An African singing a breathtaking rendition of a famous Chinese ‘red song’ blows crowds away

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/24 5:03:41

Takunda Rukanda performs at his university. Photo: Courtesy of Takunda Rukanda

When Takunda Rukanda from Zimbabwe broke out to a Chinese song called "Wo ai ni zhong guo" ("I love you, China") in a beautiful baritone with articulate Chinese lyrics at a concert which took place at Beijing Institute of Technology, the crowd burst into cheers.

The audience was astonished and excited.

As the ties between China and Africa become closer, especially under the Belt and Road Initiative, where Africa is an important joint along the road, the mutual influence of economy and culture between China and Africa grows deeper.

Many Africans have become interested in Chinese culture, including patriotic Chinese songs. Before Rukanda, Hao Di, a Nigerian-born singer, also became popular and beloved by Chinese audiences for his knowledge and performances of Chinese patriotic songs such as "Without the Communist Party, there would be no new China."

"I am singing those songs because I love China and Chinese culture, and those songs are beautiful," said Rukanda.

Hao Di from Nigeria sings Chinese patriotic songs at an event. Photo: IC

Patriotic Feelings

Rukanda came to China four years ago to study at Beijing Institute of Technology and majored in economics.

"China is one of the biggest economies in the world. I want to learn economics, so where else is better to learn?" Rukanda explained.

When applying for university, being a straight-A student, Rukanda also received offers from other esteemed universities like the University of British Columbia in Canada. The tuition of that university was very expensive, and China offered him a full scholarship. So he decided to come to China.

Before he came to China, Rukanda studied six years of music back in Zimbabwe. "I studied classical vocal performance for two years. I am a professionally trained baritone," Rukanda said.

After he came to China, he volunteered to join the university's chorus. A professor from Rukanda's university started to teach him classic Chinese songs that suit his baritone and tenor style.

The first Chinese song Rukanda ever learned was "I love you, China." He found that the music was easy to learn, but the Chinese lyrics were difficult.

"If I am going to sing Chinese songs, I am going to do it right. I need to sing and articulate the lyrics like the locals," he said. 

Rukanda spent hours learning and practicing the lyrics, including how to pronounce them and their meanings.

"To express the song the correct way, I think it's important for me to understand the emotion and meanings the lyrics convey and to know the history of the composer and lyricist," he said.

The song depicts with a person's love of the nature and scenery of China - the flowers and the white snow. It's about one's appreciation of their country, Rukanda said.

"I can really relate to that. China is a very beautiful country, and I really appreciate the opportunity the country has given me. So when I sing 'I love you, China,' I am expressing my true feelings," he said. "I am from Zimbabwe; I love my own country. The love for one's own country is the same. It's the country that made you who you are." 

He said that when he graduates from Peking University, where he started his MBA program in September, he wants to do business and pursue entrepreneurship in Asia, Africa and even Europe, and contribute to his country. 

When singing patriotic Chinese songs, Hao Di had the same experiences and feelings as Rukanda.

According to a report by China Youth Daily on June 2013, when Hao Di sang "A Small Raft on the Middle of a River" and other patriotic songs, he researched every song's background in order to express the song the right way.

"I sang 'Without the Communist Party, there would be no new China' so many times; I love the Communist Party of China myself," Hao Di said in the report.

A group of foreigners from the US and India perform Chinese patriotic songs in Chongqing. Photo: IC

Audience Affirmation

Rukanda received many opportunities to perform Chinese songs, especially Chinese patriotic songs.

Just a few weeks after Rukanda came to Beijing in 2013, there was a singing contest at his university.

Rukanda was the first international student to participate in the contest, and he came out in first place against thousands of local competitors for his passionate performance of "I love you, China" and some Italian operas. Just a few weeks after the contest, he got invited to perform at the National Center for the Performing Arts, one of the top cultural performance arenas in Beijing. Since then, the performance opportunities have been flowing to Rukanda. He has performed over one hundred times in different parts of China.

Chinese audiences are very passionate about his shows, according to Rukanda. "When I sing a high note, some even burst into cheers. That's quite encouraging."

After Hao Di gained fame for singing patriotic songs such as "Remember Chairman Mao's words by heart," he participated in many hit Chinese TV shows such as Xingguang Dadao (Avenue of Stars). He also got a place at the national TV singing contest China Patriotic Songs Contest, which includes foreign and Chinese contestants. Hao Di has an older brother named Hao Ge, who also became popular in China before his little brother by performing Chinese songs.

After Hao Di became popular, the fee for him to perform increased from several hundred yuan to 50,000 ($7,592) yuan.

For Rukanda, although he is a professional musician, he does not receive much payments. 

"Since I am a student and i was on university scholarship, so I did not request any payment."

In addition, when other organizations invite him to perform, they usually ask him to perform for free. 

"When they see a foreigner sing Chinese songs, most people just think it's a novel thing to see. They don't think I am a serious artist who has spent years and thousands of dollars studying music or that I deserve to be paid," Rukanda said.

As for future plans, he said that he wants to open more companies after graduating from the MBA program.

"Besides, music is my passion and hobby; I will continue to sing in the future and even compose music by myself someday."
Newspaper headline: Foreign patriotism


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