World needs to hear our music

13:53, July 12, 2010      

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Six years ago, I went to the Roskilde Festival as a volunteer working for the international camp. It was the first time for me to witness such a huge collection of big bands and crazy fans.

I saw bands from Europe, America and Africa. My only regret was that there weren't any Chinese people with whom to share the excitement. I wondered why we didn't have the same kind of events back in China. People in China need it and we should bring Chinese bands to festivals in other countries such as Roskilde, I thought at the time. I knew we certainly had enough talented musicians to share and show with the rest of the world.

Later on I learned that the whole summer is a festival season for Europeans. Stages and tents are set up all over the continent.

In the following years, I learned about the Beijing Midi Festival, Helanshan Festival and Strawberry Festival. Perhaps China will soon have a booming season for music festivals to rival Europe and North America's. Overseas bands are coming to our festivals and Chinese bands have stepped on the stages abroad as well.

Chinese people are familiar with the slogan of "Let Chinese culture go abroad". However, there seems to be some misunderstanding, with many mistakenly thinking that "Chinese culture" only means traditional Chinese culture.

Take Confucius Institutes for example, which have been playing an increasingly important role in promoting Chinese language and spreading Chinese culture. There are 300 around the world. They teach calligraphy and paper cutting, and put on the richly-costumed singing and dancing performances. But these kinds of culture activities are not so popular in today's China.

Confucius Institutes are still quite new and it's understandable that they start with some easy-to-do projects and easy-to-access resources. But it is necessary to go beyond such obvious projects. Why don't Confucius Institutes take more current culture abroad, such as Chinese bands?

The Goethe Institute brings German bands to China because modern music is an important window into how German young people think and live nowadays. Modern music is one of the most resonant ways to bring young people together.

If Confucius Institutes did the same with Chinese bands it would help tell the world how far China has come since the time of long pigtails and gowns or the blue and gray uniforms of the 1960s, helping to dispel some of the stereotypes held by those who know little about today's China.

Undoubtedly it makes much more sense to understand a culture through its current forms of expression instead of staring at museum items. But the traditional and the modern don't have to stand on two ends of an axis of time. There must be some integration, bringing together both tradition and modernity.

The popularity of a culture depends on a healthy cultural market. China's modern cultural market is more than healthy -it's positively thriving. With their government support and wealth of resources, Confucius Institutes could and should play a stronger role in maintaining this China's thriving modern culture and sharing it with the rest of the world.

Source: China Daily


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