How Richard Nixon and Moog birthed the Chinese synth industry

Chinese synths
US president Richard Nixon (L) toasts with Chinese Prime Minister, Chou En Lai (R) in February 1972 in Beijing during his official visit in China (Image credit: Getty/Staff)

Most of us have come across or coveted synths originally designed and produced in the Soviet Union or, latterly, Russia, but you're perhaps less likely to have explored another frontier in analogue Communist Chic - the instruments produced in China from the '70s on. 

But fear not, synth hipsters, as you can now further clutter your modular knowledge bank with The Lost Keys of China, a new mini-documentary surveying this little-considered lineage, including the - let's be honest - idiosyncratic sounding Yema YM-8501, complete with "unhinged" rhythm function. 

Chinese synths

(Image credit: Yukes玉刻 Music)

The thoroughly enjoyable doc, produced by Yukes Music, eventually takes a deep dive into the 8501's filterless, LFO-free functionality, but not before a fascinating trot through the birth of the little known Chinese synth industry, and around some of the - to us - weird and wonderful results. And the whole story kicks off with a Richard Nixon-endorsed Moog showcase tour in 1973...

Grab a glass of Baijiu, pull up a chair and check out this "fun story at the cross-section of music and geo-politics". 

If you enjoy The Lost Keys of China as much as we did, why not give Yukes玉刻 Music a follow?

Chinese synths

(Image credit: Yukes玉刻 Music)
Will Groves

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.

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