Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 44

Thread: Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

    We will never escape Carl Douglas. Never. Time to start a thread dedicated to this because if we can't beat 'em, join 'em.

    Man arrested for singing 'Kung Fu Fighting'
    Singer says police questioned him after Asian man filed a race complaint
    msnbc.com
    updated 4/27/2011 9:21:12 AM ET

    Police arrested a singer on racism charges after a man reportedly of Chinese descent complained about his performance of the song "Kung Fu Fighting," according to reports.

    Simon Ledger, 34, told Britain's The Sun newspaper that he and his band were performing the 1970s classic at the Driftwood Beach Bar on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England.

    "We were performing Kung Fu Fighting, as we do during all our sets," he told the newspaper. "People of all races were loving it. Chinese people have never been offended by it before."

    But Ledger told The Sun an Asian man walking by with his mother hurled an expletive and made an obscene hand gesture at the performers during the Sunday afternoon performance, then took a photo with his cell phone.

    "We hadn't even seen them when we started the song. He must have phoned the police," The Sun quoted him as saying.

    The man claimed he was "subjected to racial abuse," police told BBC News, and complained to the police the same evening.

    'I thought it was a joke'

    Ledger told The Sun that police called him later that evening — while he was eating at a Chinese restaurant — to arrange a meeting. It was at that meeting that police arrested him, Ledger said.

    The BBC report said police released Ledger after his arrest, intending to question him further at a later date.

    "An investigation into this allegation is continuing to establish the full circumstances surrounding what happened," a Hampshire Constabulary spokesman told the network.

    "I thought it was a joke but they were serious," Ledger told The Sun. "They seemed pretty amazed but said the law is the law and it was their duty. It's political correctness gone potty (a British term for crazy)."

    The owner of the bar defended Ledger, telling the newspaper that he doesn't believe the song or the singer are racist, and that there "is no way he would abuse anyone."
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    Not racist...

    ...just an irritating song.

    Here's some vids for this archive:
    Carl Douglas - Kung fu fighting(original)

    Carl Douglas - Kung Fu Fighting 1974 live

    Kung Fu Fighting | Cee Lo Green | Kung Fu Panda

    CARL DOUGLAS - DANCE THE KUNG FU 1975

    28 April 2011 14:42
    Kung Fu Fighting Singer Insists Song Is Not Racist

    KUNG FU FIGHTING, the GRAMMY AWARD winning disco song of 1974, has been accused of containing racist lyrics. The song's writer CARL DOUGLAS has expressed his disbelief after an entertainer was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated harassment for performing the hit in a local bar, reports the UK's Metro newspaper.

    Mr Simon Ledger was arrested after a Chinese passer-by overheard the song being performed in the Driftwood Bar in Sandown and promptly made a complaint. A Hampshire Police spokesperson said they received a complaint from a 32-year-old man of Chinese origin who claimed he had been subject to racial abuse. The song, which features the lyrics "There was funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown", reached number one in the US and UK charts and sold over nine million copies worldwide. 63-year-old CARL DOUGLAS, who penned the track, says he was shocked to hear of the arrest, saying, "I couldn't believe it. This is not a racist song. It's a happy, kicking, disco song. I have Chinese cousins and my sister is married to a man called Tony Chang. Why would I sing a song that could be interpreted as racist?".

    According to the police spokesman, the Kung Fu Fighting investigation is on-going and musician Mr Ledger has been released on bail.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    new york,ny,U.S.A
    Posts
    3,228

    posted this on facebook yesterday.

    and was literally just talking about this song with my mother. the song is EVERYBODY IS KUNG FU FIGHTING!! not all chinese people do is kung fu fight, or something like that. if i was that guy i would sue the hell out of that guy for pain and suffering.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    More from Carl Douglas

    Racist? My song's just a blend of East and West, says Kung Fu Fighting composer
    By Tom Kelly and Jane Fryer
    Last updated at 10:31 AM on 28th April 2011


    Carl Douglas says there is no racism in the song

    A pub singer held on suspicion of racism for performing the pop classic Kung Fu Fighting in front of a Chinese couple was yesterday defended by the song’s composer.

