My friend Lee Hom was invited to give a talk at Oxford University on April 22nd which was recently. He introduced the students in attendance to Chinese pop music followed by the playing of a mix-tape which he prepared. It contained 10 different songs by various Chinese pop singers, including… Jay Chou.
I was pleasantly surprised!
I wonder if Lee Hom is aware, but back in my secondary school days, there used to be this Jay Chou vs. Lee Hom argument between fans. It wasn’t anything malicious, but we fans took our stand to heart as if saying my father is better than your father. It was personal.
But seeing that Lee Hom presented one of Jay’s songs at Oxford, perhaps that childish ego-centrism was only prevalent among teenage fans like us. Hahaha. Those were the days.
No transcript from the talk was released but a photograph of Lee Hom leading the audience on a 1 minute silent tribute for victims of the Sichuan Earthquake. I stole the photo from his Facebook and put it here because he looked smart.
Seeing this photo reminds me of my days studying for a full cert music diploma in college when I was eighteen. I was hoping against all hopes that my residual hearing will remain and studied music for as long as I could. Lee Hom’s talk reminds me of one class in specific – Music Appreciation. We listened to, and critically analysed music by various composers from pre-baroque era to the 21st century. (I suppose that’s partly where I learned to understand Lee Hom’s compositions critically).
We also studied the lives of the great composers such as Bach, Handel and Beethoven. Understanding their lives from our textbook made a difference in the way we appreciate their music, Because, most of the time, composers, and writers even, produce great music in the face of adversity. Their tough life experiences enrich their works.
Have you noticed that Beethoven’s compositions after he lost his hearing contain strong, frustrated emotions?
I sincerely believe that if Lee Hom is able to share his life story – either his career pathway alone or with his personal life story embedded – it will be a great inspiration to thousands, especially the youths who aspire to be musicians like him. I am under no illusion that Lee Hom had it easy, even today. Whatever personal and social challenges that he might have faced are the things that brought him to where he is now. It will be a great source of comfort and inspiration to those who are facing challenges in their music studies and aspiration – and I know what they are too well.
It will also indirectly generate interest for Chinese pop music, just as how students have been inspired to study Psychology from attending my talks.
When Lee Hom first wrote about me, I learned from the comments received that his fan base includes those living in non-Asian, non-Chinese speaking regions of this earth. There are people who don’t understand a single Chinese word who listen to his songs. But the number of fans in this group is probably very small in comparison to that of those who can understand Chinese.
Can you imagine how this non-Chinese speaking group might grow if the world gets to know Lee Hom’s life story? For me, I find it intriguing that an American born and bred child of Chinese descendent would take an interest in his Chinese roots and culture so much so that he made it his career goal – to popularize traditional Chinese music in the world. We all know that second and third generation Chinese descendants born in America often feel out of place, they sometimes reject their Chinese cultural identity in order to fit in, often to the point of self-denial and bitterness.
That could be a story lead. What makes Lee Hom different? What makes Lee Hom embrace his Asian roots and want to turn it into a musical celebration?
It will be truly inspirational of Lee Hom when he can sincerely share his heart – both the good and the bad life experiences. Because, self-disclosure endears.