Musical Brothers
2004-1-10 15:48:55
Today we'll introduce He Xuntian and He Xunyou, two brothers who have both established their fame in the bright spotlights of contemporary Chinese music.
When talking about Chinese new-age or "world" music, He Xuntian is a name that inevitably comes up. Having already composed an album which achieved worldwide acclaim, he has released a new album which is full of many more surprises. He Xuntian has challenged Chinese and foreign listeners' understanding of Chinese music. Let's find out how he's done it.

This song, called "Sister Drum," is the title track of the album that brought He Xuntian instant fame. The 1995 release was the first ever Chinese record to be issued simultaneously worldwide, and achieved record-breaking sales of over two million copies in more than 50 countries.

Born in 1953 in southwest China's Sichuan Province, He Xuntian graduated from the Composition Department of the Sichuan Music Conservatory and is now a professor at the Shanghai Music Conservatory in east China. He was a pioneer of China's new age genre and made his first steps long before the release of "Sister Drum." New age music emerged in China in the early 1990s and He Xuntian's 1992 album, called "Yellow Children," is considered one of the earliest examples of the style. The song we'll be listening to now is just the title track of the album, "Yellow Children."

"Yellow Children" won acclaim from industry insiders and some music fans, and was believed to have an impact on music circles in China. The high-pitched intonating melody, together with the philosophical lyrics, created heavenly sounds for many music lovers who were disenchanted with pop music at the time.
However, Hu Xuntian's music did not become widely known to the general public. Despite this, many critics commend the album for its stylistic purity.
Well, before we go on to talk about the composer's music, let's look back on his earlier works with another song from "Yellow Children," called "The Sea Is Gone."

After "Yellow Children" He Xuntian and singer Zhu Zheqin collaborated on "Sister Drum," which brought them worldwide success. Many overseas musicians applaud the album as "one from China that exerts real influence in the world," and He Xuntian himself has been called the "most distinctive Chinese musician."
The idea of composing Tibetan-related music occurred to He Xuntian some 20 years ago after he had collected hundreds of Tibetan folk songs. Later, he decided that Tibetan-themed music was the best way to pursue "the true, the good and the beautiful" in his music.

The music is distinctively Chinese, and very innovative, without American, European or even traditional Tibetan influences. He Xuntian says the music is not based on traditional Tibetan music, but is spiritually connected to the region. Using primitive and pure vocals, he attempts to provoke emotions that are both raw and visceral. He says "Sister Drum" is not world music, but bears similarities with the style because of the strong local and ethnic flavour. Let's listen to another song called "Zhuoma, Zhuoma," from "Sister Drum."

The success of "Sister Drum" gave He Xuntian a lot of confidence. Two years later, the musician released his third album, which was written in a similar style. Many critics complained that his new work wasn't innovative enough. Regardless, in the album's introductory notes, the musician says: "My intention is to blend realism and surrealism. After having visited Tibet several times, I began to experience a feeling of simple emotion coupled with ecstasy for the divine." Now let's enjoy the album's title track "Dadawa," meaning Melodious Goddess in Tibetan.

After "Dadawa," He Xuntian left the spotlight for a while but returned last year to release a forth album. The new album focuses on the reconstruction of the famous Leifeng Pagoda in east China's Zhejiang Province. This time, the avant-garde musician draws inspiration from Buddhist music, and has broken out of the limits of his previous style. Have a listen to this track named "The Ultimate."

Welcome back to China Beat on China Radio International. I'm your host, Shen Ting. Today we'll introduce you two brothers who have both established their fame in the bright spotlights of contemporary Chinese music. We've just listened to some songs composed by He Xuntian, the elder brother. And next, let's shift to the music of He Xunyou, the younger brother.

Also devoted to music, He Xunyou does not enjoy the fame his brother does. As a matter of fact, he played an indispensable behind the scenes role in producing "Sister Drum" and "Yellow Children" for his elder brother by writing most of the lyrics on the two albums. But in the last few years, he has come out of his brother's shadow by displaying his talents as a composer. Let's first get an idea of his style, in a song called "Balang Drum."

He Xunyou does not confine himself to traditional forms of composition, and is always looking for something novel and unique in his music. After years of effort, he released an album of his own earlier this year, entitled "Performing Figurines." He says he was inspired by a visit to an exhibition of figurines of farce performers from the Han Dynasty. The humorous facial expressions and postures of the Performing Figurines left a deep impression on the musician. He Xunyou wondered what sounds would emanate from them after two thousand years of silence. His meditation would later manifest itself in the piece of music, "Performing Figurines."

A native of Sichuan Province in southwest China, He Xunyou receives much inspiration from the local culture, and incorporates many aspects of it into his music. What's more, his bold experiments in composition have exceeded many people's expectations. With a unique creative flare, Hu Xunyou has included elements that usually have no connection with music in his compositions. The piece we'll listen to now is one example. It includes noises that can be heard in everyday life. Called "Air from the Remote," the music portrays the scene under a banyan tree in a small riverside town in Sichuan Province in the 1950s. It is permeated with the atmosphere of village life, and the shouting of peddlers selling mosquito-repellent incense can even be heard.
And with that, we'll also wind up this edition of China Beat. Hope you enjoyed it. We'd like to hear your comments and suggestions about this program. Our email address is, and our website is I'll see you
next week. So long for now.
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