How Does An Old British Folk Tune Find Its Way To China? Perhaps Through Simon And Garfunkel

Recently I received an email and link from a Chinese friend who wanted to share her love of what she called “traditional Chinese whistling music.” This is indeed melodic whistling music. But if you’re old and foreign enough, you may recall “Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?,” popularized in the late ’60s by the US folk duo Simon and Garfunkel, used as one of the songs for Dustin Hoffman’s breakout in The Graduate.

I wrote her back gently saying it wasn’t traditional Chinese music, but based on an ancient bittersweet UK folk song  from perhaps as long ago as the 17th century, and asked her to check out the Simon and Garfunkel version also. Enough said about Chinese copying — and Simon and Garfunkel getting publishing rights to a song they didn’t write. Both guilty. Let’s just be happy that a 17th century Brit folk tune recycled through an American band can find appeal in 21st century China.

4 Responses to “How Does An Old British Folk Tune Find Its Way To China? Perhaps Through Simon And Garfunkel”

  1. SeaHorse

    It happens a lot with folk songs. I had an argument with my father about the origins of Frere Jacques. It’s like when I found out other countries ‘stole’ the tune to God Save the Queen (not sure if the English thought of it but theirs was the most renowned)

    Reply
  2. Ick

    i think it tends to be more comical here (China, east Asia?) because of their strange obsession with nationalist invention. The baffling instance that 蹴鞠 is the origin of Cambridge rules Association Football or the sino-Korean tustle over 端午节 being prime examples.

    I suspect it’s might be one of those nebulous ‘face’ issues, in the west one looses a great deal of face by making a claim that cannot be proven but here it seems, not. So the odds tip in favour of making rabid claims of ownership.

    Reply
  3. Lucy

    Your friend was just misleading. The website clearly states the name of the song to be “Scarborough Fair” (in Chinese).

    Reply

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