How Richard Nixon and Moog birthed the Chinese synth industry

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…

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