China folk, jazz a good combo

Updated: 2016-02-19 05:19

By MAY ZHOU in Houston(China Daily USA)

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China folk, jazz a good combo

The Golden Buddha Jazz Orchestra performs at a small concert at the residence of Chinese Consul General Li Qiangmin on Wednesday night. MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

Houston audiences are getting a rare musical treat: jazz with a Chinese twist, compliments of the Golden Buddha Jazz Orchestra of Beijing.

Diplomats, VIP guests and elected officials including Congressman Al Green were invited by Chinese Consul General Li Qiangmin to a small gathering at his residence on Wednesday night to enjoy an intimate concert by the band.

The event was in appreciation for what the guests have done to help the Chinese Consulate General, and to celebrate the friendship between the people of America and China, Li said in his welcoming remarks.

Led by pianist/composer Kong Hongwei, Golden Buddha consists of seven accomplished musicians on various instruments who have been together more than 10 years. Currently on a “Greetings from Spring Festival” tour sponsored by China’s Ministry of Culture, the ensemble is taking its unique fusion of American jazz and Chinese music to Miami, Houston, Dallas, Lafayette and New Orleans.

“Over the past 10 years, we have been trying to combine Chinese music with jazz to create something unique,” said Kong. “It’s not easy but some of our works have been well received. Consul of Culture Yang Song saw us perform in Beijing and was very impressed. He helped arrange our tour in the southern states of America, where jazz was born.

“We are also very happy that we’ve had the opportunity to interact with musicians at various universities during our tour,” he added.

Golden Buddha visited Texas Southern University (TSU) in Houston on Tuesday.

“We enjoyed having the Golden Buddha band at our school very much,” said Jason Oby, chairman of the music department at TSU. “Not only did they play for us, but our jazz students played with them.”

“Jazz is an African-American tradition and many of our students are African Americans. It was a wonderful treat to have that exchange between the Chinese musicians and our students,” said Oby.

Oby called Golden Buddha’s style of music “a wonderful fusion of the two cultures. It opens students’ eyes to the possibilities of their own music and opens their eyes to the world.”

“Their music is very unique,” said Summer Song, a vocal professor at TSU. “It’s such a fresh idea for our students to see Chinese musicians use Chinese folk instruments to play jazz.”

Golden Buddha performed on Thursday at Katy World Theater and will give another performance there on Friday night.