon Reflected in Two Springs and Horse Race - when he was in the fifth grade at primary school.
"During the 'cultural revolution' (1966-76), music in the Chinese mainland mainly served politics. Most of the time, I could only sing about great movements in rural areas. I didn't think the music was related to my life," Lee recalls.
"I became bored with the erhu and music."