Not music for old men

Updated: 2012-09-03 15:27

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Not music for old men

Teenage Dai Liang, who prefers playing jazz instead of classical music, will kick off the 7th Beijing Nine Gates International Jazz Music Festival. Zou Hong / China Daily

Jazz comes to life in the hands of young Chinese musicians at Beijing's international jazz fest. Chen Nan reports.

Dai Liang sits in front of his piano on the stage of Culture Center of Xicheng District in a recent night. After a deep breath, he sends his fingers dancing on the black and white keys. The 13-year-old prodigy, like many kids in China who are learning piano, is intense and skillful.

But instead of playing Beethoven or Mozart, he performs A Night in Tunisia, a popular jazz song by Dizzy Gillespie, with his jazz trio Abu. In black shirt and pants, Dai gets excited at a jam session with the drummer and bassist, playing with dexterity well beyond his years.

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"I know I am different from other children, who are learning piano. But that's a good thing - I am special and a unique pianist playing jazz," he says after the show.

The classically trained whiz kid will kick off the 7th Beijing Nine Gates International Jazz Music Festival, which will run from Sept 14 to 23 in three Beijing venues. The youngest performer on the bill will share stages with 20 jazz bands from China and abroad during the festival.

"The music is completely mature and exceptionally developed," says Huang Yong, a veteran bassist who started the festival seven years ago with an aim to promote Chinese original jazz music. "I invited Dai because he proves that jazz exists and popularizes it among young generation. There is hope."

Dai began playing piano at 4. By the time he had his lessons with Zhang Shigu, an overseas Chinese pianist, and within a short time, he could already play a Bach prelude. At 9, he discovered jazz and studied with Kong Hongwei, a veteran Chinese jazz pianist and the founder of jazz band Golden Buddha, one of the pioneering groups that combines Chinese folk music with jazz.

He likes playing free-form tunes for hours after finishing the practices assigned by his teachers. Besides learning the history of classical music, Zhang and Kong also introduced other music genres, which made him also a fan of rock 'n' roll and also Peking Opera. His idol is John Lennon, who inspired him to learn guitar.

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