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June 5, 2010

相信. xiāng xìn. believe.

For the past several weeks our company, Split Works, has been extremely busy planning, organizing, participating and conducting transmitCHINA– part int’l music conference in Shanghai, part artist showcase. In collaboration with several organizations in Canada and funded by the Canadian government, this event (in its 3rd year) is about understanding the music landscape in China.  It involves and encourages dialogue between foreigners and Chinese from all parts of the industry, from the ministry of culture to musicians. Having just culminated last night in Shanghai with live performances by all six bands, you can read about the culturally signficant event here.

One aspect of transmitCHINA is the concept roadTALKS.  roadTALKS are “on the road” coverage of the bands as they toured.  6 bands, 7 cities (Hong Kong, Guanghzhou, Changsa, Wuhan, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai). An extremely challenging logistical and operational effort.  For example, one group (whose performance was one of my favorite), Ohbijou consisted of 6 members & lot’s of instruments.

Being based out of Beijing, I was fortunate have an opportunity to attend another aspect of transmit, a b2b session–an intimate and open conversation on topics of relevant concern.  The topic for Beijing, tucked deep in a cozy outdoor hutong bar last Tuesday–indie music development in China and Canada.  Without diving into a complete narrative of this session there is one interaction that is worth noting (amongst many others), forever.

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[transmit photographer: Tobyn Ross]

One of the attendees, an extremely well-spoken individual (who we will call “x”) expressed his wish, aspiration and hope that good change is coming.  We were speaking partly of his experience within the ministry of culture, and the way in which certain parts of the Chinese government behave almost similar to that of a large record label or corporation.  In so many words, tax-payer money provides certain grants for the arts.  A great concept.  In terms of who controls the decisions though, and who and how these critical decisions are influenced and in effect made are still very political.  A sensitive balance between culture and business.

[readers note: I am the youngest at the round table (maybe not literally), but through experience I’m the baby here .  I feel some strong reservations writing about such topics.  But my point is not to be political, rather it is to capture the cultural and symbolic significance I felt by being part of this]

“x” was probably the eldest of the group–a bridge between tradition and now.  His views were deeply rooted and washed in the fountain of experience.  They were also equally clear, forward-looking and embracing of the evolving scene.

“There is a certain flexibility that is loss,” says X referring to this type of control,  “but, I hope,” he continues smiling, “that before I’m gone, good change will come.”

“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’ ”
Dylan, times they are a changin’

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