Na-Mara’s 2019 trip to Chongqing, China – Monday 28th October 2019

 

After the exertions of the previous day, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we took a late breakfast.  Given Clive was teaching and our young guides were also at class, we set off on our own for a stroll for probably the first time since we’d arrived in Hechuan.  With the end of our visit beginning to loom, there were some thoughts about securing take home souvenirs.  As such, given we were passing, we ducked into a local shopping centre.  Laid out on three floors, with a first floor operating as a kind of indoor, informal, market, we later discovered that this particular mall had now been supplanted by a number of brand new malls further down the road.  Anyway, it was interesting to stroll around and Dave found a couple of things to take home.

With time to spare, we were all very happy just to keep strolling and, passing a different parade of small shops, who should we bump into but Clive on his electric scooter.  His class had now finished and he was out doing a little bit of shopping for himself.   Clive parked up and, via the hotel to pick up some gear, we made our way up to the university.  We were meeting a young female singer, Wang Yi Xue, to rehearse a version of Chinese folk-pop hit, Banma Banma (Zebra Zebra) for our big concert in the Bingo City Theatre later that Monday evening.  Wang Yi Xue is a very talented young vocalist and, together, we soon settled on an arrangement of the song which we knew was going to be a hit with the audience.

I’d been having some problems with the guitar that had been hired for me for the festival.  So, it was great news to hear from Jason that he had secured for me a top of the range Tanglewood guitar for our performance that evening and on the following day.

After our rehearsals finished, we decided to go for a late lunch at a different student canteen on campus.  On the way we met another of Clive’s delightful young students, Wu Jing (Samantha), and she very kindly agreed to join us. 

After lunch, we then joined Clive’s Monday afternoon spoken English class and repeated what we’d done with his previous class a few days earlier, namely, play a few songs in the second half of the class and teach them The Wild Rover.  We were again welcomed with excitement and we agreed to take part in Clive’s class exercise for the day – seeing if you can find a fib in three statements told to you by a partner.  The students really enjoyed both the exercise and the music, and we were again delighted to be involved in a lengthy sesion of photo taking afterwards.  It was very nice to be with such charming young people having fun while they learn.

Then, it was back to the hotel to rest up a little ahead of the evening concert and, for me, to better familiarise myself with my new guitar (which was a joy to play) and to rehearse the additional material we were performing in what was a longer concert set this time around.  

We had heard through the day that the theatre for the evening concert, the Bingo City Theatre, was actually being used through the day for a Sino-German conference event.  As such, given the need to dismantle the conference stage (screen, hoardings, etc.), there was going to need to be a change to the timing of the evening concert.  Rather than it being 19:00 – 21:00, it was now going to be an hour later.  In the end, for a variety of reasons, we agreed with Malaysian band, Loko, who were again sharing the stage with us, that we would swap the performance order, leaving them to finish the night.  This had the benefit to us of maintaining the same time slot 20:00 to 21:00 as before.  So, those who were specifically coming to see us would do so at the time set out in the dfestival programme. Both bands would do be doing a 50 minute set this time.

Given the convention that those who end the night sound check first, this meant that we would sound checking last.  Naturally, the dismantling of the conference material wasn’t easy and was still going on when the Loko sound check began at 19:00.  I guess the need to match all instruments with each other means that the complexity of a sound check probably grows geometrically as band numbers grow arithmetically.  As such, it was always going to be a challenge for Loko to do their soundcheck in the 30 minutes available, with burly guys behind them dismantling a stage screen.  However, with the help of Loko’s friendly manager EeJay on the sound desk, they did manage to finish the check with enough time to allow Rob and me to sound check before most of the audience arrived. EeJay had also offered to manage our sound for us through our performance and we were happy for him to do so. He did a great job.

With the theatre beginning to fill up, it wasn’t long before we were back out on the stage for our set.  The concert went really well and, the dynamics of singing Banma Banma with Wang Yi Xue - walking up to the microphone as we played an introduction - couldn’t have gone better.  This is a crowd pleaser of a song and the crowd was definitely pleased by it.  We played well and the audience loved the set.

Then, there was a scramble for us to clear the stage in good order so that Loko could begin promptly on the hour.  This we managed to do with only a few Keystone Kop moments – like me silencing the lead guitarist by tripping over his lead in the darkness.

As Loko started up, we retreated to the theatre lobby where we set out CDs and postcards and am pleased to report there was a somewhat frenzied period of CD sales and signing and photo-taking once Loko had finished and the audience was exiting.  Rob, I and Dave must be on a few hundred camera rolls now.

With Loko finishing at 22:00 and with local restaurants tending to close earlier than we might be used to, we were fortunate that our new friend, Jason, had contacted his favourite restaurant, serving food from his northern home city of Harbin, and asked them to hold off closing until we get there.   The restaurant very kindly stayed open for us eight hungry diners and we had a splendid meal with a very different style of food that evening.  Many thanks to Jason.  After the meal we strolled back the short distance to the hotel.