Thank you, Plena. Thank you, Jun. Thank you, Peishan for helping this set up.
Thank you all for being here today and the late comers as well. Thank you for coming in quietly.
I wanna start off today just to take a moment of silence for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake and also for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing. So let’s just take a minute to pay our respect to that.
I never thought I would be addressing you, the esteemed members of the Oxford Union, without a guitar or an Erhu, without my crazy stage hair, costumes. But I did perform in the O2 Arena in London last week. I am not sure if any of you were able to make that. But in many ways, that was similar to what I’m talking about today, that is, introducing Chinese pop music here.
See, I am actually an ambassador of Chinese pop, whether I like it or not, both music and movies. And today I’m here to give you the state of union address. It’s not the Oxford Union. It’s the union of east and west. I wanna frankly, openly and honestly talk about how we’ve done a good job or how we’ve done a bad job of bringing Chinese pop to the west. And I also want to press upon all of you here today the importance of that soft culture, that soft power exchange and how each of us is involved in that exchange.
Soft power, a term I am sure you are all familiar with this point
软实力这个词我相信大家都不陌生。这个概念是由Rhodes Scholar 和牛津校友Joseph Nye 提出的。
Coined by Rhodes Scholar and Oxford alumnus Joseph Nye is defined as the ability to attract and persuade.
Shashi Tharoor called it, in a recent TED Talk, the ability for a culture to tell a compelling story and influence others to fall in love with it.
Shashi Tharoor 在最近的一次TED演讲中把它定义为“一种文化让其他文化在听了他动人的故事之后受到影响并爱上这种文化”的能力。
I like that definition.
But I want to put it in collegiate term for all you students in the audience: The way I see it, east and west are kinda like freshman roommates.
You don’t know a lot about each other but suddenly you are living together in the same room. And each one is scared that the other’s gonna steal his shower time or wants a party when the other wants to study.
It has the potential to be absolute hell, doesn’t it? We all had horrible stories of THAT roommate. We’ve all heard about those stories. I know a lot of students here in Oxford have your own separate bedrooms. But when I was a freshman at Williams College, I was not so safe and fortunate.
(You are kidding me. Woo-hoo! All right, all right！Great. )
Well, I had a roommate, and he was THAT roommate. Let’s just call him Frank. So Frank was my roommate and Frank liked nothing more than to smoke weed. And he did it every day.
And Frank had a two-foot long bong under his bed that was constantly being fired up. For those Chiese speakers in the audience. Frank would “火力全开” on that bong every day.
So, I guess I was kinda of the opposite of Bill Clinton who “tried marijuana but didn’t inhale”. I didn’t try marijuana but I did inhale, every single day, second hand. And strangely enough every time I dwelt into our bedroom, I mysteriously end up being late for class. I don’t know how it happened. It was like “Dude, it is already ten o’clock?”.
我可能在这点上算是跟Bill Clinton 相反吧。Bill Clinton 是那种“我试过大麻，但我不上瘾。”我不抽大麻，但是我每天都在吸啊吸，而且还是二手的。奇怪的是，只要我在我们的卧室里，我最后都会稀里糊涂地上课迟到。我也不知道怎么回事。我当时就是那副吸了大麻的样子，嘿，已经十点了吗？
So, how many of you have lived with the Frank, or could be a Frank Gat? Having a roommate can be a recipe for disaster, but it also has the potential for being the greatest friendship you’ve ever had. See, Frank, he didn’t make it the second year. And I got two new roommates second year, Stephen and Jason. And in this day, the three of us are the best friends.
你们中有多少人有过frank那样的舍友呢？或者，你们也像他一样。所以有一个室友可能是一场灾难的开始。但也可能会酿造一段非凡的友谊。Frank第二年就辍学了。于是我换了两个新的舍友，Stefan 和 Jason。如今，我们三个是铁哥们。
So going back to my analogy, of east and west as roommates. Do we want to be Frank, or do we want to be Stephen and Jason? And I think, in this day and age of 2013, we should all be striving for the latter, should we…I mean I’m assuming that we all agree that this is the goal we should all be striving for.
