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October crowded with music fests

MUSIC is in the air as three music festivals take the stage next month. The Midi Music Festival opens October 1 on a Yangtze River island, followed by the city's Daning Music Festival and international jazz fest. Nie Xin reports.

China's biggest and best-known international rock music festival opens on October 1 on the tourist island of Shiyezhou in the Yangtze River.

The four-day Yangtze Midi Modern Music Festival in Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu Province, is the 12th edition of the famous festival that was held in Beijing until two years ago (it was the Midi Music Festival). This is the second festival on the island where it is supported by the local government.

International performers include Soulfly (Brazil), Shadows Fall (US), Finntroll (Finland), Loudness (Japan), Kyte (England), and The Agonist (Canada), among others.

Chinese premiere league rockers include Tang Dynasty, Wang Yong, 2nd Hand Rose, Woodoo Kungfu, Suffocated, Yaksa and others.

Midi Festival in Beijing is considered the earliest of the big outdoor music bashes in China.

Today there are more than 30 music festivals (each at least three years old) in China. These include the Jazz Shanghai Music Festival (October 13-17) and the Daning Music (October 16-24) Festival, both in Shanghai.

"There are more and more music festivals these years, almost 10 times as many as in the past," said Lao Lang (Wolf), a famous pop singer who will stage outdoors at Daning Life Hub in Zhabei District during the 12th Shanghai International Art Festival.

This year there are at least 30 outdoor music festivals around, said Lao Lang. "Chinese people used to like evening gala concerts, now they are starting to like live bands," he said.

The Daning show will also feature Ye Pei (famous for campus scene music), the four-piece band Yu Guo, Chinese duo Yu Quan, and some foreign musicians will stage in the plaza.

"The upcoming shows will present more original Chinese music, with pure and authentic sounds, and great audience enthusiasm," said Chen Shenglai, director of the International Art Festival.

The Daning Music Festival was first held two years ago in 2008, with some of China's heavy-weight rockers, including the "father" of rock Cui Jian, the band Tang Dynasty and young rock star Wang Xiaokun.


The Shanghai Jazz Festival, titled "Love in Music," runs from October 13. Performers will stage at the Shanghai Center Theater, and outdoors at Pudong Central Park for two days and at the Expo Park, among other venues.

Eight world-class jazz masters and bands will give concerts at the Shanghai Center Theater from October 13-17. Performers include Sweden artist Nils Landgren Funk Unit, American smooth jazz band Fourplay, jazz horn player Roy Hargrove and his quintet, Grammy winner Dianne Reeves, and Brandford Marsalis.

Other international performers are from South Africa, Japan, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, Brazil, and Cuba.

The Chinese lineup includes Zhang Zhengyue, Shun Zi, Fan Xiaoxuan and He Yong, E-Groove, Toby Mak, Lions of Puxi, Noukilla Band, Anan Trio, Jasmine's Band, Theo Croker, JQ's band, Sugar Mama, and Cotton's Band.

"Music festivals are like expos of music, which collect and exhibit various sounds," said Ren Yuqing, organizer of the Shanghai jazz festival. Senior producers and musicians are on the lookout for promising newcomers and there's lots of audience interaction and feedback.

Lao Lang (Wolf) has given more than 20 live shows in this two years' collaboration with bands.

"Staging with live bands is great as musicians like the interaction with audiences and the bands' arrangements bring out fresh elements."

Ye Pei is another well-known singer who is popular with professionals and college students.

"In the Daning Music Festival, I will represent a Chinese folk song in my own way to present the originality and power," she said.


The venues of music festivals are also promoting themselves.

After the tremendous success over the years of the Beijing Midi Festival, last May the Beijing Midi Music School and Zhenjiang City signed a 10-year collaboration on shows. The show was renamed the Yangtze Midi Music Festival.

Daning Life Hub, a new commercial area in Zhabei District, also benefits.

"In the past five years various music festivals and shows have helped make the place popular," said Chen, director of the upcoming international art festival.

Another venue is a garden villa in Fengxian District where local pop singer and producer Wang Hao recently held a small music party that attracted 2,000 fans to enjoy a late summer night.

But there are some critics of this proliferation of music festivals, sayinging the same performers appear again and again in shows with similar themes.

"When the quantity increases fast, if there's no excellent music and supporting culture, the music festivals become commercial products only," said Ren, organizing of the Shanghai jazz festival.

But festival organizers remain upbeat, saying the number of spectators is increasing.

The first Shanghai Jazz Festival was held in 2005 at the JZ Club on Fuxing Road and attracted around 3,000 people.

Today the city-wide event attracts around 40,000 - it will be higher in the Expo year. Thirty percent of those to attend are expats, organizers say.

Music festivals are targeting different audiences with different styles and sounds.

Strawberry is fresh, Midi is strong, Shanghai Jazz is popular in South China and the Xihui (West Lake/Hangzhou) festival appeals to a range of listeners.


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