The Shanghai Restoration Project had the sold-out audience at New York’s Asia Society shouting for more after their curtain call. But it was only day two of the Chindia Dialogues, a four-day festival of Chinese and Indian writers, thinkers, artists and performers coming together for the Asian Arts + Ideas Forum, and the staff needed to pace itself. As the lights went up, the audience buzzed with appreciation, having watched stunning statuesque Shanghai singer, Zhang Le, and New York Hip Hop artist, Jamahl Richardson, riff on traditional Chinese melodies spiced with New York Hip Hop. The dazzling videos were equally stunning.
The Shanghai Restoration Project is the brainchild of David Liang, a Harvard-educated former Bain & Company consultant. His mission is share Chinese music and culture with the world. Liang started making audio tracks of traditional Chinese music, and then started to focus on 1930’s Shanghai Jazz. He met Hip Hop artist and performer, Jamahl Richardson at a show at New York’s Whitney Museum and realized he could add Richardson’s techno wizardry and mash up his love of Chinese music with electronica and hip hop.
The third ingredient to this innovative mix is the video. Hooking up with fellow Chinese American, Sean Leow, the founder of NeochaEDGE, a collective of more than 300 Chinese artists and animators, they beam cutting-edge images to highlight the music so the multi-media experience is live performance, concert, film: perfectly suited to today’s multi-cultural transmedia generation. The results work brilliantly, and they are definitely a force to watch as they continue their high energy collaboration.
Liang says he was glad to put his financial services consulting job behind him, but appreciates having the commercial know-how. His business skills, like writing, presenting and negotiating project deadlines, make him less likely to be taken advantage of as an artist. Leveraging those skills has made him more entrepreneurial and savvy about grant-writing and building business opportunities for himself and his group. He is working on an environmental multi-media project for the Sundance Institute and has produced a record of traditional Chinese children’s songs called Little Dragon’s Tales.
There are more similarities than you can imagine, he says, “Instead of presenting in the boardroom, now it’s on stage.”
Can’t see it on Vimeo? Watch it on Tudou.