回过头来看我的那个类比，我们东方和西方的舍友。是应该成为frank那样的存在，还是想像Stefan 和 Jason那样呢？我认为在当时当下，在2013，我们应该努力成为后者。我们应该， 我是说，我想在这一目标上我们是可以达成共识的，对吧？
Let’s look at where we are in reality. Recent headlines in the media include, Foreign Policy Magazine: China’s victim complex. Why are Chinese leaders so paranoid about the United States? Or the AFP, the Agence France-Presse, human rights in China worsening US finds. Bloomberg says, on the cover of its magazine, “yes, the Chinese Army is spying on you.”
And it’s such a great one that I just want to show you the cover of the magazine. Yes. Be very afraid! Ok, is it shown to you right? OK. So there’s actually an extremely high amount of negativity and fear and anxiety about China, sinophobia, that I think is not just misinformed, but also misleading and ultimately dangerous, very dangerous.
And what about how westerners are viewed by Chinese? Well, we have terms for westerners. The most common of which are gweilo in Cantonese, which means “the old devil”, lao wai, meaning the old outsider in mandarin, ang moh, which means the “red hairy one” in Taiwanese. The list goes on and on. So are these roommates headed for a best friend relationship? I think we need a little help. And as China rises to be global power, I think it is more important than ever for us to be discerning about what we believe, because after all, I think that’s the purpose of higher education.
And that’s why we are all here: to be able to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. China’s not just those headlines, the burgeoning economy of the unique politics. It’s not just the world’s factory or the next big superpower, it’s so much more. A billion people with rich culture, amazing stories and as a product of both of those cultures, I want to help foster understanding between the two, and help create that incredible relationship.
Because knowing both sides of the coin, I really think that there is a love story waiting to be told, waiting to unfold. And I am only half-joking when I said love story because I believe it is, the stories that will save us, will bring us together. And my thesis statement for today’s talk is that, the relationship between the east and west needs to be and can be fixed via pop culture. That’s a big fat plan. And I am gotta trying to back it up!
The UN Secretary general Bunki Boo said: “There are no language required in musical world.” That is the power of music. That is the power of the heart. Through this promotion of arts, we can better understand that the culture and civilizations of other people. In this era of instability and intolerance, we need to promote better understanding through the power of music.
Now the UN Secretary General thinks we need more music, and I think he is right. Music and arts have always played the key role in my life in building relationships, replacing what once was the ignorance, fear and hatred with acceptance, friendships and even love. So I have a strong case for promoting music between cultures because it happened to me early in life.
I was born and raised in Rochester, New York. I barely spoke a word of Chinese. I didn’t know the difference between Taiwan or Thailand. I was… That’s true. I was as American as apple pie. Until one day, on a third grade playground, the inevitable finally happened. I got teased for being Chinese. Now every kid gets teased or made fun on the playground, but this was fundamentally different. And I knew it right then and there. This kid, let’s call him Bryan M. He started making fun of me, saying “ Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these.” I can’t believe you are laughing at that and that hurts. OK, I am just kidding. I can still remember how I felt. I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassed.
But I laughed along with him, with everyone. I didn’t know what else to do. It was like having a out-of-body experience, as if I could laugh at that Chinese kid on the playground with all the other Americans because I was one of them. Right? Wrong. On may levels.
And I was facing in front of the first but definitely not the last time, the harsh reality that I was minority in Rochester, which in those days had an Asian population of one percent.
And I was confused. I wanted to punch Brian. I wanted to hurt him for putting me in that situation. But he was faster than me and he was stronger than me. And he would kick my butt and we both knew that. So I just took it in. And I didn’t tell anyone or share with anyone these feelings. I just held them in and I let them fester. And those feelings would surface in a strangely therapeutic way for me through music. And it was no coincidence that around that time I started getting good with the violin, the guitar, and the drums. And I would soon discover that by playing music or singing, other kids would, for a brief moment, forget about my race or color and accept me and then be able to see me for who I truly am, a human being who’s emotional, spiritual, curious about the world and has a need for love, just like everyone else.
And by the six grade, guess who asked me if I would be the drummer for his band? Brian. And I said yes. And that’s when we together formed the elementary school rock band called Nirvana. I am not kidding. I wan in the rock band called Nirvana before Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana was ever known. So when Nirvana came out, Bryan and I were like “Hey, he’s stealing our name.” But, really what attracted me to music at this young age was just this and it’s still what I love about music is that it breaks down the walls between us and shows us so quickly the truth that we are much more alike than we are different. Then in high school, I learned that music wasn’t just about connecting with other, like Bryan and I were connected through music. It was a powerful tool of influence and inspiration.
