Glory to Hong Kong’s bilingual significance, musicality, and more

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There’s more to the anti-extradition bill protesters’ anthem than meets the eyes (and ears!).

It took hardly any time at all for Glory to Hong Kong to completely sweep the anti-extradition movement after its initial release on the local forum LIHKG in late August. After over 100 days of protests both peaceful and violent, activists fighting for the five demands have grown weary with fatigue. But this new song, composed by an anonymous musician who goes by “Thomas”, has greatly rejuvenated the energy of the movement and reaffirmed amongst protesters a sense of purpose and unity.

While there is no official English translation of the song, there are plenty of people who have volunteered their own interpretations on the internet. According to Yu Siu-Wah, an adjunct professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, comments that the translation is “close but not exact…there is no perfect translation in the world.”  Something that he does find “problematic” in some versions of the translation he’s seen is the use of the word “motherland”, which does not occur in the Chinese version. He notes that this specific word choice is “politically contradictory” to the spirit of the protest movement, and recommends John Minford’s translation of the song, which is not meant to be sung but does a better job of conveying its meaning. While the translations are indicative of Hongkongers’ willingness to accommodate English-speaking friends and communicate with the rest of the world, Yu suggests, it will likely not become as popular as the original.

Harbour Times also sought out musical expert Brian Thompson to gain a technical perspective on the song. Thompson, musicologist and lecturer at Chinese University of Hong Kong, states that the anthem is difficult to sing. “It’s too high to be sung naturally,” he claims. “The range is too wide. If you have an orchestra and a trained choir it kind of works, musically.” In this way he states it does not compete with March of the Volunteers, the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China. He posits that the lyrics are what perhaps makes the song so successful, as they “effectively convey the sentiment intended.”  Yu mentions that he can hear traces of Under the Lion Rock (a Cantopop song by Roman Tam) in the anthem, and it also shares certain orchestral similarities to O Canada.

Protesters sing Glory to Hong Kong on a chaotic night of protests (Sunday September 15).

Regardless of what opinions one may have on the musicality of Glory to Hong Kong, it really does not matter all that much. What matters the most, Yu says, “is the meaning and identity that Glory to HK generates so quickly and successfully within such a short period.”

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