Shi Guangnan

Shi Guangnan
b. 1940, Chongqing; d. 1990, Beijing
Shi Guangnan is one of the most important composers of the 1970s and 1980s, best known for pioneering ‘popular’ music in China. After graduating from Tianjin Conservatory of Music in 1964, Shi Guangnan served as a composer at Tianjin Opera House until he was transferred to the Central Philharmonic Society in Beijing in 1978. He served as Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Musicians’ Association in the mid 1980s.
After his death, he was honoured with the title ‘People’s Musician’, the highest honour for a musician in China, and a commemorative concert in Beijing in 2000.
In his twenty-year career in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, Shi Guangnan defined ‘popular’ music as a genre distinct from strident propaganda songs on the one hand and rock music on the other. Shi’s melodic style is reminiscent of ‘easy listening’. While the lyrics are ideologically safe, they are evocative portraits of an idealized China rather than abstract paeans to socialism. Shi’s success is partly due to his songs’ ability to express popular sentiment, such as his early work ‘Premier Zhou, Where are You?’ (Zhou Zongli, nin zai nali), commemorating the beloved premier. Shi composed over a hundred pieces of music, including the popular songs ‘In the Fields of Hope’ (Zai xiwang de tianye shang), ‘Beat the Drums, Sing the Song’ (Daqi shougu, changqi ge), ‘When Grapes are Ripe in Tulufan’ (Tulufan de putao shoule) and ‘A Toast’ (Zhu jiu ge). Qu Yuan and Shangshi—Shi’s attempts to imitate Western-style opera—met with less success.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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