In March, indie-folk band The David Wax Museum spent a week bringing enthusiastic performances, infectious joy and butchered Mandarin phrases to China. This compelling mini-documentary chronicles the band's trip as "cultural ambassadors" at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. In an email, band-member Suz Slezak explains how the trip came about:
So here's how it happened: The director of the American Culture Center at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (a former North Dakota resident) traveled home last summer and heard the buzz about a show we'd just played one lovely afternoon outside the art museum in Grand Forks. So with the support of a grant from the U.S. State Department, she offered the David Wax Museum a 10-day trip to the Shanghai to conduct workshops, visit classrooms and perform a few concerts.
In the video, David explains that the trip was not about adding a Chinese influence to their already Mexican-influenced folk, but using their music to connect with people across language barriers. Suz Slezak says the band was unsure how their music would be received or what impact they could have:
Although we'd toured in Europe, Canada and Mexico, neither David, nor Greg nor I had ever been to China, so we didn't know how well our music would translate. But as you'll see in the video, we had nothing to worry about! It felt like a huge success and we were warmly welcomed by everyone we encountered. The students were open and curious about our music, asking if we played country music like Taylor Swift or pop music like Paul McCartney. They were extremely expressive about their feelings and shared vivid descriptions of the images, memories and emotions the songs evoked.
In one scene, a Chinese girl spontaneously dances across the classroom. Throughout the video, the music inspires laughter and delight. But the band hopes they imparted more then just their carefree music during their role as ambassadors. "I hope this is the first chapter of a Chinese story for us," David says. "Time will tell what this trip means for us."
A new David Wax Museum album will be released on September 4th.