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Music enthusiasts in China can now expect to experience a world-class, one of a kind, once in a lifetime, live music experience, with the Recording Academy, creator of the Grammy Awards, announcing that it will hold a Grammy Festival in the country in 2018.
The announcement was made on August 3, 2017 in Beijing. According to the Recording Academy, the festival will also include a touring show featuring Grammy-winning artists.
"China continues to expand and grow its role as a force in attracting and engaging world artists," says Neil Portnow, chairman and CEO of the Recording Academy.
The Grammy's, a US-based academy and the Chinese company Bravo Entertainment will both hold the festival in China.
"We hope the Grammy Festival not only further elevates the music industry but also engages other industries to create powerful, global intellectual products," he told reporters in Beijing after the event was announced.
"I know some Chinese classical musicians such as Lang Lang, Tan Dun and Wu Tong who won this year's Grammy Awards with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, but we want more young musicians. I know hip-hop and jazz are also growing in China. That's what we want to do－to discover next-generation musicians for different kinds of music, to encourage them there is good future in music industry," he adds.
Neil Portnow says that if Grammy-winning musicians saw that, they would go: "I want to play with them onstage."
"If you watch the Grammys, you know the favorite thing we like to do is unusual combinations, not predictable, combination of different generations, different genres and so this is perfect to mix up."
However, Portnow did not reveal the exact dates of the festival that will take place next year.
He also added to his statement "My philosophy about something like that is to find wine in its time,"
The idea of bringing the prestigious festival to China came in 2008 when Portnow was preparing for the Grammys' 50th anniversary. He said he wanted to do classical music and jazz for the show.
"We don't always do that. But 50th was a big anniversary, so we wanted to do something different," said Portnow, a fan of both classical music and jazz.
He found two interesting pianists among that year's nominees－legendary jazz musician Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang, a popular Chinese classical musician.
"So I talked to Ken Ehrlich, producer and director of the Grammys (in 2008), to discuss how we could combine them," Portnow recalls.
Accompanied by a full orchestra, Hancock and Lang Lang－four hands together－played George Gershwin's repertoire Rhapsody in Blue, with beguiling flair, setting the stage for the fireworks that concluded the show on Feb 10, 2008.
To add to the success, the awards also got the Chinese pianist named as the official ambassador of the Grammys in China.
Meanwhile, Lang Lang invited Portnow to watch the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and introduced him to some key people in the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and musicians, including Yu Long, who is arguably the best-known Chinese conductor in the West.
"We talked about China, music and found (that) we share the same values to bridge cultures," says Portnow.
"Because (Chinese) culture is quite different, it seems for us that it's important to do cultural exchanges, not just for the Grammys but for society and for people to find ways to build bridges. So we started to think about how we could do something here."
Portnow visited China a few times after that and watched the annual Beijing Music Festival, created by Yu.
But bridging culture isn't easy. Making phones is easier because the process is technical, he said.
"When you are making art, it's very open and creative, and it's unpredictable. You have two cultures, two economies, two government systems, different regulations, time change, the distance, all of them make challenges, but anything good is worth doing. It takes work and we are prepared for the work."
The Recording Academy and the local company Bravo Entertainment have established China Music Vision Ltd, a partnership company, to work on the Grammy Festival in the country for next year.
"We need local people who understand China and music, know both business and art," says Portnow.
Chinese people may feel acquainted with the Grammy Awards but still, a lot of them don't know that it was the Recording Academy that created the awards in 1957.
"For 60 years, they've worked to help the world musically and culturally. They protect musicians' rights and provide music education in poor communities," says Michael Sun, CEO, China Music Vision Ltd.
"We hope to use the platform to bring more Chinese musicians to the world stage and connect them to the international music community."
The Chinese audience can watch the Grammys on TV, but Bravo Entertainment wanted to take the extra-mile further and bring them a live-concert experience with Chinese cultural elements in it, says company CEO Steven Fock.
"We will try to carry on the excellence that the Grammys are known for."
What is Grammy's?
The Grammy Award (originally called Gramophone Award), or simply Grammy's, is an honor awarded by The Recording Academy to distinguish outstanding achievement in the mainly English-language music industry. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and the presentation of those awards that have a more popular interest. It shares the recognition of the music industry with other similar awards such as the Emmy Awards (television), the Tony Awards (stage performance), and the Academy Awards.
When did the Grammy's begin?
Held on May 4, 1959, the first Grammy Awards ceremony was conducted to honor and respect the musical accomplishments by performers for the year 1958. Following the 2011 ceremony, the Academy overhauled many Grammy Award categories for 2012. The 59th Grammy Awards, honoring the best achievements from October 2015 to September 2016, was held on February 12, 2017, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
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