Sam Wayne was my high school janitor. He was an immigrant from Vietnam who barely spoke a word of English. Sam scrubbed the floors and cleaned the bathrooms in our school for twenty years. And he never talked to the kids and the kids never talked to Sam. But one day, before the opening night of our school’s annual musical, he walked up to me, holding a letter. And I was taken aback. I was thinking, “Why is Sam the janitor approaching me? And he gave me this letter that I have kept to this day. It was scrawled in a shaky hand written in all in capitals. And I read: “In all my years of working as a genitor at Sutherland, you are the first Asian boy that played the lead role. I am gonna bring my six-year-old daughter to watch you perform tonight because I want her to see that Asians can be inspiring.” And that letter just floored me. I was fifteen years old and I was absolutely stunned. That’s the first time I realized how music was so important.
With Bryan, music helped two kids who were initially enemies become friends. But with Sam, music went beyond the one-on-one. It was even a higher level. It influenced others I didn’t even know in ways I can never imagine. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to Sam, the janitor, to this day. He really is one of the people who helped me discover my life’s purpose. And I had no idea that something I did could mean more than ever imagined to an immigrant from Vietnam who barely spoke English. Pop culture, music, and the other methods of story telling, movies, TV dramas, they are so key and they do connect us like me and Bryan and do influence us and inspire us.
Then let’s take another look at this State of Union the east, west union, with this soft-power bias. How is the soft power exchange between these two roommates? Are the songs in English that become hits in China? For sure. How about movies? Well, there are so many…that China has had to limit the number Hollywood movies imported into the country so that local films can even have a chance at success. What about the flip side of that? The Chinese songs that have a hit in the west? Well…(YES!)
Heheha,Yeah, and movies. Well there was Crouching Tiger, that was thirteen years ago. And, well I think there is a bit of an imbalance here. And I think it’s a soft-power deficit, let’s call that. I mean look in this direction. That is to say, the west influences the east more than vice versa. And forgive me for using east and west kind of loosely but I think it’s a lot easier to state this than English-speaking language or the Asian speaking language… Chinese, or Cantonese specifically, I think I’m making a generalization I hope you can go with me on this.
And it’s interestingly a problem with this imbalance in pop cultural influence. And I think so. I think in any healthy relationship or friendship or marriage, isn’t it important for both sides to make an effort to understand the other? And that this exchange needs to have a healthy balance.
And how do we address this? As an ambassador for Chinese pop music and movies, I have to ask myself the question, Why does this deficit exist? Is it because Chinese music just is lame? Don’t answer that, please. Yeah I can just see some of you are really like: “Stop complaining! Write a hit song! Psy did!” you know.But actually there is truth in that.
And the argument being that the content we’ve created just isn’t as internationally competitive. And why shouldn’t be? Well, look at Korean pop, look at K-pop for example. Korean is an export-based economy and they are outward looking.
And they must be outward looking. Chinese pop, on the other hand, can just kind of stay domestic, tour all over Chinese-speaking territories and comfortably sustained. So when we are, that big and powerful, there’re over 160 cities in China with a million or more people. You tend to kind of turn inward and be complacent(自满的).
So this certainly can be an argument made for Chinese pop being not marked with international sensibilities in mind. But the other side of the argument, I think is more interesting and thought-provoking and even more true that western ears aren’t familiar with, and therefore don’t really understand how to appreciate Chinese music. Ouch!
OK, the reason I think that argument holds water though is because that’s exactly what I went through. So I happen to know a thing or two about learning to appreciate Chinese pop as a westerner. Cause as I was 17 years old when I went from being the Asian kid in America to being an American kid in China. And the entire paradigm suddenly got flipped on its head.
I grow up listening to Beatie Boyz, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses. Then I found myself in Taiwan, listening to the radio and thinking, where’s the beat? Where is the screeching(呼啸声) guitar solos? And here I am an American kid in Asia, listening to Chinese music for the first time and thinking “this stuff is lamb. I don’t like it.” I thought it was cheesy, production value was low. The singers couldn’t belt like Axl Rose, or Mariah Carey. But then one day, I went to my first Chinese pop concert and it was Yu Chengqing, Harlem Yu, performing in 台北社教馆the Taibei Music Center.
