50 American Kids Singing Chinese Song ‘I’ll Bring You Home’

Chinese immersion camp at at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Summer 2012.

Hi! My name is Liam Frost (傅雷) and I’m one half of the Fu Brothers (傅兄弟). My older brother, Connor (傅康) is the other half. This music video is of our original song…

“带你回来” (“I’ll Bring You Home”)

So this video all started with me working at a Chinese language immersion camp at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania as a counselor this summer. All of the kids were under a language pledge (no English!), which forced them to use Mandarin Chinese to communicate. The kids got frustrated a lot, as many of them had little to no background studying Chinese. So we basically babysat them— comforted them, taught them, and kept them motivated to learn this stupidly difficult language. I first began studying Chinese around the same age as many of these kids, and one of my main inspirations for learning Chinese was music.

My mother is from Taiwan and she came to America at a young age to pursue music. Here, she met my father at a conservatory and they got married and had us. My brother and I have been lucky enough to inherit some of their musical talent, and personally, I feel extremely fortunate to be a halfie (混血儿) as well.

When we were young, we weren’t exposed to Chinese or Taiwanese culture much, except when my grandma came and taught us piano, yelling and trying to beat us when we misbehaved (love you, apo!). Our mom didn’t talk to us in Chinese growing up because she wanted us to “fit in”. Even so, I’ve never quite fit into any one group. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always had a diverse circle of friends, but depending who I’m with, I’ve always been seen as “the Asian” or “the white kid” growing up.

Must be tough, right?

Honestly, I’m cool with it. I identify with both cultures— I can tell my Taiwanese friends about a typical Saturday night at an American college, the dating scene in America and the Western music I’m into. Similarly, I can tell my American friends stories about 二锅头 (crazy hard liquor) in Beijing, night markets in Taipei, and eating unbelievably fresh tuna sashimi in Dong Gang. Moreover, I can make music in multiple languages and share the thing I love most with the vast majority of the world!

My brother and I love our mom’s culture, and I’ll never forget our first trip to Taiwan when both of us decided we would learn Chinese one day. We did, and he’s now a Chinese and music teacher while I’m a Chinese major and Digital Arts minor at Hamilton College.

I still remember how cool we thought Chinese music was when we first heard it. Weirdly enough, we were really into Taiwanese rap, especially Machi (麻吉). We also liked Mayday (五月天) and of course, Jay Chou (周杰倫). I was ten and my brother was twelve or thirteen. Music was a large part of our love for Taiwan, and definitely one of the reasons for us to learn Chinese.

This summer, we started making music as the “Fu Brothers”, a way for us to combine our talents, make music together and share it with the world through YouTube and Youku.

This particular music video above happened after I wrote the song with Terry Hsieh, a trombonist and recent Oberlin grad who often takes his Jazz sextet, the Terry Hsieh Collective, to play, teach and perform in Beijing and Shanghai. He’s the one with the crew cut by the way, while I’m the guy playing the guitar and my brother Connor is on the trumpet.

Terry was a fellow counselor at the camp, and we decided to write a song for the kids to sing to get them pumped about learning Chinese, just like my brother and I had been many years ago. Something Terry pointed out which I found to be very true was that kids might forget a lot of their camp experience as they get older, but what they do remember is the songs they sang. So we were jamming one day: I was playing the guitar and he was messing with a conga drum. He dug the chords I was messing around with and BAM! we wrote this song from there in a couple of hours.

Terry Hsieh and Liam Frost with 'zhong wen' on their t-shirts.

We taught the song to the kids and they seemed to really love it so we sang it with them every day. Most of my nightly living group meetings turned into passionate jam sessions, the kids belting out the words, oftentimes out of tune— but they didn’t care because they were singing it together. I could tell the music really brought us closer to each other. The power of music in bringing people together, especially kids, really amazes me sometimes.

I love recording music and making videos so I decided to make a legit music video. To record the kids, I set up a microphone, played guitar to a click and also had some of them record individual tracks to pan out and give it that real chorus effect. I knew the end needed a little somethin’ to make it super epic so my brother came up with the horn part. To give it that modern sound, I also added drums, bass, and some synths.

I hope you enjoyed our song and our music video. Please comment and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from halfies and ABCs alike, what your experience is with being biracial, and if it is similar or different from me! Thanks for reading!

Chinese immersion camp at at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Summer 2012.

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