    Simon Ledger said he was still in shock after he was reported to the police for singing the 1974 Number One to a packed bar on the Isle of Wight on Easter Sunday.

    He claims he was halfway through the song when he was approached by a Chinese man swearing at him. The man was with an older Chinese woman.

    Yesterday the song’s writer and original performer Carl Douglas described the decision to arrest Mr Ledger as ‘political correctness gone mad’ because the song was not racist.

    ‘The arrest is a little unbelievable because there’s no racism in the song,’ Douglas, who is now 68, said. ‘It’s very strange indeed.

    ‘I’m very proud of the song. Everyone told me that a fusion of the west and east couldn’t work and I said “no, it can”. I have cousins that are Chinese in Jamaica, so I knew it could work.

    'Why would I sing a song that could be interpreted as racist?'

    He said he has met thousands of Chinese fans of the hit and had even been asked to perform it at the Olympics in Beijing.

    Mr Ledger was last night due to be interviewed by police following the incident at the Driftwood Beach Bar in Sandown, Isle of Wight.

    Police sources suggested there was more to the allegation of racially aggravated harassment than just his performance.

    Arrested: Simon Ledger has called the incident 'ludicrous'

    But Mr Ledger insisted: ‘The whole thing is ludicrous. I have never been in trouble with the police before.

    ‘I have friends of all creeds and colours and have absolutely no racial prejudices. I appreciate the police have a job to do, but if you think about how much this is costing when so much other crime goes unsolved, it really is farcical.’ The incident happened at about 5.30pm on Sunday.

    Mr Ledger said: ‘I was half-way through the song when this man approached me swearing and making a lewd gesture with his hand. I asked him to leave because there were children in the bar.’

    Bar manager Sean Ware, who had to give a statement to police, said: ‘It’s mind boggling. It was a very relaxed atmosphere in the bar with lots of families with children here.

    ‘The CCTV showed a Chinese man making abusive gestures. Simon waved him away, but he returned.

    ‘It seems clear that the man was genuinely aggrieved about something, but this is just crazy. Simon often sings Kung Fu Fighting.’

    Officers later tracked Mr Ledger down to a Chinese restaurant where he was arrested. Kung Fu Fighting was the biggest selling hit of 1974, topping the charts in the UK and the U.S. and turning Jamaican-born Douglas into a star.

    Hampshire Police said a 32-year-old man of Chinese origin had claimed he was subjected to racial abuse.

    A spokesman said police had to treat such allegations seriously, adding: ‘Investigations are continuing.’
    I want to hear from the accuser. Honestly, it's a bit late to take issue with this song. It's such a classic.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    374
    Yes, it is ridiculous. But the more frivilous and grudge based "racial" whines get made, the more people will come to ignore them. About time too.
    I think the Asian gentleman is outvoted. People be liking kung fu fighting....
    "The perfect way to do, is to be" ~ Lao Tzu

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    An excellent resolution!

    ‘Race hate’ singer records kung-fu record
    By Jamie White - Friday, May 6, 2011


