May 05, 2012

Vitas: Bringing China to China

Vitas is a Russian superstar, extremely popular in Asia, particularly China. His voice spans at least five octaves. I've written an introduction: Why Have I Never Heard of Vitas?

Audience pressing forward to stage, 
with bouquets and gifts

Some people think Vitas is so popular in Asia because Asians are used to men with high voices (eg Peking Opera), but I feel this is a simplistic explanation, and that something far more socio-psychological is going on there. In fact, I have taken great liberty to imagine why.

I have a theory that Vitas may be helping China to regain her ancient heritage and to heal her wounds. I believe perhaps the China is confused, embarrassed and sad that she lost 5000 years of culture in a few years. I think Vitas recognizes that China wants to rediscover herself: culturally and spiritually. The people feel an emptiness.

In some ways Vitas is also controversial, but I believe it actually makes him even more attractive to the Chinese.

Vitas: Diplomatic License


One aspect of old China that Vitas stongly reappropriates is Asian spirituality, philosophy and religion- the most controversial of all. But things in China have been changing. I have read that the government does not bother the Christian churches springing up everywhere (although for the most part they are state-controlled), and most of the major monasteries have been restored. I have read that the government doesn't mind so long as it doesn't, from their perspective, get out of hand (eg Falun Gong).

Vitas dressed as Buddhist monk 
in video 'Opera 1'

Tibetan Plateau

the Tibetan Plateau

In 2008, Vitas recorded a modern folk song and video about Tibet, which in itself is not strange to the Chinese; it is a song about a beautiful unspoiled* area that includes most of Tibet, part of which greater China claims. It is called the Tibetan Plateau, in Chinese, Qinghai-Tibetan (Qingzang) Plateau.

My question is, is this song controversial? This is very ambiguous.