Fine China

Dateline: July 21, 2000

American ethnomusicologist Josef Bomback has a special interest in the traditional and contemporary music of China. In addition to being an accomplished musician in his own right, as a jazz pianist he accompanied the likes of Peter Frampton and Al Jarreau, he is also the Executive Vice President of Hugo Production, a label specializing in the traditional instruments and sounds of China.
I spoke to Bomback about the intricacies of Chinese music -- what makes it unique, and about the Hugo recordings.

Paula: How did you go about the process of deciding which musicians to include in the series of Chinese CDs?

Josef: It's not really which musicians to include, Paula, rather than achieving the proper balance of repertoire, especially for our first year in North America. In the selection process, I try to balance the traditional with the contemporary in order to give our audience a taste of the HUGO's broad spectrum of traditional, regional, ethnic, contemporary, classical and electronic/hybrid flavors. I also try to maintain a balance between our new recordings and a very deep catalogue. Even though HUGO is very well-known to audiophiles, most don't know about us so it is imperative that we begin to tell the "HUGO Story" through our product. We want to keep sending the message and telling the story.

However, we do have a few "key" artists that are now getting some serious attention such as LIU Xing "The Fading Village" and Ms. YANG Xiao-lin "I Take You There". We are building toward their next releases in 2001 where LIU Xing will be releasing at least 2 CDs, maybe 3. We also have "key" orchestras such as Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, The Russian Philharmonic, The Voronezh State Symphony Orchestra and the Kaohsiung City Chinese Orchestra as well as a few "key" conductors such as MAK Ka-lok, Tsung Yeh and Ms. YIP Wing-sie. They are all brilliant but different in style and approach to their craft.

One final note:

There is so much music that calls itself "chinese" and so much of it is watered-down. Many people are being bombarded with gimmicks and new-age marketing hype and believe that ALL Chinese music is for meditation, qi-gong practice, efficient sleeping, eating/digestion disorders etc...etc.. That stuff is just silly, paints the wrong picture of this music, and reinforces the deep-seated stereotypes that much of the west harbors toward the music of China.

Therefore, simply speaking, this is what I can tell you about HUGO:

We are the REAL music of China. We remember the old. We search for the new. We have the best music from China that is available today - Traditional - Contemporary - Authentic - Definitive. We will provoke and challenge you. You will become engaged and entertained.Our music is beautiful and very haunting and the tones are deep, resonant and intrinsically compelling.

Essentially, for our first year in North America, the audience will hear the diversity of HUGO repertoire ALONG with some of our amazing key artists. We are realistic and know that this is a building process. It will take time, step by step and we will hold true with the HUGO philosophy that everything must be "reasonable". All I ask is that the audience gives us a chance because we absolutely love to blow people away.

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