South Africans want more of Chinese music

Updated: 2013-03-27 10:01


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In Africa, the elders believe rains are blessing, particularly ahead of a event. The rains that poured over Durban City in South Africa on Sunday night were an indication of the blessings for the BRICS Summit that starts Tuesday through Wednesday and a sign of welcome for the delegates, the local taxi driver said.

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At the Southern Beach area of the orderly port city, music boomed as hundreds of residents in Durban danced to the tunes from India, China, Russia, and the local music, all representing the five countries that make up BRICS.

Some were holding umbrella and some covered their head with cloth bags while chanting and dancing with great zest to the beats Chinese traditional percussion music, played by 12 performers from China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra.

Bongeni Vusi, a resident of Durban heard about the concert over the local radio. He came as early as 3 p.m., giving himself time to sample the beach and swim at the Indian Ocean. When the concert started, not even the rains could dampen his resolve to stay on all through.

"The rains make the experience of the concert on the beach more fun," he told Xinhua. For Vusi however, curiosity was driven by the visiting Chinese band.

"I have seen many people from different cultures perform, but not the Chinese," said 29-year-old Vusi, who teaches at a local high school.

When the Chinese band came on the stage, there was a sense of aura as most of those near the stage waited. Screams were replaced by hushed voices. Rains poured but did not distract mostly young revelers at the beach.

At the background, hundreds of delegates attending the BRICS meeting watched from the giant screens, sipping drinks to drown the peppered rice curry dish.

"I liked the performance but it was too short. We barely know about Chinese music and so they should have given us more. I liked the use of percussions most. The music is slow unlike ours that is bit faster. I think our music is very different from Chinese if that is how they play it," said Vusi.

Safiya Ismail too found the performance too short. "I would have liked to see more variety of the music and other performances they have. There are lots of Chinese business people in Durban running shops, but we barely know about their culture. Next time, it should be longer."

In Durban, many Chinese business people are setting up shops here. While the relations with the locals is good, many residents here who spoke to Xinhua at the Southern Beach area said they barely understand the Chinese culture and that presents a challenge when dealing with them.

This may partly explain the expectations of many revelers here that the performance would have given them a better glimpse of the Chinese cultural understanding.

Sarah Mazibuko, another reveler said "I hoped to learn more about Chinese culture from the performance. But from the little I have seen, my perception is that Chinese people like precision and to do things at their own pace," she said.

In Africa where most music is heavy in beats, involves physical movement and high toned voices, Chinese music is considered slow and reserved.

"Their performance was simple but with deep meaning to me, because it's like showing how they like conducting their affairs, in a sure, cautious manner. But I do not know if all their music and performances are like that, because it is my first time to see a Chinese performance. I think Chinese need to provide more of their cultural performances to cities like ours. What we know most here is about the Chinese food, but not performances," said Mazimbuko.

The experience in Durban where most African residents here have not experienced Chinese musical performance is not an isolated case, but replicable across the continent.

While China-Africa trade relations continue to deepen, cultural relations are not deepening in the same pace. It is in countries where Confucius Institutes have been set up that have experienced a relatively higher level of Chinese cultural interaction through the language. Chinese food culture is also relatively known in Africa, because of the many Chinese restaurants across many African cities.

Ai Liqun, vice head of the China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra, told Xinhua after performance that it was the first time that the team put on a performance in Africa and that they were overwhelmed by the great enthusiasm.

"My experience of overseas performance indicated that foreigners have an increasingly great demand for Chinese culture," he said, expecting more performance of such will go beyond the border to be appreciated by the world.