This OBOR-Themed Rap-Rock Earworm Won’t Leave Your Head

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2:14 AM HKT, Wed December 6, 2017 1 mins read

This week’s photo theme is Red Raps: stills from recent hip-hop videos with “red” (read: patriotic) themes.

China’s had a lot of big meetings this year, and each one seems to have spun off a red-hot rap tune in commemoration. (We’re expecting an autotune remix of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s “developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits” comment at the recently wrapped World Internet Conference within a week.) Yesterday we profiled a 19th Party Congress-themed rap, and today we consider “The Belt and Road, Sing Along”, a song released on the eve of the three-day Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing this past May.

Foreign Policy called it “Amazing(ly Bad)” which… yeah I can’t really disagree. But I like to approach these things as a music writer rather than a political pundit, so let’s dig a bit deeper.

First, some facts: “The Belt and Road, Sing Along” was produced by Xinhua, the PRC’s official press agency. As a rap-rock tune about an infrastructure building project, government involvement should be implied. The music production is credited to Beijing Zhelai Media, which on its Weibo describes its mission as being related to the collection and publication of minority folk music. The composition is credited to Nan Band (馕乐队), a “Kazakh heavy fusion band from Xinjiang China” (which actually seems pretty cool!).

To this song’s credit, its hook is really catchy: “Whoo yidaiyilu, Belt and Roa-oad / Woah-oah-oah, Belt and Road!” (Yi Dai Yi Lu/一带一路 is the Chinese name for the initiative.) 5/5. Even my wife finds herself inadvertently singing this around the house, much to her disgust.

The inclusion in Nan Band of a dombra player is a commendable nod to Central Asian solidarity, I guess. The attempted trap breakdown around the two-minute-mark is kind of rad in the right frame of mind, and the dissonance-loving part of me can definitely get into the monotone chorus intoning (in English) “extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits” at the 2:34 mark. But the rest is… kind of amazing(ly bad).

In fairness, Nan Band looks much, much cooler in this music video for their original song, “Tribe (部落)”:

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