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February 24, 2010

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The soul of perfect harmony


Quincy Jones, born in 1933, is an internationally renowned American composer, record producer, film composer and trumpeter. He is perhaps best known for producing the album "Thriller" by Michael Jackson and also the famous charity song "We Are the World." He has won 27 Grammy Awards.

With the theme "Better City, Better Life," what better city in Asia to host the World Expo 2010 than the Oriental Pearl that is Shanghai? A city whose history of commerce and cultural exchange dates back to the mid-19th century.

As it did almost a century and a half ago, Shanghai will once again open its arms to the world as it invites tens of millions of global citizens from more than 200 countries to experience the rich cultural history that envelops Shanghai and the forward-thinking industries and innovations that have made it one of the most rapidly developing centers of commerce in the world.

During the last 60 years, I've had the good fortune to travel all over the world. But it wasn't until 2006 that I had the opportunity to visit the Chinese mainland and Shanghai for the first time. I have enthusiastically returned here many times since.

Feeling and experiencing this magnificent city and its culture have inspired and enriched me beyond my wildest imagination, and I was impressed by the wide-ranging diversity of viewpoints and expression, as well seeing a great country becoming more open to the world.

I was honored and humbled that those initial visits resulted in my collaborating with the producers of the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai in 2007, serving with the great director Ang Lee as a culture and arts consultant to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and being appointed to the jury of the First National Digital Audio Production Competition of the renowned Shanghai Conservatory of Music last year.

From the time that I first traveled abroad as a 19-year-old trumpeter with Lionel Hampton in 1951 to being the music director, arranger and trumpeter for Dizzy Gillespie's State Department Tour in 1956 - the first US-sponsored goodwill tour - to the unifying power of "We Are The World" in 1985, I have witnessed first-hand the transformational effects of the arts, especially music, to transcend geographic and cultural boundaries.

On my first trip to Europe so many years ago with Hampton, a great saxophone player named Ben Webster said to me, "Youngblood, when traveling in foreign countries, if you really want to get to know the people, eat the food they eat, listen to the music they listen to, and learn 30-40 words in the language that they speak."

It was some of the best advice that I've ever gotten and to this day I have eagerly embraced the food, music and language of every country on the planet, and because of it, I feel at home wherever I travel in the world.

As an artist, I know that the collective creativity, the most powerful creativity on Earth, can inspire people to come together and shine a light on something other than themselves.

I have long held that you have to know where you come from to know where you are going, and there may be no city more representative of this than Shanghai.

Sitting at the mouth of the mighty Yangtze River, Shanghai is a city that sings with a perfect harmonic bliss, blending the soul of man and nature past, present and future. That is why it was an honor for me to collaborate with the great Tan Dun in composing the World Expo 2010's theme song.

With the diversity of cultural influences embedded in Shanghai's history, it is the perfect backdrop to host this year's Expo and celebrate the dawn of global collaboration for the betterment of mankind at this turn of the 21st century.

From the ancient town of Zhujiajiao and the tranquility of the Yuyuan Garden to the multitude of culinary choices and shopping of Nanjing Road and the magnificent skyline view from the Bund, there is no doubt that the visitors of the World Expo 2010 will be forever moved and inspired by their time in this uniquely spectacular city.

I guess by now you can see that I feel close to and deeply love the Oriental Pearl.


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