If you go
7:30 pm, Monday. Shanghai Symphony Hall, 1380 Fuxing Zhonglu, Shanghai. 4008-210-522. Tan Dun (above) continues his musical experiment with the band Hanggai (left), which is known for its fushion of Mongolian and rock music.
Chinese composer and conductor Tan Dun is a musician of many sounds. Despite his background in classical music — he was trained at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in the 1970s, Tan has created music with the sounds of water, wind, paper and the chirping of birds produced by phones.
Combining classical symphony with rock in his latest experiment, the 60-year-old composer will take the baton, together with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Hanggai, a rock band of ethnic Mongolian musicians, to present a concert, titled Symphonic Rock, in Shanghai on Monday.
The concert is part of the ongoing Music in the Summer Air festival, which kicked off on July 2, and will run for two weeks.
Tan’s new work, titled Shanghai Transistor, will premiere at the upcoming concert.
Adapted from one of the songs of Hanggai, with the same title, Shanghai Transistor keeps the rock beats while integrating the symphonic elements. The hit number Four Seasons Song, performed by the late Zhou Xuan, a pop singer and actress from Shanghai, has also been used in the piece.
“Classical music is struggling to reach new and young audiences. You cannot blame the young people,” says Tan. “Rock music is free and enjoyed by young people. By combining rock and symphony orchestra, I want to give classical music a bigger power, longer influence and a larger young audience.”
Hanggai, the Mongolian term for a place with beautiful pastures, mountains and rivers, was formed by ethnic Mongolian musicians in Beijing in 2004. Now, it has eight members, including the vocalist Ilchi, the morin khuur (horse-head fiddle) player Batubagen and vocalist-guitarist Yilalata.
Tan said in an earlier interview that “Hanggai is from the vast Mongolian grasslands. I love their music because they have the power of the Earth and nature. Their music also represents a world trend in making music”.
According to Ilchi, who uses his throat sounds as the main vocal contribution, Hanggai collaborated with the National Symphony of China under the baton of Tan during a concert at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2016. They performed together at concerts held in Macao and Shenzhen, Guangdong province, as well.
“Tan can be global and local with his compositions. His attempts to combine symphonic music with rock are both bold and interesting,” says Ilchi.
The song Shanghai Transistor is from one of the band’s album, titled Horse of Colors, which was released last year. The album features the traditional sounds produced in two distinct pitches by one vocalist, folk instruments and Mongolian lyrics.
At the upcoming concert in Shanghai, the band will collaborate with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, performing six original songs, such as Horse of Colors and The Rising Sun.
Another symbol of the grasslands — the Mongolian wolf — inspired Tan’s work, Contrabass Concerto: Wolf Totem in 2014. The piece of music also will be presented at the Shanghai concert.
The composer began to work on the piece after reading the Chinese novel Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong. The book tells the story of a young man’s obsession with the endangered wolf in the grasslands of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
“Mirroring the human spirit and our relationship with the natural world,” as the composer describes it, the piece will be performed by Alex Henery, the principal double bass player of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.
With the goal of bridging the gap between classical music and young people, the composer will also present his earlier works Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds and Internet Symphony Eroica in Shanghai. In Passacaglia, Tan has incorporated the chirping of birds produced by phones. The Internet Symphony Eroica features videos of some 3,000 musicians from more than 70 countries.
Contact the writer at chennan@ chinadaily.com.cn
We try to sing about the people with disabilities in a sensitive but also humorous way.” Simon Ornest, band leader, The Tap Tap
Ornest says he had a feeling the concept was viable but has been astounded at its success.
He says the band’s strength is based on its two essential rules.
“We come on time and we do what we promised among ourselves to do. It’s a pretty good basis for any teamwork,” he says.
In the beginning, The Tap Tap started with cover versions of their favorite songs. Today it produces music of its own, with help from local musicians, and lyrics that target the world of the disabled.
“We try to sing about the people with disabilities in a sensitive but also humorous way,” Ornest says.
Its recent hit, The Bus Director, is about a bus driver who prevents a disabled man from boarding the bus with his bicycle. The song has had more than 6.9 million views on YouTube, quite an accomplishment for a song sung in Czech in a country of only 10 million.
“At the beginning, people were more curious about what we are, about what the disabled can perform,” says Jana Augustinova, a singer from the band. “And then (came) pity, wonder. Now, we have fans as any other band. They like our music and they don’t consider us a band of disabled kids but as a real band.”
Today, the 20-member ensemble plays about 60 concerts a year. Despite all the difficulties of going on the road, The Tap Tap has played a number of European capitals. This year it is crossing the Atlantic to put on concerts in New York City, Washington and Chicago.