Lang gets into year of Latin spirit

The Chi­nese pi­anist is help­ing bring his coun­try, the Caribbean and South Amer­ica to­gether, Yan Dongjie re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE -

The world has a lot to thank Tom and Jerry for. It was through a tele­vi­sion episode of the Amer­i­can car­toon se­ries that Lang Lang had his first con­tact with Western mu­sic, when he was 2 years old.

Hear­ing Tom the cat mas­ter­fully play Liszt’s Hun­gar­ian Rhap­sody No 2 — al­beit with un­wel­come in­ter­rup­tions from a cer­tain mouse — in­spired Lang to take up the pi­ano, and now, more than 30 years later, he is one of the most soughtafter play­ers on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

But there is much more to the Chi­nese mu­si­cian than pi­ano play­ing, and in 2013 the United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral, Ban Ki-moon, named him as a mes­sen­ger of peace, a role in which Lang sees his main job as ed­u­cat­ing the young.

More re­cently Lang was ap­pointed im­age am­bas­sador for the China-Latin Amer­ica and Caribbean 2016 Year of Cul­tural Ex­change, and in ad­di­tion to a full itin­er­ary of con­certs in Europe he is now pre­par­ing for con­certs and education projects in Latin Amer­ica.

He is no stranger to the re­gion, hav­ing vis­ited Latin Amer­ica three times, so he is well ac­quainted with coun­tries such as Ar­gentina, Chile, Mex­ico, Peru and Venezuela.

“I don’t feel like an am­bas­sador,” Lang said. “I just feel that we are con­nected through art.”

He has won nu­mer­ous awards, is the first Chi­nese pi­anist to be a mem­ber of the Ber­liner Phil­har­monic and the top five sym­phony or­ches­tras in the United States, has per­formed at the White House in Wash­ing­ton, and took part in the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Olympic Games in Bei­jing in 2008.

“I’m a big ad­mirer of Latin Amer­i­can arts and dances,” he said. “Ev­ery time I’m there I feel very in­spired, not only for their pas­sion for art but also the way they dance and ex­press them­selves. They are also very friendly to Chi­nese artists, en­thu­si­as­tic, talk­a­tive and en­cour­ag­ing.”

Lati­nos have mu­sic in their genes, he said, and can sing and dance on any oc­ca­sion. He re­calls once hav­ing din­ner with a Latino fam­ily and be­ing im­pressed by the fact that un­like Chi­nese, who pre­fer to chat­ter away while they eat, Lati­nos ex­press their mood by danc­ing and singing.

“I once watched tango and salsa per­for­mances in homes in Ar­gentina and Brazil. From a very close dis­tance I could feel the dancers’ pas­sion for both dance and life. My heart al­most jumped out of my chest.”

The China-Latin Amer­ica and Caribbean 2016 Year of Cul­tural Ex­change was mooted by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in 2014, and, af­ter months of prepa­ra­tions, the event will for­mally open next month.

“The event high­lights the Chi­nese govern­ment’s de­sire to pro­mote China-Latin Amer­ica re­la­tions and will im­prove cul­tural ex­changes,” said Zhu Qi, deputy di­rec­tor of the Bureau for Ex­ter­nal Cul­tural Re­la­tions in the Min­istry of Cul­ture.

Lang will per­form in a hand­ful of coun­tries in­clud­ing Ar­gentina, Chile and Peru. Lo­cal artists will get the chance to per­form with him, the idea be­ing for peo­ple to learn about each other’s mu­sic.

“It’s the first time a cul­tural group of this size has toured Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, and I hope peo­ple will sense our sin­cer­ity and that they will be en­thused.”

Re­cently Lang has been hon­ing his skills in play­ing Latin Amer­i­can mu­sic and said he hopes he can “per­form with the mu­sic genes that Lati­nos do”.

“Mu­sic can strike chords in peo­ple’s hearts and con­nect their souls. Mu­sic flows into peo­ple, overcoming bar­ri­ers of lan­guage and dis­tance.”

In ad­di­tion to con­certs in Latin Amer­ica, in which he will play both Chi­nese and Latin Amer­i­can mu­sic, Lang said he will give talks to young peo­ple there.

“Mu­sic com­bined with education is the best cul­tural ex­change, be­cause mu­sic res­onates with peo­ple’s souls, and education makes that res­o­nance take root.”

More than 100 young peo­ple will get the op­por­tu­nity to com­mu­ni­cate with Lang face to face in Peru and Ar­gentina, play­ing mu­sic and ex­chang­ing cul­tures.

Lang said he has learned a lot from Latino chil­dren, and he be­lieves he has more to learn.

“Some young peo­ple I have met there have grown up in very poor cir­cum­stances but re­main op­ti­mistic and happy through mu­sic, al­ways open to make friends that way with peo­ple from all over the world.”

In a visit to Venezuela, Lang col­lab­o­rated with con­duc­tor Gus­tavo Du­damel, and the two are now good friends. Du­damel has a pro­ject in which mu­sic is used to bring young Venezue­lans out of poverty and lives of crime, a pro­gram that Lang said deeply touched him.

“Those chil­dren be­come con­fi­dent and be­come bet­ter peo­ple be­cause of mu­sic. I am so im­pressed by Du­damel’s ef­forts. I hope I can do a sim­i­lar pro­ject in China.”

He also hopes Latin Amer­i­can artists can take their cul­ture to China, he said.

Latino artists he has worked with such as the Span­ish tenor Placido Domingo and the Peru­vian tenor Juan Diego Florez are all keen to work more with Chi­nese peo­ple.

“I hope that we can pro­mote artis­tic ex­change by hold­ing multi­na­tional con­certs and in­tro­duc­ing more artist friends to our coun­try.”

De­spite the dif­fer­ences in their cul­tures, Chi­nese and Lati­nos have many things in com­mon, he said.

“It’s easy for us to be­come friends in two min­utes. We should re­ally com­mu­ni­cate more, not only through mu­sic, but also on a peo­ple-to-peo­ple level.”

Chen Nan con­trib­uted to this story.

Con­tact the writer through yan­dongjie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Lang Lang, who was re­cently ap­pointed im­age am­bas­sador for the China-Latin Amer­ica and Caribbean 2016 Year of Cul­tural Ex­change, will per­form in a hand­ful of coun­tries in­clud­ing Ar­gentina, Chile and Peru.

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