    Bill Padley with Carl Douglas and Simon Ledger
    it’s been a bit of a whirlwind few weeks for Island entertainer Simon Ledger.
    On Sunday, April 24, he was accused of racially aggravated harassment by a Chinese man, who was walking by when he sang the hit song Kung Fu Fighting at the Driftwood Beach Bar, Sandown.
    Mr Ledger, 34, of Shanklin, was arrested and questioned by police before being told he would face no further charges.
    His story made the front page of The Sun and went worldwide, with interviews for TV and radio stations across the world.
    There was also a response from Carl Douglas, who originally released Kung Fu Fighting in 1974, expressing bemusement as to why Mr Ledger was arrested for singing the song.
    This week, Mr Ledger met Mr Douglas and re-recorded the single with producer and former Isle of Wight man, Bill Padley, who has worked with many stars, including Boyzone’s Ronan Keating and Take That’s Gary Barlow.
    Mr Ledger said: "What’s happened is just unbelievable. One minute I’m singing Kung Fu Fighting in Sandown, the next I’m recording it in a studio, in London, with Carl Douglas."
    "Joe Scott, who I perform with, has recorded vocals with myself and Carl and we are hoping to release a new song that is respectful to the original Kung Fu Fighting."
    He has also been in touch with representatives of martial artist Jackie Chan, he added: "We have even been in talks about a possible spoof music video. It could be this year’s big summer hit."
    I still want to hear from the whiner who made the initial complaint.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    new york,ny,U.S.A
    Posts
    3,228
    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    I still want to hear from the whiner who made the initial complaint.
    yea there is a reason why he is silent, and has kept himself out of the spotlight...because no asian celebs or anyone else asian for that matter has taken up his cause...i think he was probably drunk...but still man, you never call the cops for some nonsense like that. someone couldve gotten killed and the cops have to respond to that lunacy...yeesh.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    This is how I envision most of you at Kung Fu practice

    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    A protest song

    Remember when we used to march in protests? Now we just Occupy. This puts Occupy to shame in my mind.

    There's a vid if you follow the link. I only skimmed it as it was mostly interview. I didn't see the protest itself, but it was a quick skim. If anyone finds the protest singing, please post and share.

    Philippine Protesters Accuse China of Sea Dispute Bullying
    By Bloomberg News - May 11, 2012 1:41 AM PT

    Filipinos demonstrated in front of a Chinese consular office in Manila and China told tourists to avoid unnecessary travel to the Philippines in signs of an escalating dispute over territory in the South China Sea.

    Shares of Philippine tourism-related stocks slid for a second day after China’s Xinhua News Agency reported that travel agencies in Shanghai and Guangzhou suspended tours. On May 9, Chinese travel agencies Ctrip.com and Beijing Caissa International Travel Service Co. also suspended trips.
    Philippines' Purisima on China's Travel Warning

    May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima talks about China's decision to tell tourists to avoid "unnecessary" travel to the Southeast Asian nation. China's Manila embassy warned of public protests amid rising tensions over a disputed island in the South China Sea. The National Tourism Administration warned Chinese tourists who are already in the Philippines to abide by the local laws and mind their own security, according to a statement posted late on its Website last night. Purisima speaks from Manila with Zeb Eckert on Bloomberg Television's "On the Move Asia." (Source: Bloomberg)

    Tensions have risen since a standoff began last month between ships from both countries over an island called Scarborough Shoal by the Philippines and Huangyan by China. China has become more assertive over its claims to the oil and gas rich waters of the South China Sea, while the U.S., which has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, has shifted its military posture toward the Asia-Pacific region.

    “ All we ask is for the Chinese government to respect the rights of its neighbors, even while it needs to assert its national interest,” said Bituin Bautista, one of the protest organizers. “If it continues in this path of obstinate bullying, it will only have itself to blame for the consequences of its folly.”

    Kung Fu Fighting

    About 500 people gathered for the protest, demanding that China pull out of the disputed area. Demonstrators sang and danced to the 1974 disco hit “Kung Fu Fighting.” Police stopped a man from trying to burn three Chinese flags.


    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily briefing in Beijing that the Philippines should take measures to keep the dispute from getting any worse.

    “The government has incited the Philippine people to protest,” Hong said. “We again demand the Philippines to take effective actions, respect China’s territory and sovereignty and avoid escalating the situation.”

