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New documentary looks at pioneering Chinese synths, including the Yema YM-8501

Dubbed an "instrument for the people", the Yema YM-8501 played a significant role in Chinese music history

  • Aneesa Ahmed
  • 23 July 2022
New documentary looks at pioneering Chinese synths, including the Yema YM-8501

The legendary and unique Yema YM-8501, one of the first electronic instruments produced in China, is featured in a new mini-documentary about the history of Chinese synthesisers.

The mini-doc, which was made by synth fanatic and YouTuber Yukes Music, examines the Yema YM-8501, also known as "Wild Horse," one of the few synthesisers to have emerged in China in the 1970s.

The video explores synth's deep history and also looks into the mechanisms that this pioneering Chinese instrument had. It examines how the accessibility and versatility of the product, at the time, made it an "instrument for the people."

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The synth's status as one of the first mass-produced electronic devices in China solidifies its position in modern Chinese music history.

This is despite the fact that it lacks several of the usual features of a synth (such as filters) and has a slightly dated sound.

The description of the video says: "The Yema YM-8501 "Wild Horse" is one of the earliest electric organs made in China after a Moog synth was introduced to Chinese officials during one Nixon’s exchange visits.

"It hasn’t got quite the functionality of the synthesizers of that era, but it’s an instrument manufactured for the masses, with a timbre that could make a Rockstar cover his ears. It’s vividly terrible but not unworthy of some rescuing."

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The video unpacks the context of this synth within Chinese music history and explores the legacy that this instrument has left within electronic music as we know it.

Are you interested in finding out more about the Yema YM-8501, and Chinese synth history? Watch the full video below:

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter.

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