Hong Kong musician and professional guzheng player Moyun is popularizing the traditional instrument for a new generation of music lovers. The roots of the guzheng, the Chinese zither, can be traced to before the 6th century BCE. It has a distinctly sweet, melodious sound. What Moyun is well-known for, both on YouTube and the similar Chinese video-sharing platform Bilibili, is her skill in blending this tradition with pop culture; she adapts popular songs for the guzheng. Recently, she uploaded a riveting cover of the epic AC/DC anthem, “Thunderstruck.”
The sound is certainly different but the energy and technical expertise of the iconic opening riff is no less impressive. Moyun plucks with amazing speed and precision while tapping the wood parts of the instrument to recreate the catchy foot-stomping beat. And, just like the original, it ends with a flourish.
Moyun's process for covering a song is similar from tune to tune. Once she chooses a song, she adapts it for the guzheng and creates a rough score. Then, as she practices, the organic process of music-making takes over and she adds changes and flourishes.
“Traditional Chinese instruments aren't suited for adapting a band's entire sound,” she explains. “Guzheng is like the bass. It's hard to create variations with it.” She points out that pop songs are very different from traditional Chinese music, so much of her work is in figuring out how to best adapt them for a traditional instrument. “There are many chromatic notes I can't play on the guzheng. So I need to adapt it for the guzheng scale and use the right plucking techniques, but yet stick to the original chords. After that, I'll try to add an even more guzheng-like feel to the song.”
By sharing these covers, Moyun hopes to promote the instrument she loves and to help break stereotypes people have of traditional Chinese instruments. “Chinese culture tends to be abstract,” she explains. “It's not really accessible. But pop culture is accessible. By putting the two together, I hope the audience can appreciate my music.”
Scroll down to watch her epic “Thunderstruck” cover, and check out Moyun's YouTube channel for more guzheng performances.