Below the Lion Rock (獅子山下). The city anthem of Hong Kong.
Final Yamaha Electone arrangement for 2019. It’s another retro Cantopop hit, of course. Also, once again the title song from a legendary Hong Kong television series.
Below the Lion Rock (獅子山下), or Si Ji Saan Ha as the name is pronounced in Cantonese, is one of the most culturally significant and beloved Cantopop songs ever. Wikipedia and Baidu describe it the “city anthem” of Hong Kong, while politicians have famously invoked the lyrics in speeches.
On YouTube, there are several documentaries on Hong Kong socio-political issues named after the song. Incidentally, these documentaries all highlight the legendary “Lion Rock Spirit,” this being the metaphor for the determination and unity of the common Hong Kong people.
As for me, I have various things to say about this song. Actually, I have a (hell) lot. But I’ll leave those political rants for the tail end of this post. Here are the Electone downloads:
Free Yamaha Electone Score & Registration Data for 獅子山下 (Below the Lion Rock)
Warning! The registration and Finale PrintMusic files are zip files! You might need to disable your virus/malware protection before downloading.
- On YouTube, I’ve received messages and comments complaining about my Electone arrangements following the original recordings too closely. With it being the year-end and all, I decided to LET IT GO and be wilder this time. Thus, the concluding third of this arrangement.
- Since returning to the Yamaha Electone in 2008, I’ve made it a point to minimise voices and registrations. Reason being, I just can’t see the real-life possibility of most bands and orchestras being able to assemble/afford that many instruments. Again, it being the year-end and all, I’ve LET IT GO and used a grand total of 28 memories this time. Would have used more, had I not checked myself. (And had the total not worked out to be 28)
- Some viewers would find my choice of leads and their performance styles very messy; I practically changed the lead instrument and style every four bars. I have a reason for this, though. I’m mimicking the ensemble performances of Below the Lion Rock on Hong Kong festive and commemorative shows. You know, the ones where one Cantopop star sings one stanza each? Have fun guessing which singers I had in mind when programming each lead. : )
- There’s a tempo variation from 80 to 88, to 82. It’s a lot of eights and of course that’s intentional.
- I must give credit. The latter half of this arrangement is inspired by the 2014 recording of Below the Lion Rock by the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. I adopted the March feel within that, and built upon it.
- When recording my final versions, I had fun with a certain expression technique copied from arranger keyboard performances. THE PUMP. The FC7 expression pedal sold by Yamaha comes with a spring-release function, allowing players to naturally pump and fade the volume i.e. strongly accent certain notes. Mimicking this on the Electone, delightfully, added a human feel to the Choir voices.
- I originally included more Chinese orchestra instruments. But I concluded that would make the arrangement too political, when interpreted the way I meant for it to be. I have removed all except one.
- Inclusive of this time, I’ve mentioned LET IT GO thrice. The reason is:
Below the Lion Rock, the Lion Rock Spirit, and the 2019 Hong Kong Protests
In Cantonese, Let It Go could be translated as 放開 (fong hoi). That’s the first phrase in the chorus of Below the Lion Rock. The same sentence ends with the words矛盾 (maau teon), which means contradictions.
For the whole of 2019, I’ve refrained from writing about socio-political issues; I’m just so weary of the endless make-belief and accusations involved. For that reason, I refrained from writing about the ongoing HK protests too. I didn’t even leave a single comment on social media.
Doing so was difficult for me, I’d be honest. I’m Cantonese Chinese and I genuinely like Hong Kong, whether as a city, a people, or a cultural powerhouse. I also have relatives, friends, and business associates living there. I despair, deeply, whenever I think about how life has been for them this year.
As for what I do have to say about the protests, where do I begin? By expressing my empathy for the fears and frustrations Hong Kongers face each day? By (over) analysing the underlying causes for the still ongoing protests and writing thousand-word posts?
By agreeing, or disagreeing, with the escalating violence, and in doing so, establish myself as “pro police” or “pro democracy?”
You see, the problem is that I’m ultimately not from Hong Kong, not matter how much I care about the city. Frankly, as a Singaporean, I sometimes feel odd playing so many Hong Kong compositions.
By commenting extensively on the protests, I also cannot avoid the situation of watching the fire from across the coast (隔岸觀火). To me, doing so, and having a mouthful of yakky opinions while at it, is one of the most disgusting things ever to do.
In view of all these contradictions, I opt to use music to express my empathy and well wishes. I am a musician, or at least I think I am! I hope my choice of arrangement, down to the sequencing and the instrumental voices used, sufficiently reflect how I hope Hong Kong would be in the coming year. Let the legendary Lion Rock Spirit resurface one more in the Pearl of the Orient in 2020. May this wonderful city once again be peaceful and prosperous.
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