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Smart, young rockers are electrifying

Updated: 2012-08-10 08:16
By Chen Nan ( China Daily)

More than 300 children from all over China gather at a weeklong camp, to play electronic instruments. Chen Nan listens in.

Smart, young rockers are electrifying

Camp participants visit a violin factory in Pinggu. Feng Yongbin / CHINA DAILY

Yang Liuqing plays the electronic keyboard like a professional, even though he is only 10.

"I wanted to wear my favorite Michael Jackson shirt but we have to wear these T-shirts today. I will wear it for our next show," says Yang, who is one of the members of Shanghai-based band, Troublemakers.

The round-faced boy who loves to smile, and his five other band members plays grunge, a sub-genre of alternative rock music. Li Qijun, 10, plays the electronic drums; Wang Yiqi, 8, bass; Lu Pengxiang, 8, electronic piano; and Wu Sijian, 9, and Zhang Yanjia, 7, electronic guitars.

The band recently performed at the opening of a summer camp in Pinggu district, on the outskirts of Beijing. They are among more than 300 children and young adults, aged between 3 and 18, from all over China, who gathered for a weeklong camp, titled Chinese Kids Rock with Electronic Musical Instruments.

The organizers - the local government of Pinggu district and Roland Corporation, a leading manufacturer and distributor of electronic musical instruments - want campers to feel comfortable being loud and expressing themselves on stage like adult rockers.

"Most parents in China get their children to learn at least one musical instrument, such as violin and piano. They only set their eyes on classical music," says Sun Qianxiao from Roland Corporation, the camp's founder and co-director. "We want parents and children to know that electronic musical instruments are electrifying."

At the camp, participants attend master classes conducted by international musicians, such as jazz-fusion guitarist Robert Marcello from Sweden and Masaking, percussionist from Japan.

Among the campers, 150 children play electronic drums, 80 children play keyboards and more than 20 play electronic accordion. The others play classical musical instruments. At the end of the camp on Aug 8, they performed a concert.

"Based on our research, one-third of the children who go for music lessons in China, learn electronic musical instruments," says Sun.

Shen Lukun, mother to a pair of 7-year-old twin daughters - Qin Wenjun and Qin Wenzhe - says her daughters fell in love with electronic drum after watching a TV show which featured the instrument.

"When the girls told me that they want to learn the electronic drum, I thought it was crazy because most of my friends send their children to learn classical music and not modern music," says Shen, from Jiaozuo, Henan province. Both her daughters joined the camp. "They were only 4 years old then. And, both my husband and I have no idea about electronic musical instruments."

"But when I saw how persistent they were about learning the instrument and how they enjoyed the classes, I knew they were serious," says Shen. She bought a drum kit for over 10,000 yuan ($1,570) for her daughters and sent them to music classes twice weekly in their hometown. She has not mapped out any plans for her daughters' musical futures. "I only want them to be happy," she says.

"It is so much fun to play the drum," says Qin Wenjun, the elder twin, who performed solo at the concert.

According to Liu Bingnan, a teacher from Roland Music School, most children love learning the electronic drum because it's easy to learn and fun to play. "It's like a base for music. You just have to follow the music and provide the beats," he says.

One of the camp participants who learns classical music, 11-year-old Wang Hanqing, has been playing the piano and accordion since she was 5. "My parents want me to have a good sense of music," says Wang. "They bought me a lot of classical music CDs as well as pop and rock CDs. For me, the music world is not only about classical music but there is a great variety. When I play music at home, I also try the two instruments with rock tunes."

At the concert, the girl played the piano accompanied by electronic musical instruments, and she also gave a solo accordion performance.

"I think piano sounds great with electronic musical instruments and accordion becomes alive with synthesizers," she says.

The location of the camp is at a 10-square-kilometer music valley in Pinggu, which is home to the annual China International Music Valley Festival. It is near Dongguancun village, which produces 300,000 violins annually and is the world's largest exporter of violins.

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