Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Golden Voice of Mandarin Pop

Zhou Xuan
16" x 8.5"
oil on wood, 2010

From Hong Kong to Shanghai, from Cantonese Opera to Cantopop to Mandarin Pop, I'm traveling fast and I'm traveling light. Today I went to a lecture by this photographer, Fred Marsh, who spent time in Guangzhou (which is Canton, I didn't know that. It's a city, and a huge one too –I didn't know that either). Afterwards I approached Mr. Marsh and told him I was crazy about Cantonese opera, he told me he was crazy about opera too, just yesterday he went to see a four hour Boris Godounov production and had tears in his eyes. In his lecture he told us that he was not a tourist, his art is not travel photography or documentary or journalism. And I respect him for that, he and his work are too sensitive to be considered as such. Me, on the other hand... I am a tourist, I don't live, feel, think, experience like the people I paint, I hardly interact, I barely get out of my home (save for going to work). Post-Modernism smells like tourism these days, globalization is tourism, and I'm no better, I'm a musical tourist and it is my goal to hear as much as I can from places as remote as possible, and I travel fast, I travel light. 
Zhou Xuan, the name starts where Guangzhou ends, is from Shanghai. She was the biggest star in Mandarin Pop, nicknamed the Golden Voice. The picture suggests an adorable, lovely, and happy person but her life was far from that. Zhou Xuan was born in 1918 as Su Pu, kidnapped by an opium using uncle when she was three, adopted by two sets of parents (the last with the family name Zhou), not enjoying a happy love life, and prone to mental breakdowns, she died at the tender age of 39. Zhou Xuan started working on the stage at age 17, had a major breakthrough two years later with the film Street Angel (1937) from which Song of the Seasons originates that's in this year's 100. Zhou Xuan spent her life searching for her biological parents but, unlike you and me, she never knew she was born as Su Pu.

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