Freedom of (Jazz) Expression in China and Adelaide

lu-350Qiming Lu

By Mary W Maxwell

Today I attended a concert by the Jazz Choir of the University of Adelaide. The feature was the young conductor. She was so into body-use she might as well have been on the parallel bars.

At another point the assistant conductor led the group from her place in situ (with 24 colleagues on the stage). A visual treat.

The repertoire of this group would be appreciated more by musicologists than jazz fans I think. There was not a hint of Jelly Roll Blues or the Dutch Swing College Band. But that just goes to show I am stuck in the old ways.

These youngies are innovative and were especially trying to combine genres. The opening number was baroque jazz. (Hello?) They also grooved on a re-arrangement of “California dreaming.” I was fascinated by the show-biz approach of the lads especially. Very good.

So now that one of our readers has asked for “more Chinese understanding please” I hopped over to the jazz website and found this interview with a saxophone player named Qiming Lu.

Just goes to prove there is diversity we never contemplated!

He said:

“There is only classical and pop music in Sichuan Conservatory. The classical is pretty good so I tried that. But my personality doesn’t suit classical music so much – you have to play exactly what’s written. In my second year, I got introduced to jazz and I thought ‘this is what I want’.

“So I started to listen to the music myself. I listened to a lot of wonderful musicians on Youtube. When I started, it was just a hobby but after a while I found myself more and more into jazz music. So I was thinking about studying it properly.

“The problem with studying jazz in China is that the school in Beijing is not very good and the only place that is good for jazz is Shanghai. But in Shanghai, the conservatorium is very hard to get into because it is the best in China.

“I came to Adelaide because my aunt lives here and she can help with lots of stuff. I have never been abroad before. And my cousin used to study here.

“My teachers are fantastic. Dusty Cox has influenced me a lot because of his passion, his attitude, and his knowledge about jazz music. I can learn from him not only the musical study but attitude, hard work and focus. Other teachers such as Mark Ferguson are great as well – they have a different more relaxed style. When I first came here and listened to the lecturers, my English wasn’t very good and I could barely understand.

“In Adelaide the weather is ten times better than my hometown which is very humid, especially in summer. Everything is so convenient and people are so nice here. Especially on the bus, here everyone behaves so politely.

“When I first came here, I was so shocked. When you are out walking in the street, someone you don’t know will say good morning to you. In China, people don’t do that.”

“Eventually I want to go back to China. More and more Chinese people want to leave China because you can’t speak freely. But my personality is that I don’t want to escape, I want to face it.

“So instead of running away from my own country and my own culture, I think I am going to go back. It’s a very good feeling because Chinese people are restricted and jazz is about being free and expressing yourself completely.

“So it’s a really good contrast. Now more and more Chinese, especially young people, are starting to listen to Jazz – not many but just a few. But it’s growing. There are lots of TV shows about singing competitions and in these competitions, there are more and more jazz singers.

“In Sichuan Conservatory, a jazz program has just been started by some of the music teachers and they asked me if I would like to do some teaching there when I go back.”

Here is the program of the jazz choir today, at least a bit of it:

lunch_17bThe Adelaide Connection, directed by Laura Henderson

They go by the name “The Adelaide Connection”:

“Jubilee” by Bobby McFerrin; “Tourist,” by Radiohead; “Quiet Place” by Take 6; and “Magnolia” by Becca Stevens. They also did something by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, the force behind the bossa nova style. It was in Portuguese (well, it would be, wouldn’t it) and quite “romantical.”

I have to tell you the surprise for me was not that the drummer was female (it was a surprise for me, but as I have already been chastised on this website for my “sexism,” I’ll leave it out).

The surprise was, that as terrific as this drummer was — and as totally at home with the songs — it was announced at the end that she had only been a last-minute fill-in for somebody else. Wow. Like groovy, Man. Like Dizzy Gillespie would be proud.

— Mary Maxwell is a former choir director (no parallel bars business though). She found today that a concert is almost as much fun as an inquest.

 

Photo credits - Adelaide.edu.au
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Comments

  1. Thank you Mary, for this enlightening piece. I have been enjoying the music from the insert while preparing home grown vegies for a pot of soup. .Have always enjoyed big band music and didn’t realise the relationship with jazz.

    It is a pity that the World citizens are not permitted more to interact through their similarities rather than their differences. It seems that people from all cultures enjoy music and other arts (although not always appreciated by each others cultures) but their is always some overlap of talents which is cross appreciated.

    The use of this avenue should by pursued as a medium of World Peace. However World Peace is not what the so called World leaders want, as many of us know.

    • Thanks, Mal. Have you watched Tiffany Poon? She seems to be able to reach across “cultures,” too, as can be judged by this Comment posted her Moonlight Sonata video:

      “What the serious fuck. I’m 28 years old and I’ve been a tough guy my whole life with a piece of crap childhood. I listen to heavy metal and classic rock. I’ve never heard this beethoven song and im friggen tearing up like crazy. I realize I’ve been bottling up emotions my whole life. Jesus what the hell people.”
      .

  2. When I look down my street, I see some families where the daughter of the family does not have the freedoms that my daughter had when she was growing up. These are families from cultures that are different to mine. In all sincerity, as parents, we allowed our daughter what we thought was the most suitable amount of freedom, which was more freedom than those daughters down the street have.

    To cut a long story short: I have no right to go into those houses down my street and tell other people how to bring up their daughters.

    Exactly the same applies to relations between nations.

    As the old saying goes, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

  3. A reason to go on…

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