    China’s National Tourism Administration warned Chinese tourists who are already in the Philippines to abide by the local laws and mind their security, according to a statement posted late on its website last night. The Philippines should ensure the safety of Chinese people and companies in the country, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

    Shares Slide

    Alliance Global Group Inc. (AGI), which owns the operator of the Philippines’ biggest casino, fell 0.3 percent to 12.90 pesos at the close of trading in Manila, after posting its biggest loss in more than seven months yesterday. Cebu Air Inc. (CEB), the nation’s largest budget carrier, fell 2.3 percent to 67.25 pesos, its lowest close in more than a month.

    Hotel operator Waterfront Philippines Inc. (WPI) declined 5.8 percent to 40.5 centavos, while Acesite Hotel Corp. (ACE) decreased 2.7 percent to 7.59 pesos. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PCOMP) fell 0.7 percent to 5,158.14.

    The standoff with China may force Philippine travel agencies to look to other markets for tourists, according to Aileen Clemente, president of the 364-member Philippine Travel Agencies Association.

    China is the fourth-largest market for tourists to the Philippines, behind South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. Tourist arrivals from China rose 78 percent in the first quarter, more than from anywhere else among the top 12 markets, to 96,455, or 8.4 percent of the total, according to government data.

    Cancellations Already

    “Since there have been cancellations from China already, we have to move strategies elsewhere,” Clemente said. “We will have to mount new markets and increase marketing efforts in countries such as Russia, India, Europe and the Middle East. The effect of the cancellations is immediate.”

    The latest dispute began on April 10, when Chinese ships blocked the Philippines from inspecting Chinese fishing boats in the area. China’s Foreign Ministry has summoned a Beijing-based Philippine diplomat at least three times since the standoff began.

    China has become more assertive in the South China Sea and Cnooc Ltd. (883) began its first deep-water drilling rig in the area on May 9. Cnooc Chairman Wang Yilin said the rigs are a “strategic weapon for promoting the development of the country’s offshore oil industry.”

    China has also clamped down on the Philippines beyond the tourism sector. China will increase quarantine and inspection of fruits shipped from the Philippines including pineapples and bananas, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a release dated May 2.

    The Philippines sought to play down the latest dispute. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said every bilateral relationship has its issues and that the media was blowing the latest dispute out of proportion.

    ‘Peace-Loving’

    “Filipinos are peace-loving and most welcoming of foreigners and I think our track record bears that out,” Purisima said in the interview. “It is important that we continue to work on this on a reasonable basis.”

    The Philippines has a mutual defense treaty with the U.S., which announced last year that it would carry out a “pivot” to focus its military in the Asia-Pacific region. At a meeting with Philippine leaders on April 30, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the U.S. commitment under its mutual defense treaty, which obligates the two sides to support the other if attacked.

    At a regular briefing yesterday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged restraint and said the U.S. supports “any kind of collaborative, diplomatic process by the claimants to resolve the disputes without any kind of coercion.”

    To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Norman P. Aquino in Manila at naquino1@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    Kung Fu Fighting vs. Karate Writing

    A black belt in words is prized
    Teacher develops Sight Word Karate to challenge kindergartners
    6:43 AM, May. 15, 2012 |

    FRANKFORT -- A literacy program that combines martial arts and language arts has helped a group of kindergarten students at Adena Elementary School learn more than 200 new words since January.

    Kindergarten teacher Jillian Bluck, who previously taught in the talented and gifted program, said she came up with Sight Word Karate as a way to challenge her higher-achieving students while also motivating the rest of her class.

    Sight words, as their name might suggest, are words that must be learned by sight, because they seldom can be learned phonetically. "Do" and "have" are examples of sight words.

    After determining only two of her 22 students knew all 30 of the sight words required of kindergartners, Bluck said she set out to find an activity with different levels of achievement, so her students could work toward short-term and long-term goals at the same time. Karate was perfect, she said, because with each of the nine sight word levels, a student could earn a belt.

    As it turns out, "karate" is all Bluck had to say to win over her energetic students.

    "When they heard 'karate,' they were excited, and they didn't even know what it was," Bluck said.

    Bluck said she's done away with rest time to make time for the program, which was a popular decision among her students.

