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Shanghai Restoration Project: Hybrid Backbeats

In the 1930s, the Chinese city of Shanghai became famous for residing at the center of commerce between East and West. That resulted in a lasting mix of traditions and cultures, seen on the face of the city's architecture and heard in the jazz that came out of Shanghai at the time.

The upcoming Olympic Games, some of which will take place in Shanghai, inspired a Chinese-American music producer to create an updated soundtrack for those visiting the city. Dave Liang is the founder of the Shanghai Restoration Project, a group that combines traditional Chinese instruments with hip-hop and electronica.

Liang says the story of Shanghai's jazz bands, which adopted a foreign art form as their own, mirrors his personal development as a musician. "My father was actually born in Shanghai, and he left when he was really young, so I grew up here listening to all sorts of Western music — from classical to jazz to pop to hip-hop," he says. "But I had a grandfather who played the flute and my mom played the zither, and I was exposed to some of those instruments as a kid. And it's really incredible, because this project has enabled me to bring things full circle — from both a musical and personal perspective."

Independent producer Martina Castro asked Liang to explain how he went about reflecting the musical landscape of Shanghai, as heard on the latest Shanghai Restoration Project album, Instrumentals: Day-Night.

"I think when I make this music, the most important thing is to be true to myself. ... I want my music to be a very honest reflection of who I am, and that is a combination of Chinese culture and American culture," he says.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.