Unisonance in kung fu film music, or the Wong Fei-hung theme song as a Cantonese transnational anthem
McGuire, Colin P.
Wong Fei-hung was a Cantonese martial arts master from southern China who became associated with a melody called ‘General’s Ode’. Since the 1950s, over 100 Hong Kong movies and television shows have forged the link by using this melody as Master Wong’s theme. During fieldwork in a Chinese Canadian kung fu club, I observed several consultants claiming this piece as a Cantonese national anthem—a hymn for a nation without a sovereign state. Virtual ethnography conducted online showed that this opinion is held more widely, but that the piece also inspires broader Chinese nationalist sentiment. My analysis of speech-tone relationships to melodic contour in Cantonese and Mandarin versions of the song, however, has revealed a tight integration with the former that the latter lacked. By sharpening Anderson’s concept of unisonance, I explore how this song has become an unofficial transnational anthem for Cantonese people, arguing that Master Wong’s theme auralises an abstract sense of imagined community.
Anthems , Unisonance , Transnations , Diasporas , Nationalism , Imagined communities , Music and martial arts , Kung fu movies , Hong Kong cinema , Wong Fei-hung , Huang Feihong , Once Upon a Time in China , Cantonese
McGuire, C.P., 2018, January. Unisonance in kung fu film music, or the Wong Fei-hung theme song as a Cantonese transnational anthem. In Ethnomusicology Forum. Vol. 27(1), (19pp). DOI:10.1080/17411912.2018.1463549