    "They wanted to do this more than they wanted to rest," she said.

    The belts in Sight Word Karate aren't exactly belts, but rather pipe cleaners. Every time a student earns a black belt, the entire class dances to "Kung Fu Fighting," a disco one-hit wonder that celebrates a different martial art but nevertheless gets the kids up and on their feet.

    "Once you become a master, you become a teacher (of other students) and they loved that," Bluck said. "I get goosebumps talking about it."

    Bluck said she tests each student by holding up flash cards and asking them to say the words without sounding them out.

    So far, 21 of Bluck's 22 students are Sight Word Karate masters. She said she'll work until the last day of the school year to ensure they all earn their black belts.

    Heather Crocker said her son, Daniel, has become obsessed with reading and using the new words he's learned.

    "He'll read the back of the cereal box in the morning and at night. I'll catch him reading books when it's time for him to go to bed," Crocker said. "That's what it's about -- making (learning) fun."
    At least the author makes the distinction between kung fu and karate.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    The video!

    Filipinos use 'Kung Fu Fighting' vs Beijing

    'Kung Fu' dance: Protesting vs China the Pinoy way
    by Paterno Esmaquel II
    Posted on 05/11/2012 2:42 PM | Updated 05/11/2012 5:01 PM

    PROTESTS, MORE FUN IN PH. Filipinos use song and dance to oppose China's claim over Scarborough Shoal.PROTESTS, MORE FUN IN PH. Filipinos use song and dance to oppose China's claim over Scarborough Shoal.

    MANILA, Philippines – The rally that initially agitated Beijing, with 1,000 Filipino protesters expected to attend, ended in a gathering of hundreds singing and dancing to the tune of “Kung Fu Fighting.”

    The anti-China rally, which is also scheduled at noon in other parts of the world, took place outside the Chinese embassy in Makati City for less than an hour. Police estimated the crowd at around 400.

    “That's very good,” said one of the protesters, economist Winnie Monsod, referring to the song-and-dance rally. “That is uniquely Filipino.”

    Organized by the United States-based US Pinoys for Good Governance, the rally aimed to show the world China's supposed arrogance over the Scarborough Shoal dispute. In a conversation moderated by Rappler, however, some netizens argued the move could do the Philippines more harm than good.

    Meanwhile, some participants shrugged off the low turnout of protesters.

    The group Kalikasan's Albert Muyot, who participated in the event, described the turnout as fine given that organizers held the rally during office hours. “We did not want to create traffic. So it doesn't mean that those who didn't come, do not care. Everybody, I believe, is aware,” Muyot said in a mix of English and Filipino.

    “Okay lang, basta naipaglaban natin, kasi tayong lahat na Pilipino ang concerned dito,” another protester said. (It's okay, as long as we fought for it, because all of us Filipinos are concerned.)

    The rally happened amid the resumption of talks between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal dispute. – Rappler.com
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    1,349
    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    My fellow countrymen are happy people. Even in protest we Party!!!
    Master of Shaolin I-Ching Bu Ti, GunGoPow and I Hung Wei Lo styles.

    I am seeking sparring partner. Any level. Looking for blondes or redhead. 5'2" to 5'9". Between 115-135 weight class. Females between 17-30 only need apply. Will extensively work on grappling.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    Time to 'fess up then

    @ DJ xcakid: How often do you drop Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting in your mix?
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    a one hit wonder

    A nice historic overview

    One Hit Wonder Wednesday: Carl Douglas - 'Kung Fu Fighting' // Issue #16
    Where are they now? IS Carl Douglas still Kung Fu Fighting his way in the charts?
    by NyW, September 12, 2012 and has been read 208 times.


    Spread the Social Love:
    It’s One Hit Wonder Wednesday time! Our 17th installment comes from Carl Douglas who is best known for his 1974 disco classic ‘Kung Fu Fighting.’ The song reached the number one spot in the UK and in the US, won a Grammy for best selling single and has gone on to amass sales of over 10 million worldwide.

