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Music a two-way street

Updated: 2013-05-03 10:14
By Mike Peters ( China Daily)

 Music a two-way street

Above: African dancers performed twice a day for the Shanghai Expo.

Below: Dick Mackridge and his wife. Provided to China Daily

Music a two-way street

Promoter brings south african song, dance and a touch of elvis

If you want to talk to Dick Mackridge about China, be prepared for him to burst into song.

"Night and you - and 'Blue Shanghai'

Those nights were heavenly, when you were near to me

Lovely you - and 'Mei li Shanghai'

With all that loveliness - the days were so good

There's no doubt South African Dick Mackridge has a soft spot for China not to mention a few Elvis Presley songs, some of which he's adapted to express his love for Shanghai.

"My initial exposure came through an e-mail from officials at the Chinese consulate in Johannesburg," says the longtime music promoter. "They asked me if I would like to take some performers to China. I mean - c'mon! I attended a few meetings, arranged some auditions and we were 'A' for away."

That was in 2009, when Mackridge took a team of musicians to the Chengdu Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival. Since then, he's been back for the "magnificent" Shanghai 2010 Expo and later that year in October for the Suzhou and Beijing combined China International Folk Festivals. In 2011 they went to China for the Zhangjiajie International Folk Festival and the Hangzhou World Leisure Expo.

Now Mackridge can't wait to hear about the next opportunity to go to China. "I'll implode if I don't get to China this year," he says, laughing.

"Coming from a Westernized society we were blown away with the culture, the food, the often unruly traffic, the relatively low cost of clothing and similar commodities," he says, reminiscing about time spent walking around in the old shopping areas of Shanghai. "And Old Street (YuYuan Gardens) was a favorite for all of us!"

But his best memories, he says, are undoubtedly interacting with Chinese people and seeing the delight on their faces when they saw a South African singing and dancing for the first time.

"We have experienced that wonderful sensation of arriving at Hong Kong and then flying out to our respective festivals five times thus far for six different festivals," he says.

For the Shanghai Expo in June 2010, Mackridge took "our Zulu Marimba band as well as our African drummers, dancers, Moyo face-painters and gum-boot performers as well as our 'Township' Pantsula (street) dancers. Our audiences at the Expo increased from an expectant few on day one to well over 6,000 after day two," he says. "We performed twice a day, afternoon and evening."

He was back at the Expo's Africa Square in August with an interactive drumming team, where his team handed out more than 100 drums and "boom whackers" at each show. Mackridge was perforning on drums. "In a nutshell, we had six different groups and genres, all highly appreciated by our Chinese audiences. For the Suzhou/Beijing festival, we incorporated a group of Scatamiya (a capella) singers from Cape Town."

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