Li Jinhui (September 5, 1891 – February 15, 1967) was a composer and songwriter born in Xiangtan, Hunan, Qing China. He is often dubbed as the “Father of Chinese popular music“. He created a new musical form with shidaiqu after the fall of the Qing Dynasty—moving away from established musical forms. Although Li’s music was extremely popular, the Chinese Nationalist Party attempted to ban his music. Critics branded his music as “Yellow Music“, a form of pornography, because of its sexual associations and he was branded a “corruptor” of public morals. This kind of popular music was banned in China after the Communist takeover in 1949, and Li was eventually hounded to his death, a victim of political persecution in 1967 during the height of the Cultural Revolution.
Born into a Mountain Jewish family in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur, Russia, Avshalomov was sent for medical studies to Zürich. After the October Revolution in 1917, which made further studies in Europe impossible, his family sent him to the United States. There he married a fellow Russian émigré in San Francisco.
Less than a year later, he chose to return to China, where he entered the world of Shanghai‘s academia and, together with other highly qualified Jewish musicians (i.e., Alfred Wittenberg, Walter Joachim, Arrigo Foa, etc.), who had fled the Russian pogroms and revolution, trained a number of young Chinese musicians in classical music, who in turn became leading musicians in contemporary China. Between 1918 and 1947, he worked to create a synthesis of Chinese musical elements and Western techniques of orchestral composition. In 1919, his son, Jacob Avshalomov was born, who became a composer and conductor, too.
Wilbur Dorsey “Buck” Clayton (November 12, 1911 – December 8, 1991) was an American jazz trumpet player who was a leading member of Count Basie’s “Old Testament” orchestra and a leader of mainstream-oriented jam session recordings in the 1950s. His principal influence was Louis Armstrong. The Penguin Guide to Jazz says that he “synthesi[zed] much of the history of jazz trumpet up to his own time, with a bright brassy tone and an apparently limitless facility for melodic improvisation”. Clayton worked closely with Li Jinhui, father of Chinese popular music in Shanghai. His contributions helped change musical history in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Yao Min (Chinese: 姚敏; pinyin: Yáo Mǐn, born 姚民 Yáo Mín; 1917–1967) was a Chinese popular music songwriter and singer and brother of Yao Lee. He was arguably one of the most prolific songwriters of the shidaiqu era in 1930s and 1940s Shanghai through the 1950s and 1960s in Hong Kong.
One of his perennial hits is “Wishing You Happiness and Prosperity” (恭喜恭喜). He wrote other early Chinese pop classics for singers such as his sister Yao Lee, Zhou Xuan, Li Xianglan, Bai Hong, and Bai Guang. His songs were often featured in popular movie musicals.
Hong Yi (1880–1942; Chinese: 弘一; pinyin: Hóngyī), born Li Shutong (李叔同) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, artist and art teacher. He also went by the names Wen Tao, Guang Hou, and Shu Tong, but was most commonly known by his Buddhist name, Hong Yi. He was a master painter, musician, dramatist, calligrapher, seal cutter, poet, and Buddhist monk.