    The song capitalised on the popularity of Kung Fu films at the time by using the quintessential oriental riff, it also came in at 100 in vh1’s 100 greatest one hit wonders poll and number one in Channel 4's countdown of the ‘50 Greatest One Hit Wonders.’

    WATCH // Carl Douglas - 'Kung Fu Fighting'

    ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ was not intended to be a single it was originally the B-side to a track entitled ‘I Want to Give You My Everything’ that Carl and producer Biddu Appaiah had recorded. However after hearing both songs Robin Branchflower of Pye records insisted that ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ was released as a single.



    The track took a while to pick up steam gradually becoming more and more
    popular in the clubs until it charted at a lowly 42 in the UK top 40 in August 1974. The track rose steadily up the charts reaching the summit in mid-September.

    ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ has been covered several times in the years following its release; it was particularly popular in Jamaica where Carl is from, with many notable reggae versions made by artists including Pluto Shervington and The Cimarons. Jack Black and Cee-lo recorded a version for the film 'Kung Fu Panda' and British act ‘Bus Stop’ reached number 8 in the UK with their 1998 version which sampled Carl’s vocals and added rap verses.

    Douglas later tried to recapture the success of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ with a reworked version of the track entitled ‘Dance the Kung Fu’ needless to say this did not work.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.
    Posts
    43,071

    Intriguing notion

    There are a lot of embedded YouTube vids of the songs cited here. I didn't cut&paste any of those. The forum only allows 1 per post and you all know most of these tunes anyway.
    How The 'Kung Fu Fighting' Melody Came To Represent Asia
    by
    August 28, 2014 3:42 AM ET
    5 min 22 sec

    Since this is a story about a musical phrase, it's one that's best heard. Give it a listen.

    There's a tune that you've probably heard throughout your life. It's nine notes long, and it's almost always used to signal that something vaguely Asian is happening or is about to happen.

    You know what I'm talking about. The tune's most prominent role is probably in that 1974 song, "Kung Fu Fighting." It comes in right as Carl Douglas is singing that anthemic "Oh-hoh-hoh-hoah."

    (Just for funsies, here are some of the song's lyrics: "There was funky China men from funky Chinatown/ They were chopping them up/ They were chopping them down/ It's an ancient Chinese art/ And everybody knew their part.")
    YouTube

    It was in The Vapors' "Turning Japanese." It was in every cat lover's childhood favorite, The Aristocats. (Yes, before you even ask, it was in the outlandishly racist Siamese cat scene.) It even made an appearance in .

    The tune is ubiquitous. And like many things that are just in the air, few ever ask where it came from. But we did.

    The Quest

    We're not the first to ask the question. Back in February 2005, , a person with a username "Doctorduck" asked:

    "Where does that stereotypical 'oriental' song come from? You know, the one that goes dee dee dee dee duh duh dee dee duh. Featured heavily in braindead Hollywood flicks made by clueless directors who want to give a scene an 'oriental' feel. Also a variation of it can be heard in David Bowie's 'China Girl.' "


    Carl Douglas strikes a pose as he promotes his 1974 song, "Kung Fu Fighting."
    Michael Putland/Getty Images

    It was a question that confounded many. Trying to pin down this nameless tune and its place in history turned out to be difficult.

    Across dozens of comments, people agreed 1) that the canonical example of the melody was in "Kung Fu Fighting," 2) the melody also appeared in many other places, and 3) it probably pre-dated Douglas' song. But for weeks, no one could name an incontrovertible pre-1974 example of the tune.

    They even called in the experts. One user reached out to Charles Hiroshi Garrett, a professor at the University of Michigan. In 2004, Garrett had written an academic paper referring to the riff, which a user in the Straight Dope forum quoted:

    "[The opening phrase from the song 'Chinatown, My Chinatown'] resembles an extremely well known trope of musical orientalism—one of the most efficient that the West has developed to signal "Asia" ... Such orientalist shorthand remains recognizable to twenty-first-century listeners, since these tropes continue to inhabit today's popular music. Thus, as clearly as the song's title captures its subject, the opening moments of 'Chinatown, My Chinatown' inform listeners that the song aims to fashion Asian difference."

