Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chinese Lion Twerking

This morning, my brother-in-law, KT, updated his Facebook status with a video clip of a Chinese lion dance. Indeed, it is an apt move in the remaining two and half weeks leading up to Chinese New Year. Upon clicking the video clip, I felt a sense of festivity looking at two Chinese lion masks styled by two youngsters, respectively prancing around in unison mimicking lion-like moves.

Suddenly, to my horror, the drumming and beating of cymbals turned into an upbeat English tune blaring a familiar song I knew from The X-Factor Show. The Chinese lion dance teams suddenly took to the English tune with the dancers swaying into a modern dance performance re-hatching a typical roadshow scene that has become a common sign of out-door jamboree in this part of the world.

While fusion as a means of survival was the only consolation I could think of, I would at least like the modernistic mediation to incorporate an upbeat Chinese pop song by the songstress A-Mei, or the pop band Wu Yue Tian, both of whom are Taiwan-based Mandarin performers who have a massive following in the Chinese world. The video simply showed an example of global force unpacking a local tradition (although at the back of my mind I heard Walter Mignolo saying….it’s glocalization).
I am not pointing fingers, nor am I taking a purist stand against Chinese lion dance twerking; I myself prefer listening to Rihanna rather than Fish Leong. For me, no Karaoke session is complete these days without Pink’s Just Give Me A Reason with Nate Ruess. But at the same time, I would not stick in English phrases when I sing 爱以成往[Dang Ai Yi Chen Wang Si (lit. means when love becomes a thing of the past), the theme song of Farewell to my concubine, for which Leslie Cheung acted in the movie and sung the theme song.
Authenticity becomes all the more important with the threat of globalization or glocalization. We need to safeguard certain qualities in traditions that took decades if not centuries to evolve. Although languages may be an exception to this point, as they thrive with the introduction of calques, coinages, and loans, the transformation is really based on the need for naming rather than a fanciful change of heart (although slang and certain street cultures are counterexamples).
For example, the word /twerking/ is a case in point. It seems to me /twerking/ sounds like a calque of the word /twist/ and /jerk/; although the Oxford Dictionaries' record says it is a twenty-year old American English word that originates in bounce music scene from New Orleans, USA (see the reference below). The point here is that something remains best in its original taste/form, just as we would not change our fish and chips, Chinese chicken rice, Malay satay, chocolate cake, etc. when they have achieved gold standard in our hearts.
Accessed on 13 Jan. 2014
Jyh Wee Sew
Centre for Language Studies
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
National University of Singapore

1 comment:

Jyh Sew said...

I saw on television today that a participant of a cooking competition said that fusion leads to confusion.