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Chinese festival puts call out to Whistler musicians

Zhangjiajie International Country Music Festival is looking for locals for their fall event

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The city of Zhangjiajie, China has invited up to 12 Whistler musicians to perform at its international country music festival in September.

But those interested in applying have to hurry; the deadline is May 30. "If you're a quality performer — a professional band or group playing folk or country — and you were looking for a really interesting place to go and play a gig, you couldn't find one much more interesting than this," says Whistler Councillor Jayson Faulkner, who recently travelled to the area on private business. "The venue itself is remarkable. It's a huge, open-air theatre at the base of a mountain. It's an absolutely spectacular place to see."

The Zhangjiajie International Country Music Festival has been running for the last two years featuring artists from 50 countries on five continents. This year, it will take place from Sept. 1 to 7 with performances broadcasted on 30 different media outlets, including two of China's largest networks.

Participants will have to fund their airfare to Beijing, but expenses are covered once they arrive. Another important element of the festival: severing as an ambassador for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Faulkner says. "What's really important for anyone to know here, for anyone thinking of going, don't apply unless you're prepared to be an ambassador for the resort," he says.

To that end, all applications should be sent to his email address and he will forward them onto the correct Chinese representatives to assess. "There will be a bit of a briefing for whoever ends up going on decorum and just the roles that are expected," he says.

So, what, exactly, are festival organizers looking for? It's wide open. "It's country music, so what they're looking for is not rock 'n' roll," Faulkner says. "It's country, but ethnic country music. So I think the term is ethnic roots music in different countries."

Because culture in China is still largely regulated by its government, musicians' lyrics and content could be assessed by officials as well. The festival has been approved by China's ministry of culture and is being hosted in collaboration with the Hunan Provincial Department of Culture.

Several delegates from Zhangjiagie visited Whistler in January and the resort has a working relationship with the city, Faulkner says. "It's a wonderful gesture," he says. "It's a generous offer for them to extend an invitation to include some culture from Whistler in their event... It's a great opportunity for musicians from Whistler and it's a great opportunity to strengthen our ties with Zhangjiagie and China. Certainly, that's an emerging market for us as a resort and we're looking for ways to have deeper relationships with China."

The festival site itself, which Faulkner visited during his recent trip, is a UNESCO world heritage site, with rare quartz sandstone peaks and China's first national forest park. "The area around it is a UNESCO world heritage site because of the remarkable geography in and around it," Faulkner says. "It doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. The people are warm and friendly. It's one of the biggest tourist destinations in China."

To apply email Faulkner at jfaulkner@whistler.ca.

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