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Musical life in China

Born in the 1970s, Chenyin has seen big changes in her country, and to its relationship with Western music. I asked her about learning the piano in China. 'When I was little -- about twenty years ago -- it really wasn't popular -- most people hadn't heard of this Western instrument. Some children were learning, but information was very rare. My parents made great efforts to find recordings, books and sheet music.'

'Nowadays, since China opened its gates to the world, people have become richer and don't have to worry about their living. The piano is now one of the most popular domestic instruments -- many kids are learning -- I think in Beijing alone there are 30,000 little pianists.'

Chenyin explained that families living in the apartment blocks of China's big cities become more developed domestically than in the West because of the lack of space. 'Kids don't have many playgrounds, families spend more time at home and people have to do something with all their energy. Many families get a piano so they can do something constructive.'

Fate took a hand at the very start of Chenyin's career as a pianist -- no-one in her family had ever followed music as a profession, but an uncle had stored a second hand piano in her home, and Chenyin's parents -- a software designer and a geologist -- thought they should use it.

'I just started learning, wanting to play a few tunes. My first teacher, Bao-jing Zhao, was a local man and very enthusiastic. Even at my very early age he made me commit to always be truthful to the music. This is so extremely important. For a young kid starting to learn, the attitude of parents is even more important. Mine taught me that if I was going to do anything, I had to do it properly.'

'I don't know how I got into the Conservatoire -- they only accepted four students from the whole country that year. We didn't even hope to get accepted. Afterwards, as a Conservatoire student, it was clear that music was my major interest. It always interested me, and I had a lot of fun, but until I was fifteen, I don't remember being madly in love with music -- only that I was "on that boat".'

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Copyright © 14 February 2002 Keith Bramich, London, UK




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