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Song From 'Les Misérables' Has A Long History In Pro-Democracy Movements

NOEL KING, HOST:

An old song is getting a new life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?")

MICHAEL MAGUIRE: (As Enjolras, singing) Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?

KING: That's "Do You Hear The People Sing?" from the musical "Les Miserables."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?")

MAGUIRE: (As Enjolras, singing) ...Who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes of the drums...

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This musical takes place during the Paris uprising of 1832. It's based on a novel by Victor Hugo. Over the years, people from Belarus to Turkey to the Philippines have sung the song in protest of tyrannical regimes.

KING: Over the last few years, people have sung it a lot at pro-democracy protests in Asia, like Milk Tea Alliance rallies. The Milk Tea Alliance is a democratic solidarity movement that started online. Its members are from countries where tea with milk is a staple.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #1: (Singing in non-English language).

KING: The song's often translated into the local language at these rallies, like this one in Hong Kong in 2019, where demonstrators who came out to protest a controversial extradition bill with China sang in Cantonese.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #2: (Singing in Cantonese).

INSKEEP: Wow. People sang it in Thailand in 2020, when hundreds of thousands came out to demand reforms of the Thai monarchy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #3: (Singing in non-English language).

INSKEEP: And the song has life again this year after a military coup in Myanmar. This time, people are demanding a military junta restore a democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #4: (Singing in non-English language).

KING: That's really very pretty. Where the song might pop up next in the world is anyone's guess.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?")

LES MISERABLES 10TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT CAST: (As characters, singing) Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.