Who would’ve thought that teaching English in China would lead to seeing a World Music Festival and a chance to be on TV? But surprises are expected. When I came to China last fall, I was greeted with cigarette-winning carnival games, kids peeing on the sidewalks, and male friends who like to hold hands just because they’re friends. I also discovered there was more to my school than desks and text books.
TPR English Academy is privately owned. (Yes, they have private ownership in Communist China, though I don’t know the ins and outs of how private anything really is.) As a supplement to normal work and school life, my school operates mainly on weekends and evenings. The bad news has been that the kids aren’t in uniform and aren’t in “school mode”. It surprised me how rowdy some of these little hellions are.
A good surprise is that the owner of my school, a man named Simone, is quite the involved community member. I think his father was a higher-up in local government back in the day; I’m not sure. But Simone seems to have some local pull and I’m pleased to say it’s going to some good use. A perk for me has been my access to what his company organizes.
For instance, he and his family bought an old monastery outside of Zhuhai. I guess it would have been tore down, but instead the old complex is now the Beishan Cultural Center. Last fall it hosted the 1st Annual Zhuhai Jazz Fest. And last weekend was the 1st Annual Zhuhai World Music Festival. And I scored a ticket!
But before you can have a festival you have to promote the sucker—also where Simone’s connections come into play. The festival was promoted on a local TV show and I was asked to come to the taping. I wasn’t sure why, except that they wanted me to appear on camera. Hmmmm.
I arrived and saw that a few other teachers and staff were invited. Here’s inside the TV channel building:
We made our way to the lights, camera, and action of the studio:
And in we went:
Being here, I was whisked back in time 12 months. I used to tape an interview-formatted show in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, I never did have that stranger come up to me on the street and say, “Hey, you’re the guy from Minneapolitan TV!” But I think it’s pretty cool that I found my way into another studio half-way around the world.
It’s no different than Minneapolis. Well, except everyone’s Chinese:
Soon they were off, talking and stuff. Not that I had any clue what they were saying:
It was cool to watch. The cameras rolled and you felt the energy notch up. It wasn’t live, but they also weren’t planning any other takes. So the pressure was on to be light and swift and interesting. All while being watched.
Apparently, not all were entertained, though:
But I bet he was alert when this next star was asked to make an appearance:
More than once, I’ve been asked to participate in PR endeavors. I’d like to think it’s for a lot of impressive reasons. But I know the biggest is that the Chinese think it’s cool to see a white American. I was blown away by this intrigue while walking in a parade in February. People were eagerly reaching out to shake my hand as I walked by. This included grown men.
I think their admiration for the West is partly due to their homogeneity and more isolation. But it’s also just love for Western art and people. Music and film from America and elsewhere are constant hits with the people. It was this intrigue that drove many to the Jazz Fest last fall and to this festival last weekend. Let me show a bit of that shindig.
Last Saturday night, I got out to the Beishan Cultural Center and was greeted with red carpet and flash bulbs. Just kidding. But there was a crowd out front:
I walked in and saw a performer right off the bat:
Not yet “worldly”, either as she was playing Chinese music on a Chinese instrument. But hey, it made for interesting contrast when the Western performers took the stage later on. In the meantime, I headed out to the food and drink area:
And a nice international touch with this family:
Here’s a couple nice local college gals willing to pose:
Back inside, the biggest hit of the night were these guys:
This festival, with its music, food, and alcohol, offered the same ingredients as festivals the world over. The same could be said about the TV taping–no, not the alcohol. I mean the part about the attributes being similar. But though the basics are the same, being here also brings to light the thousand little differences: the style of the events, the reactions from the crowds, the etiquette.
Just chalk this up as another instance that deepens the pools of both the similarities and differences between the peoples of the world.
to new plateaus,