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Richmond musicians reach out to bridge the cultural divide

Lorraine Graves   Apr-04-2018

Richmond's Nicole Ge Li and Geling Jiang will feature in the Sound of Dragon Music Festival, offering a fusion of ancient Chinese instruments and contemporary western music.

Photo by Chung Chow

The divide between Chinese culture and traditional Canadian culture can feel wide but when the music starts, it speaks to the soul, regardless of language or country of origin.

Local Richmond musicians, Geling Jiang and Nicole Ge Li, featured in the Sound of Dragon Music Festival running April 3 to 8 at various locations, use their traditional Chinese instruments to play contemporary music more familiar to Canadian ears.



Li plays the erhu, commonly called the two-string Chinese violin, which dates back almost 2,000 years. According to Jiang, it came from Persia along the Silk Road to China thus the “hu” in the name, meaning foreign. While Jiang’s instrument, the Chinese zither or lap harp properly called the zheng, reaches back through Chinese history almost three millennia.

The Sound of Dragon Music Festival seeks to bridge cultures through music, an important concept to both LI and Jiang.

Li says, “I live in both cultures. I love living in Richmond because its such a convenient place for Chinese people.”

Yet at the same time she says, “It extra important to learn English. There’s no reason to think that you should live in the Chinese community.”

Li stresses why reaching out to other Richmondites matters, “For those who don’t understand English at all, they will never have this chance, never have this moment with people here.”

Jiang echoes the sentiment, “I play music with other communities. If you stay in the Chinese community you, if stay in your own community, you cannot widen you mind, your view, so it is most important for immigrants to accept different cultural values and develop, to know each other better.”

Both Jiang and Li look forward the opportunity the festival affords Canadians to learn about the rich musical history of China through the instruments while listening to contemporary music not of the East but of the West.

Jiang says, “I’m looking forward to having people know the Chinese instruments more, because people think Chinese people can’t play contemporary or western style I want to show people how the instruments develop so we can follow the new style new music, not just the original style.”

Both Li and Jiang stressed the need for Chinese immigrants to reach out to other Canadians, to appreciate Canadian culture and to learn English. That is why they both choose to play contemporary Western rather than Asian music at the Sound of Dragon Festival.

Their concert is Saturday evening, April 7.

As part of the festival, and in the mood of blending cultures, Vancouver’s first official “Chinese and Celtic Music Jam” at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 7 is a free event.

For more information or to purchase tickets, cut and paste:

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