    Garrett responded:

    A user in the thread pointed the question to Charles Hiroshi Garrett, a professor whose work others in the forum had cited.
    Straight Dope

    But then, the trail turned cold. Radio silence for a year. Then, suddenly, in June 2006, a user named "mani" announced that he'd built a whole website devoted to the question:

    "I got fascinated with this question, and for the past month I've done some research, mostly utilising various online archives of old sheet music and recordings whose copyright claims have expired. My findings soon became far to voluminous to fit in a single post, so I created a website dedicated to the 'Asian riff': ."

    The user was Martin Nilsson, a Web designer in Sweden. He'd been studying piano at a conservatory and had a lot of free time to devote to this "hobby research," as he told me over the phone. (It's "hobby research" that lots of different folks have cited, including music professors I chatted with, and bloggers at You Offend Me You Offend My Family.)

    Nilsson found that the melody's roots went back way ****her than "Kung Fu Fighting" — at least as far as the 19th century.

    Defining The Cliche

    One of the things Nilsson was trying to discover was whether the melody was ever a reference to a real Asian tune — or if it was purely a Western invention.

    "It doesn't come from Chinese folk music, really," Nilsson says. "It's just a caricature of how [Westerners] think Chinese music would sound."


    This is how Martin Nilsson defines his "Far East Proto Cliché" — the earlier form of the nine-note riff.
    Martin Nilsson

    While digging through American sheet music archives, Nilsson reached a point where the line between references to the riff and very similar ones got blurry. So he dubbed the similar riffs the "Far East Proto Cliche," based on specific musical characteristics. The definition: "Any melody with this particular rhythmical pattern and whose first four tones are identical" that usually uses a pentatonic scale, Nilsson wrote on his website. (Some melodies that fit this pattern make no reference to Asia whatsoever — you might recognize it in Peter, Bjorn and John's song ".")

    This nine-note tune and its cousins rely heavily on the pentatonic scale, which music from many East Asian and West African countries used.

    "We get the sense of another culture when we hear the scale," says Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, an ethnomusicologist at Arizona State University. "It's worth thinking about the fact that the scale isn't necessarily something we would've been listening to in the United States in a significant way before the end of the 19th century, early 20th."

    The pentatonic scale gained global popularity in 1889, during the Paris World's Fair. The French exhibition — along with other world exhibitions that were popular in that time — was where folks exchanged ideas and learned about other cultures. It was home to a range of exhibits, like the human zoo (also known as the Negro Village) and a Javanese gamelan showcase. The latter inspired composers like Claude Debussy, whose work often used the pentatonic scale.

    But the "Far East Proto Cliche," Nilsson found, went back even ****her than that World's Fair.

    The Backdrop Of The Riff

    One of the first instances of the cliche Nilsson found was in a show in 1847 called The Grand Chinese Spectacle of Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp.

    And to understand the evolution of this riff, we need to look at the backdrop against which this tune emerged.

    In the 1800s, men from China were coming to the U.S. to work in gold mines and on railroads. By 1880, there were 300,000 Chinese in the States — and there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment. In 1882, the U.S. banned Chinese immigration with the Chinese Exclusion Act. It took until 1968 for such restrictions to be lifted.

    Think about it: Most people back then had limited interactions with people from China and other Asian countries. So playwrights and writers had to come up with a shorthand way of saying, "This is Chinese; this is Asian."

    This building of a viewpoint — a viewpoint that , that people of Asian descent are intrinsically foreign — is echoed time and time again in various cartoons from the early 1900s that feature the riff:
    YouTube
    YouTube

    Someone, somewhere decided that this short musical phrase — and others like it — could represent an entire region or identity. And it stuck.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •