Youth members of the Silk Road Youth Music League (SRYML) participate in the 2nd Silk Road & Young Dreams in 2019.
A Music League for Youth
Wu Xingduo, the songwriter and a special correspondent for International Talent magazine, recalled that the leading singers were all from the BRI participating countries. “Many of these foreigners love this country and choose to live in China because they understand it and their affection in turn promotes deep communication and further exchanges,” Wu told China Today. In October 2018, young music enthusiasts from Benin, China, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Russia, Tajikistan, and other countries gathered to hold a musical salon. On that occasion, they set up the Silk Road Youth Music League (SRYML) with the announcement of a proposal signed with their signatures.
Members of the SRYML are fascinated by Chinese literature and poetry, some love Peking Opera art, and some are eager to know more about China’s advanced technologies. “We all hope that the BRI can promote people-to-people exchanges and want to express our love for this country via music,” said Wu.
Elysee Kahomey is a Benin graduate of the School of International Chinese Language Education at Beijing Normal University and currently works at the embassy of Benin in Beijing. He speaks fluent Chinese, English, and French. “China has made great contributions in many fields internationally, and I am honored to sing this song for China. I sincerely wish that China becomes much stronger,” he said.
“We hope to build a long-term platform for the young people of BRI participating countries, which can use music as a bridge to pool wisdom and promote mutual understanding,” said Wu, adding that the SRYML has organized various activities, including salons, workshops, and performances. For example, on the day of its establishment, they performed a cappella – choral music without instrumental accompaniment, Mongolian long tune, popular songs, steel drum music, and Peking Opera.
“Young people are welcome to join in, bringing their rich cultural backgrounds. Diversity is our strength, and we can use music to promote people-to-people exchanges and carry forward the spirit of the Silk Road,” said Wu.
Wu Xingduo invites young people to participate in the “Global Loud” at a cafe located on the Sanlitun bar street in downtown Beijing in 2017.
Music Knows No Borders
Shayer S. Utsho, a Bangladeshi international student, is one of the SRYML members, whose father Mohiuddin Taher was a former Bengali language expert working at China Radio International.
Utsho moved to China with his parents when he was two years old, so he sees China as his second home. After he returned to Bangladesh with his family, he often dreamed of coming back. In 2015, his dream came true when he was recruited as an international student at University of Science and Technology Beijing.
A big fan of music and Chinese culture, Utsho joined Wu in the group to create many touching melodies. They also translated songs into Chinese and Bengali language, and tested the songs on their friends. “D Minor Scale is a melody that I wrote after watching a beautiful sunset on the Loess Plateau in Jingbian County, Yulin, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province,” Wu recalled. Utsho fell in love with the song the moment he heard it, as it gave him a strong sense of nostalgia. He translated the Chinese lyrics into Bengali and in the process developed a deep musical connection with Wu.
“Music is timeless. It unites people across time and geography,” said Wu, while recalling another travel experience in Egypt. An Egyptian friend, Reem Saqr, taught him a popular song in Egypt So Ya So sung by a well known pop singer in the country, Mohammed Muneer. ,
“During my trip, whenever I played the cheerful melody of So Ya So, the locals would sing and dance, and spoke to me with enthusiasm. It has become the most memorable part of that trip,” said Wu, who also wrote a song called Nile Water while taking a boat trip on the blue Nile River dotted with white sails.
“In my dream I fly five thousand miles to meet the pharaoh in an ancient coptic style. Falcon shows me how to find the crocodile. They hide their secrets in the river Nile,” sang Wu.
“Some borders are ancient – forged in mountains or carved by rivers. Other borders are manmade barriers between countries and peoples. But music knows no borders,” said Wu. Whenever the music sounds, young people can naturally feel the flow of emotions – joyful or depressed, longing or imagining. Rhythm is elemental, and melody is universal. Music does not discriminate, he said.
The leading singers of the Silk Road Youth Music League are all from the BRI participating countries.
Dreams Revived on the Silk Road
Everything starts with music, but it’s not just about music. Due to shared dreams and countless topics, these young people were invited to participate in the “Global Loud” initiative, launched by Wu in 2017.
“At that time, I wanted to build a communication platform for foreign experts and international students to share their experiences in China. The idea gained popularity among my friends,” said Wu. They began gathering regularly at a cafe on the Sanlitun bar street in downtown Beijing, sharing their views on trending topics. A discussion on “The BRI in My Eyes” left a deep impression on Wu.
“Victoria Khu, from a Russian media, said that the BRI was a must win lottery ticket, which will definitely benefit all participating countries,” said Wu. He found that the group regarded the initiative as a new round of globalization, which can spread Chinese culture around the world, and also promote people-to-people exchanges among all participating countries. It has provided opportunities for two-way or even multi-directional exchanges, which enriches the concept of globalization. Young people should play an important role in it, to facilitate cultural integration and intercommunication. For the young people of Central Asian countries, the Silk Road has a close relationship with their daily lives. Aminova Oyzoda, who hails from Uzbekistan, was fond of listening to her grandfather’s stories about the ancient Silk Road. She said that in ancient times, businessmen from the West and the East converged at the historic town of Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Today, there is still a legendary story about Zhang Qian (164-114 BC), an extraordinary explorer in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), who brought the Akhal-teke horses back to China.
Meanwhile, Timur Ivanov from Kazakhstan said that there is a street called Silk Way in his country, where shops are filled with goods from countries along the Silk Road. “Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, without seaports. But due to the BRI, we can export our products overseas via cooperation with Chinese ports. We also welcome Chinese enterprises to invest and set up factories in Kazakhstan,” said Ivanov, noting that Kazakhs look forward to reviving the glorious history of the Silk Road.
The BRI has also brought concrete changes to Africa. Kahomey saw more and more Chinese in Benin devoting themselves into highway construction or other engineering projects, and doing trade with local people. “On the vast land of Africa, Chinese elements can be seen everywhere now,” he said. Meanwhile, he has gained more understanding on the significance of the BRI and its spirit of advocating win-win cooperation, as the number of African countries participating in the BRI is increasing.
Kahomey is eager to be a contributor to the BRI. Seeing more opportunities and possibilities in China, he has decided to stay, comitted to making greater contributions to the bilateral ties between China and Benin.