Bongani Ndodana-Breen's written interview

"Zulu Gazing at the Rising Sun"

First I must say that the first time I heard the HKCO live, I was blown away. It's not just an orchestra, but a forward-thinking, engaging community of artists. I was very impressed at how they sought to breakdown the barrier between the concert stage and the auditorium, making the audience play little drums. It was fun. "Zulu Gazing at the Rising Sun" has been a wonderful and unusual project for me. I had to learn a great deal about Chinese instruments (fascinating!) and my goal was to make them sing like African voices.

I don't think this has been done - an African composer composing for Chinese instruments on such a huge scale. I had to translate a lot of African vocal ideas and some rhythmic ideas to the sound world of a completely different culture. It was a bit challenging, and I am pleased with the results. These instruments are not used in the usual manner that I think a Chinese composer would instinctively use them - the voicing and orchestration are rather unusual, with an interesting outcome.

Zulu Gazing at the Rising Sun is basically a short introductory letter from one people (Africa) to the people of China. It’s a short "hello neighbour, we have not talked in awhile". It marks the increasingly warm relationship between the Chinese people and Africa, our need to get along and work together as global neighbours, understand each other and what better way to communicate to each other than through the universal language of music. African voices on Chinese instruments.