|Illustration from Hunan web site|
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
Country REALLY Eastern -- there's another country music festival coming up in China... The second Zhangjiajie International Country Music Week - will take place at the Wulingyuan scenic area, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Hunan Province, Sept. 10 to 16. The hosts of the event are China's Ministry of Culture and the Hunan provincial government.
According to the Hunan Government web site, more than bands from more than two dozen countries have signed on -- but I haven't yet seen a list or program.
The First Zhangjiajie International Country Music Week came off at Huanglong Cave Square from May 14 to 18 in 2009, serving as a milestone of integrated development of tourism and culture.
The six-day music week this year aims to display and exchange country music across the whole world, and promote the development of national cultures. At present, thirty-one overseas bands consisting of 392 musicians from twenty-six countries and regions have been identified, while the list of eight domestic bands of the minority nationality is still up in the ai
According to Ye Wenzhi, general planner of Zhangjiajie International Country Music Week, efforts will be made to develop the music week into regular music festival and foster Zhangjiajie into an international brand as well as a holy land of country music after holding three to five music weeks.The China Daily quotes an official as saying they want to make the locale a major country music venue.
Ye Wenzhi, general manager of the Huanglongdong Tourist Corp, one of the event's organizers, said, "Every effort needs to be made to turn the music festival into a regular event and to develop Zhangjiajie into an international country music venue."
Here's a report about the first Country Music Festival in Zhangijajie in 2009, noting that there were country bands from Austria and Australia and -- not unsurprisingly -- John Denver's songs were hits.
Musicians from all over the world are meeting here at Zhangjiajie, a tourist destination in Hunan Province. The stage was set against high mountains to showcase talents of 24 country-music bands from neighboring countries like Japan and South Korea, and countries across the Pacific like the U.S. and Argentina as well. There were also eight distinguished performing troupes from domestic ethnic groups in Xinjiang Uygyur and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regions as well as Yunnan, Guizhou and Hunan Provinces.
Country music was first created in the Southern states of the US in the 1920s and was originally popular among country folk. For this festival week, country music universally refers to all styles of folk music in the world with distinct national flavor.
The music feast featured music performed simultaneously at six distinct scenic areas and offered many other activities, such as a bonfire party.
The opening ceremony started with Hunan folk music performed jointly by Santa Fe Art Ensemble from America and a Zhangjiajie local troupe. Tom Maguire, the conductor of the American ensemble, says he enjoys the collaboration with Chinese folk artists.
"I feel very fortunate to be able to be with those wonderful musicians. It is amazing to be able do this kind of festival. I hope I can come back."
And Xiedan from the Zhangjiajie local troupe is honored to take part in the opening ceremony and communicate with foreign performers.
"There's no national boundary in the world of music. Although we speak different languages, we express the same wish through music. We performed together with musicians from Santa Fe in a traditional Zhangjiajie folk song "Lampstand on Masang Tree". They have different understandings of the music. We learned a lot from them."
Many other oversea participants also treated music fans with a real dose of country music. The Pond Pirates band from Austria gave Chinese audience members a taste of Austrian contemporary band genre, with their mixed influences of rock, ska and hip-hop.
Depressing drum sounds and slow dance moves characterized a dance troupe named Awa dance Performance Team from Japan, emphasizing a mysterious side to the eastern culture. Naka Tani Hirosni is a 64-year-old performer in the troupe.
"Awa dance is a famous Japanese folk dance with a history of more than 400 years. People in our county would dance when they hear this music. We're honored to perform our music here to foreign audiences."
And audiences were captivated each time an African performance was given by the National troupe of Benin. They heard sounds they had never heard of in real life. Huang Xiaoqing is a visitor from Shenzhen.
"They're gifted musicians. Their music is passionate and infectious. I cannot prevent myself from getting onto the stage to dance with them. It's a happy experience to enjoy the beautiful scenary as well as other countries' music culture."
Grant Luhrs, an Australian country music band, brings a country classic by American singer John Denver.
"We know that in China, John Denver as a county music performer is very popular. And we've just come off stage now on a John Denver classic song called "leaving on a jet plane".
"Country Roads, take me home", another country hit by John Denver, was chosen as the theme song of the music week, performed by two American bands Lucy Angle and Magan Sheehan.
Along with these blended tunes of East and West, famous French vocalist Cyril Niccolai also charmed the Chinese audience by singing a hit mandarin song - Teresa Teng's 'The Moon Represents My Heart'.
"It's very interesting. It proves that China is opening to the world. It's like the Olympics for music. It's an incredible mix of culture. You can talk with African people. You can talk with Greek people. And it's amazing how people connected with music. I have no religion personally. I just believe in music and the power of music and power of man. Music can connect everybody. And I'm very proud to be here."
Spectators were moved both by the music and the location. They danced, with large grins on their faces, some singing along with the performers on stage.
It's a refreshing combination of natural beauty, international faces and, most of all, music from all over the world at the Zhangjiajie International Country Music Week. Zhao Xiaoming, mayor of Zhangjiajie and spokesman of the music week, says the event will be a regular international festival held once every two years.
"The International country music week builds up its platform in the beautiful Zhangjiajie city, aiming at combining professional and folk music and showing and communicating country music from all over the world. Thus, we can inherit and carry forward the art of country music and promote cultural exchange."
The country music week was expected to build the image of Zhangjiajie as a holy land for all styles of country music from all over the world.