以前我是听着Beatie Boyz, Led Zeppelin，枪花长大的。但是到了台湾之后，我常边听音乐边想， 这音乐怎么一点节奏感没有！华丽的吉他独奏在哪里！所以，作为一个在亚洲的美国孩子，我刚开始接触到华语音乐的时候心里的想法是，这音乐太逊了，我不喜欢。我觉得这些歌都太不给力了。制作价值太低。这些歌手就是没有Axl Rose (枪花主唱)或者Mariah Carey 那么会飙高音。直到有一天，我听了人生中第一场华流演唱会。是庾澄庆，哈林。在台北音乐中心的那场。
And as he performed, I looked around the audience and I saw their faces and the look in their eyes, their responsiveness to his music. And it was clear to me, finally, where the problem lay. It wasn’t that the music was lacking. It was my ability to appreciate it and to hear it in the right way. The crowd, they would sing along and be totally emerged in his music and I had this epiphany(顿悟） that I was missing point. And from now on, I was going to, somehow, learn how to get it.
I was going to learn how to hear with local ears and I deconstructed and analyzed what it was that made Chinese audiences connect with certain types of melodies and rhythms and songs structures and lyrics. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past almost twenty years. And it took me a long time and I am still learning.
But at some point, I not only began to be able to appreciate the music, but I started being able to contribute to it. And I created my own fresh spins on the tried and true. And I think this happens to everyone, really, who is on the outside looking in, it always looks strange if you look at things from your perspective. You’re always gonna think that these people are weirdoes(古怪的人).What’s wrong with them? Why are they listening to this stuff? And I am saying that you can make an effort and get it. It can be done and I am a living proof for that. And as an ambassador of Chinese pop, I am trying to get people to open up to a sound that they may not feel as palatable（使人愉悦的，随人心愿的） at the first time listen. What else should we do to reduce imbalance in our popular cultures?
Well, maybe give a talk of the Oxford union, tour more outside of China? But seriously, actually I think the tides are already starting to change very slowly, very cautiously, almost calculatingly. You see more cross-cultural exchange now, more interest in China, definitely a lot of joint ventures, a lot of co-productions in recent years, Iron Man 3, Transformers Fifty Three, Resident Evil… Really it’s beginning to be kind of a world pop. And that’s what I am looking forward to, and that’s what I am focusing on these days. There was J-pop, there was K-pop, there‘sC-pop. And there’s like this W-pop, that’s kind of starting to emerge. This world pop. And I think. Yeah, I love that idea. It’s not world music. It’s not. It’s world pop. And I think… yeah I love that idea that it’s not world music. It’s not like… there used to be section HMV called world music Now it’s like ethnomusicology (人种音乐学) musical class in college.
No, but world pop is more about breaking and turning down age-old stereotypes, the artificial confines that have kept us apart for way too long. It’s a melting pot and it’s mosaic that even when we look up close, we’d still see the colors and flavors of each culture in detail. And where can we go to listen to world pop? I don’t think there is a world pop station or a magazine, unfortunately, there are none- there should be.
But there is the Internet and YouTube has proven to be a driving force for world pop. Britain’s Got Talent made Susan Boyle the hottest act in the world. And she achieved that not through the record labels or the networks but through grassroots sharing. Gangnam Style is another great example how that just took over and became a huge worldwide world pop phenomenon. So world pop also suggests a worldwide pop culture and something that can be shared by all of us and give us a lot of common ground.
So today, what’s my called action? I wanna improve a multicultural exchange between the east and the west. I think I have made that clear, but how? I think… you can all become pop singers. Really…I think that’s the answer. No, I am just kidding. Unless that’s what you really wanna do. My called action is this: build and protect that roommate relationship between the east and the west. Value this relationship and take ownership of it. Don’t come to Oxford as an exchange student from Taiwan and only hang out with other Chinese students. Why would you do that? You could do that back in Wuhan or Nanjing or wherever you came from.
