The Oriental riff, also known as the East Asian riff, is a musical riff or phrase that has often been used in Western culture as a trope or a stereotype of orientalism to represent the idea of mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea or a generic East Asian theme. It has also been used to represent generic Southeast Asian themes like those from Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar. The riff is sometimes accompanied by the sound of a gong.
The Oriental riff is a Western invention, dating back to the "Aladdin Quick Step" used in an Aladdin stage show, The Grand Chinese Spectacle of Aladdin or The Wonderful Lamp, in 1847. The notes used in the riff are part of a pentatonic scale and often harmonized with parallel open fourths, which makes the riff sound like East Asian music to a typical Western listener.
The Oriental riff and interpretations of it have been included as part of numerous musical works in Western music. Examples of its use include Poetic Moods (Poeticke nalady) (1889) by Antonin Dvořák, "Limehouse Blues" by Carl Ambrose and his Orchestra (1935), "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas (1974), The Vapors' "Turning Japanese" (1980), "Chinese Laundry Blues" by George Formby (1932), Rush's "A Passage to Bangkok" (1976), and as part of the whistling refrain in "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John (2006). The Oriental riff has also been adapted for use as video game Yie Ar Kung-Fu's main theme, the Chai Kingdom theme in Super Mario Land, Min Min's theme in ARMS, the Team China stage in Super Dodge Ball and the fighting theme of the Kung-Fu chapter in Live A Live.
The riff was also used in an Eastern series, the Japanese anime The Super Dimension Fortress Macross. The song Shao Pai Long depicts a Chinese hero.
- Aloha ʻOe
- Arabian riff
- Jarabe Tapatío
- Limerick (song)
- Radio 4 UK Theme
- Shave and a Haircut
- Song of the Volga Boatmen
- Stereotypes of East Asians
- Italian riff
- "Dadadada-da-da-dun-dun-daa!: The Asian Riff". Adoption.com: China Adoption blog. February 19, 2007. Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Notates riff a perfect fourth higher.
- "The Musical Cliché Figure Signifying the Far East".
- "Interrogasian: Hyphen's sensei of sensibility answers your questions about Asian culture". Hyphen. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- Lisa Martland (7 June 2010). "Radio: Light Programme". The Stage. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- The Musical Cliché Figure Signifying The Far East: Whence, Wherefore, Whither?, an extensive page dedicated to the history of the Oriental riff