12 GIRLS BAND
12 GIRLS BAND CD COMING FROM MANHATTAN RECORDS IN JUNE
Chinese Ensemble Fuses Traditional Instrumentation with Eclectic Repertoire;
Asian Chart-Toppers Also Star in PBS Special Recorded Live in Shanghai with
First Major U.S. Tour to Launch October 2nd on West Coast
A refreshing and innovative blend of East and West, pop and traditional —that’s what has made China’s 12 Girls Band an international sensation like no other. With their latest US release, Shanghai, which arrives from Manhattan Records on June 5th, American audiences will have their best opportunity yet to discover these immensely talented and engaging young women. And with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing fast approaching, the world’s attention is already turning to the culture of China. And the biggest success story in that country’s burgeoning music scene is 12 Girls Band.
Shanghai coincides with a very special milestone in the career of 12 Girls Band: “Live From Shanghai,” their first pledge drive event on PBS, which airs this June on stations around the country. Notably, this debut marks the very first time an Asian artist or group has been celebrated with a PBS special. This television first was recorded live beneath Shanghai’s famed Oriental Pearl Tower, a spectacular tourist attraction along the banks of the Huangpu River that dominates the city’s dynamic, skyscraper-dotted landscape.
This Fall, 12 Girls Band also launches their first major U.S. tour. Set to begin October 2nd in Oakland, CA., the tour will include a debut at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles (Oct. 5), as well as concerts in San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Tampa, and Atlanta. With over 30 major markets in the States, the tour will cap a spectacular year for the ensemble.
12 Girls Band was formed in 2001, after its accomplished players—all of whom studied music at the most prestigious conservatories and schools across the People’s Republic of China, and have played in China’s top orchestras—were culled from a rigorous audition process. More than 4,000 young musicians applied, answering ads that were placed in newspapers across the country.
The idea behind the group was to fuse the ancient traditions of Chinese classical and folk music with the sounds of Western pop, classical, and jazz music. The enchanting result is 12 Girls Band. Their first concert, given in Beijing in October 2001, made 12 Girls Band into stars virtually overnight. Hailed by the Asian media as a perfect blend of grace, beauty, and musicianship, 12 Girls Band represented a modern-day incarnation of the Yue Fang, which were all-female ensembles that played in the royal courts of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).
The number twelve has important resonances in Chinese culture, astrology, and numerology, and twelve jinchai (“golden hairpins”) represent womanhood in ancient Chinese mythology. (There are actually thirteen musicians in the band, so that there is always a substitute player available at a moment’s notice.)
The musicians perform expertly on an array of ancient and fascinating Chinese instruments, including the stringed and bowed erhu; the pear-shaped plucked lute called a pipa; the guzheng zither; the yangqin hammered dulcimer; a transverse flute called the dizi and the vertical flute known as the xiao; a single-stringed zither called the duxianquin; and the hulusi, a three-piped gourd flute.
On Shanghai, 12 Girls Band presents an exhilarating multi-cultural array of songs and pieces that range from beloved Chinese traditional and folk tunes such as “High Mountain, Floating Water” to pop smash hits (Sting’s “Fragile” and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” also known as the theme from the movie Titanic), as well as Dave Brubeck’s iconic jazz masterpiece “Take 5”. The young ladies also play a sampling of Western classical masterpieces, including Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, Puccini’s famous aria “Nessun Dorma” from the opera Turandot (strikingly, an opera about a Chinese princess), and an homage to Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor.
All of these pieces appear on the Live From Shanghai PBS television special, including guest appearances by two other Manhattan recording artists: a rendition of the “Habañera” from Bizet’s opera Carmen featuring Mexican-American songstress Lila Downs, as well as the Hoagy Carmichael standard “Georgia on My Mind,” performed by singer Tim Sheff.
12 Girls Band’s first international release, 2003’s Beautiful Energy, debuted first in Japan in 2003 and sold nearly two million copies there, giving 12 Girls Band the record for both the fastest- and highest-selling Chinese release in Japanese chart history. Their follow-up, 2004’s Shining Energy, broke another Japanese sales record with the highest number of sales of any album in a single day. The group went on to a hugely successful tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.
Their first US release, 2004’s Eastern Energy, reached No. 1 on the Billboard World Music album chart, and scored 12 Girls Band the No. 62 spot on the Billboard Top 200—the highest-ranking debut for any Asian artist in Billboard chart history.
Since then, 12 Girls Band has recorded two more hit albums in the Asian market: 2005’s Romantic Energy, and White Christmas, the first-ever album of international seasonal classics played on traditional Chinese instruments.
The group’s PBS debut “12 Girls Band: Live From Shanghai” will air in markets across the country during June pledge drives. Viewers should check their local PBS listings for details on scheduled broadcasts.