A brief history of The Chinese Accordion Music




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Chinese accordions

Origins and popularity of accordions in China

Chinese folk music instrument Sheng is closely related to an accordion in a sense that is purely a free reed-based just like the accordion. Some musical historians even believe that Sheng inspired the inventor of the modern accordion to produce accordion reeds.

China is known for adopting musical instruments from other cultures into their own. This practice happened with the accordions when they were introduced to China in the 1930s through the seaport of Shangai. This musical instrument quickly spread across China and became an integral part of Chinese folklore music.

The proliferation of an accordion became even more prominent between the 1950s and 1980s when accordions became almost an official instrument of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  Army accordionists mass promoted the musical instrument through melodies and tunes loaded with nostalgic patriotism.

Video courtesy of Shangai Eye

The widespread popularity of the accordion and its music in China

In the world of vibrant music the accordion emerges as a musical instrument enjoying great popularity, in various cultural settings. Bosnia and Herzegovina shines in Europe for its connection to the accordion while China stands out in Asia for embracing this instrument with enthusiasm.

By delving into the versatility of the accordion it becomes clear that its significance goes beyond entertainment. It finds its place in an array of styles from folk and military to classical music even making an impact in film soundtracks.

This broad range of uses showcases the accordion not as a tool for music but as a carrier of cultural heritage and a means for artistic expression across different music genres.

The importance of the accordion in these regions not demonstrates its ability to adapt to music styles but also reflects the cultural dynamics and historical backgrounds where it is embraced and celebrated.

Such an examination provides insights, into exchanges and influences that shape global music scenes emphasizing how the accordion enriches cultural identities and musical traditions.

The accordion saw a surge, in popularity in China as shared by “Dai Guangyao, who has been involved in the accordion industry for over 50 years. He used to work at the state owned Shanghai Accordion Factory.

He has observed the ups and downs of the instrument closely than most. Now managing one of the remaining accordion shops in Shanghai Dai has diversified his offerings to include pianos and violins to keep his business thriving on Jinling Road, an area in the city.

Dai recalls how the 1960s marked a time of enthusiasm for accordions, in China. He mentions that every military song and dance troupe and cultural propaganda group touring areas had one. Additionally he highlights that other Western instruments were prohibited during that period.” Quoted from theworldofchinese.com

As we can see, the accordion became synonymous with the working class, folk musicians, singers, and people who lived in rural regions of China. This phenomenon is quite common in many countries that adopted an accordion as their folk musical instrument, not just in China.

Some Chinese musicians tend to overlook this historic fact and even ignore the cultural significance of an accordion and its music. For more information on this subject, please visit this link.

The Accordion’s Role in Chinese Folk Music

In modern day China the accordion isn’t an instrument; it symbolizes cultural heritage and patriotic spirit. Its versatility, in creating tones and dynamics has made it a popular choice for playing folk tunes.

These songs, filled with love for the country reflect the rooted emotions of the people towards their homeland that has endured through challenges and changes.

Video courtesy of Kai Zhong Accordion

The accordions popularity, in performing these melodies can be credited to its convenience and rich sound quality. Whether on the streets of Beijing or in the countryside accordion players can often be seen and heard playing tunes that embody courage, unity and unwavering loyalty to their nation.

Through these performances the accordion goes beyond being an instrument to become a symbol of pride and cultural heritage.

Courtesy of New China Tv

What type of accordions are played in China?

Although Chinese accordionists prefer Piano Accordions, both, button and piano accordions are equally popular in China. China has the highest number of accordion players in the world. Accordions are played by men and women of all ages.

Video courtesy of Jiang Jie

The accordions versatility has allowed it to thrive in the changing realm of music. While it remains an instrument, for folk tunes contemporary Chinese musicians have also embraced it in genres like pop, rock and experimental music.

The accordions ability to adapt, along with its history secures its place in the hearts of the Chinese people. Its melodies whether evoking nostalgia or signaling progress continue to resonate throughout China underscoring music enduring role as a bridge, between tradition and innovation.

Chromatic button accordions are quite popular in China and although China borders Russia, Chinese chromatic button accordions predominantly use the C-button system like the Western European ones. (Russian chromatic button accordions are B system).

Accordions in Modern Chinese Music

The accordions versatility has enabled it to adjust and flourish in the changing realm of music. While it remains an element, in performing melodies contemporary Chinese artists have also integrated the accordion into various genres such as pop, rock and even experimental music.

This flexibility of the accordion along with its importance secures its special place in the hearts of the Chinese people. Its melodies whether reminiscent of the past or signaling the future continue to resonate throughout China underscoring the enduring influence of music as a link, between customs and innovations.

A few final thoughts

The tale of the accordions journey, in China showcases how musical influences flow and cultural exchanges leave an impact. Starting from the Sheng to the accordion the transformation goes beyond just technical advancements delving into a harmonious blend of history, patriotism and artistic expression.

For scholars and music enthusiasts alike the accordions significance in music tells a captivating story of continuity amid transformation. It symbolizes the nations rooted affection for its traditions while also representing a path of innovation towards freedom.

Through its enchanting melodies and powerful tunes the accordion beckons us to delve into the tapestry of musical heritage and to recognize the eternal dialogue, among sound, spirit and society.

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