A song about bringing electricity to the Tibet Autonomous Region won “most innovative” in a talent show hosted by state broadcaster CCTV, but an observant netizen later pointed out that it wasn’t all that creative: In fact, it had plagiarized the opening song of Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon.”
The song was produced by State Grid Sichuan Electric Power Corporation (SGSEPC), a state-owned company that operates the electrical grid in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. Wearing their instantly recognizable blue uniforms and yellow helmets, 12 State Grid electrical workers stood onstage holding wrenches and singing a number called “Electricity Is Coming!” Later, more actors in orange uniforms joined in, and together they praised the Sichuan-Tibet Electric Power Network Project and China’s rise.
The show, called “I Want to Go to the Spring Gala,” gives the winner an opportunity to perform at CCTV’s hourslong Spring Festival Gala TV show, watched every Lunar New Year’s Eve by hundreds of millions of Chinese. The pre-gala talent show was broadcast on Jan. 9, but the song’s similarity to the opening number of “The Book of Mormon” — titled “Hello!” — was noticed only recently. The tune of “Electricity Is Coming!” is nearly identical to that of its Broadway counterpart, and the stage design is also largely the same.
Zhao Dazhi, producer of the TV program, told Sixth Tone that he did not know about the plagriarism, shortly before the connection was interrupted. A second call was met with a busy signal. State Grid Corporation of China, SGSEPC’s parent company, could not immediately be reached for comment.
“‘The Book of Mormon’ is known to everybody,” musical actor Shen Daoling told Sixth Tone, adding that he felt angry when he saw the performance. “The Chinese composers changed nothing and put their own names on the song — even placed it on the national stage of CCTV!” Shen said.
In September 2016, another state-affiliated song was accused of plagiarism: Patriotic rap song “This Is China” was removed from YouTube after it was found to have used footage from a South Korean music video.
(Header image: A still from the CCTV talent show ‘I Want to Go to the Spring Gala,’ which was broadcasted on Jan. 9, 2017.)