For Dave Liang, the producer and mastermind behind electronica group The Shanghai Restoration Project, music serves as a method to reconcile his Chinese and American heritage. Born and raised in the United States, Mr. Liang felt that he lacked much of a connection to mainland China until he stumbled upon the remains and history of the Shanghai Jazz scene on a trip to the city in the early 2000s. Jazz spread to Shanghai — as it did to many other cosmopolitan port cities —during the jazz boom of the 1920s and 30s and eventually spread to the rest of China. In Shanghai, western jazz idiom and harmony merged with traditional Chinese song form, melody, and scales to create a music that balances elements of Eastern and Western influences.
When Mr. Liang formed The Shanghai Restoration Project shortly after this trip, the idea of balancing and merging East and West became the central theme of the group’s work. Now, almost a decade after forming the group, Mr. Liang decided to revisit the original jazz songs that served as the group’s philosophical predecessor. Teaming up with Shanghai born jazz singer Zhang-Le, Mr. Liang used his experience as a jazz musician and an electronica and hip-hop producer to recreate a handful of these Shanghai Jazz standards with a modern twist.
I was able to speak over the phone with Dave Liang shortly after Shanghai Restoration Project’s panel and headlining set at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this summer as part of the China Program: Tradition and the Art of Living. Mr. Liang and I discuss the history of Shanghai Jazz, the recording process, the state of the Chinese, indie music scene and much more over the course of the show.
Performers mentioned: Peace Hotel Jazz Band, Dave Liang, Zhang Le, CoCo Zhao
For more about The Shanghai Restoration Project
For more information about the documentary As Time Goes By In Shanghai
- originally broadcast as a full radio show on 10/03/14 on WGTB and published on the Rotation on 10/07/14