Shanghai-based singer songwriter and author Liu Jian has been organizing music events in Shanghai since he landed here after leaving the army back in 2001. When he married his wife, American writer Rebecca Kanthor, the news of their rural wedding went viral on Chinese social media. Since becoming the parents to two kids, Liu Jian and Rebecca have joined forces to organize Hand in Hand International Children’s Music Festival, a first for China. Latin Grammy-award-winning Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band, and Dutch rock band Hippe Gasten will be touring twenty cities with the festival in June, October and December. We sat down with Liu Jian and Rebecca to find out what to expect from their upcoming Children’s Day show.
Liu Jian, Rebecca Kanthor and their two adorable kids, Liona and Leo
Why did you decide to start a children’s music festival?
Rebecca: The two of us met over a decade ago at a bar in Hangzhou where Liu Jian happened to be performing. I walked up and introduced myself and the rest is history. Now we live in Shanghai with our two kids. We definitely have a musical home. The kids love it when Liu Jian pulls out his guitar and I like sharing music with our kids from around the world. One time I was playing a children’s music CD that my mom had sent us from the US and Liu Jian heard it and was really impressed. There’s just so many great bands making music for kids around the world- from hip hop to rock to electronic to heavy metal. It’s nothing like what you might have listened to as a child, actually adults can enjoy it too. We just want to share this awesome music with kids and parents in China and encourage them to enjoy music together.
What are you trying to do with the festival?
Liu Jian: Music festivals for families are a trend around the world, but Chinese children’s music hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. So we came up with this plan- 5-10-100. In the next 5 years, we’ll bring musicians from 10 different countries to tour over 100 cities in China. We want to expose Chinese families to great music from around the world, and also inspire Chinese musicians to make great music for kids.
What music do your kids listen to at home?
Rebecca: It’s fun to see how they react to different kinds of music. Of course the Frozen and Moana soundtracks are favorites, but they also love They Might Be Giants, Dan Zanes, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, HIppe Gasten, Bob Dylan, Shanghai Restoration Project, Louis Armstrong, and anything else we discover we like. They listen to a lot of Chinese songs too. They definitely have their own musical tastes and are always asking for their favorite songs.
What can people expect at the festival?
Rebecca: Our first Hand in Hand tour will feature two very talented bands that make music that kids love and parents enjoy too. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band is an American band coming out from LA. They’re a husband and wife duo who make super catchy pop with a surf rock feel. They put on a great live show with a ton of audience participation. They’ve won a Latin Grammy and multiple Emmy awards for their music and tv show. Their music is fun for everyone from toddlers to pre-teens and adults too. Our kids absolutely love their music- perfect for jumping around. The other band we’re bringing is Hippe Gasten from the Netherlands. They are a rock band for kids and put on an outstanding live show. Their music is great and they get the kids up on stage to show off their air guitar and headbanging skills. I like that their songs are written from a child’s standpoint.
Liu Jian: On our first tour we’re traveling to 5 cities- Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nantong, Chongqing and Chengdu. In October we’ll do another tour and then another around Christmas time. This is a new concept in China so it’ll take us some time to develop the festival, but we hope one day it’ll be an institution like Midi and Strawberry.
Rebecca: In the future, our hope is to use the festival to allow kids and parents to really use music to explore cultures from around the world together, and experience their art and food too. But above all we just want to encourage curiosity and let kids and parents have a great time together.
How can people support your project?
Rebecca: This really is just a crazy idea that Liu Jian and I hatched together. Putting it together has taken way more time and energy than I think either of us expected, but we really believe in this project so we know it’s worth it. There are a couple of ways to support us. Follow our WeChat account, check out our website, handinhandchina.com, and most importantly come out to see the shows.
Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis performing
Hand in Hand International Children’s Music Festival
June 1 (Thu) 7pm
308 South Chongqing Road
May 29 (Mon) 10.30am, 3pm & 7pm
Nantong Yicheng Theater
18 Gong Ye Nong Nan Road
May 30 (Tue) 2pm, 4.30pm, 7.30pm
Shangcheng District Zhongshan Nan Lu 77, Shangcheng 1157, 3rd floor
June 3 (Sat) 3pm
Chongqing Nanping International Exhibition Center
Jiangnan Dadao 2
June 4 (Sun) 2pm, 4.30pm, 7.30pm
Zhenghuo Arts Center Building 1
Donghong Lu 666, Fangmu Creative District