Don’t buy into the headlines or the stereotypes or into the hyper nationalism. Think for yourselves, and this goes for the East and West both. Get to know one another and think for yourselves and don’t believe the hype. For a moment, if we could just disregard the governments, and what the media are saying, just for the sake of the argument, with our own tools of critical thinking, can we build relationships that actually see one another as individual human beings and not faceless members of a particular ethnicity or nationality? Of course we can do that. And that’s the goal and dream, I think of the romantic artists and the musicians. I think it’s always been there. And that’s what I wish for, and that’s what makes music and art so powerful and so true, and breaks down instantly and disintegrates all the artificial barriers that we’ve created between each other, government, nationality, black, brown, yellow, white, whatever color you are, and shows each other our hearts, our fears, our hopes and our dreams. And it turns out in the end the East isn’t that far after all. And the West, well, ain’t so wild.
And through understanding each other’s popular cultures, we gain insight in each other’s hearts and true selves. For those of you who are just beginning that journey, the West and East, I want to invite you today on this amazing journey with me. And I, as an experienced traveler on this road, on the West and East road, I’ve prepared a mix-tape for all of you today, of then songs that I love, there, that’s a C-pop mix-tape. That you can check out. I was going to bring you all CDs, but my publicist reminded me lovingly that would be illegal. So because I’m a professional recording artist, I shouldn’t do that. But actually the link works out nicely, because you get to see the music videos as well on a lot of these songs.
And these ten songs are songs that I love and ten different Chinese artists to start you off on getting to know and love Chinese pop. I think these guys are awesome and I hope you do too. I just wanna wrap up by saying that being here on the Oxford campus really makes me nostalgic for my days at Williams. And when I look back on those four years, some of my fondest memories are spending time with my roommates Stephan Papiano and Jason Price. In fact, Jason is here in the audience today and nake this special trip form London just to see me. And I suppose in the beginning we were strangers. We didn’t know much about each other and sometimes we die compete for the shower. There were time when we did intrude on each other’s privacy. But I always loved listening to Stephen’s stories about growing up in a Greek family and his opinions on what authentic Greek food really was. Or Jason’s stories about wanting to make violins and to live in Cremona, Italy like Antonio Stradivari and he did do that.
这10首我最爱的歌曲，来自不同的很棒的中国音乐人。我们就从他们开始了解入手中国的流行音乐吧！我觉得这些音乐人都很棒，希望你们也能喜欢。最后的最后，我只想说，现在置身于牛津大学校园，真的让我不由的回忆起我在威廉姆斯大学的那段时光。当我回首那四年，我发现最值得回忆的，就是于室友Stephan Papiano和Jason Price共处的时光了。事实上呢，Jason就在观众席中。他专程从伦敦赶来看我。我在想，刚开始大家还是陌生人，我们对彼此不了解，有时候我们还会抢淋浴，甚至互相侵犯别人的隐私。但是我一直喜欢听Stephen讲他在一个希腊家庭里成长的故事。还有他眼里原汁原味的希腊菜应该长什么样子。或是Jason的故事，说他渴望以做小提琴为生，生活在意大利的克雷默那，像安东尼奥特拉迪瓦那样，而他的梦想后来真的实现了。
And I will never forget many years later when I played a Jason Price handmade violin for the first time and how that felt. They were always attentive and respectful when I tell them about what it was like for me growing up in a Chinese household with strict parents who made me study. So we shared stories, but the strongest bonds between us were formed just sitting around and listening to music together. And I really do see that as a model for East and West. So that’s why I want to share Chinese music with you today because it’s the best way I know how to create the lasting friendships that transcend all barriers and allow us to know each other truly, authentically and just as we are.
Wang Leehom is a multi-million album-selling Taiwanese-American pop star who has remained one of the hottest names in Chinese music since his debut in 1995.
Formally trained at Williams College and the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Leehom has written and recorded songs in a large variety of styles, including pop, rap, hip-hop, jazz and R&B, and is also known for his pioneering infusion of traditional Chinese elements and instrumentation into contemporary music.
Additionally, Leehom is an acclaimed actor who has starred in the Golden Lion Award-winning "Lust, Caution" from Ang Lee, "Little Big Soldier" opposite Jackie Chan and the self-written and directed "Love in Disguise". He is also well known for his philanthropicwork and environmental advocacy, which were cited as reasons he was the only Chinese recording artist selected as a torchbearer for the London 2012 Olympic Games.