COLUMN-Daring Daniel –– in China and all
Name: Daniel Hinds
Education: Ellerslie Secondary; Barbados Community College; University of the West Indies, Cave Hill; Beijing Sport University.
Occupation: musician/translator/creative thinker.
Who is Daniel Hinds?
I’m an artist by nature; but philosophically a scientist by thought, and day by day I try to blend each end of the spectrum to be as creative as I can be.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about the arts and creativity and everything they encompass. I would love to see practitioners of the arts given more respect for the hard work and toil they put into their creations.
Your educational history is primarily academic with a focus on the sciences, but most of your achievements and experiences are in the area of music and the creative industries. How come?
From the time I have known myself, the arts have been like a spark that invigorated my persona and sense of being. However, growing up in Barbados, I never saw a real chance to make a substantial living from a career in the arts arena. Also from a societal point of view, success was measured from other professional jobs such as, lawyers, bank managers, doctors and so on.
Thus, since I had an affinity to grasp scientific concepts and think scientifically, I decided to take that route. Living in Beijing and travelling around the world changed my outlook on how I saw the arts, in that there were many opportunities to be successful in such disciplines.
What was the feeling like when you found out you had won the annual Chinese Government Scholarship to study in China?
To be honest, for some reason I was rather confident when I applied for the scholarship; so I wouldn’t say that I was shocked, but definitely, elated and ecstatic. I remember having dreams as a child watching action films, wishing I could visit sometime; and seeing my mere dreams turn into reality was ineffable.
Why did you pick China, and what was most challenging during your first three to six months in China?
Well I was a martial artist from the tender age of 11, and almost any young boy likes to dream of being in China learning some form of kung fu. Then there was the aspect of a desire to learn a language with tonal colour; a culture forge with rich history; and artistry, which can leave any individual captivated.
Hmmm, what was most challenging is a challenging question . . . . I would say the language to some extent in that you could still get by without it. One example would be that my school’s name was difficult to pronounce at first. As a result, all first years dreaded the task of having to take a cab back to the university. Cultural customs also made life worrisome at times.
You went to China to study sports science. How did music get into the equation?
Music is my first love. I wouldn’t say it got into the equation, but it was always lingering there. During my second year, I met up with a Cape Verdean guitarist and we had a great musical connection. Seeing the potential from that duet and hearing all the well-wishers, music started to become a necessity and not just a complement in my life.
I know you as a flautist. What led to your learning to play guitar, piano and percussion?
I actually started on piano at approximately age seven or so, and when I was 11 I started to play flute at Ellerslie Secondary. Guitar slowly crept into the picture when I started to play with our band’s guitarist. Consequently, I just transferred my musical knowledge into the guitar.
While in Beijing, I met up with many conga players from the Latin American community, and djembe players from Congo and Kenya; and they too imparted their knowledge to me.
You played at The National Centre For The Performing Arts (National Opera House in Beijing China). What was that experience like, and was it a solo performance?
Just seeing it is a sight to behold. It’s simplistic yet beautiful architectural design is in fact truly breathtaking. Colloquially called the Giant Egg, it looks like an egg floating on water and is said to be the deepest place in Beijing; as deep as ten floors down.
Most of the greatest international performers who came to Beijing exhibited their talents there; therefore, to be honoured to have that opportunity to just enter left me speechless. The performance was a cultural one, and it was a trio. We were representing Cape Verde, playing their traditional music such as batuku, morna, funana and so on.
The Budweiser Music Tour passed through China. How were you involved with this?
The Budweiser Music Tour took place every summer in cities all over China. Our band Music Soulz was one of the few bands located in China to be given the chance to perform.
From musician to singer and songwriter. Tell us about this transition and what Music Soulz is, and your involvement.
My father is a calligrapher; so writing I could say is probably in my blood. I was always a writer, in all honesty, a very lazy one. However, when I got to Beijing, forming the band Music Soulz made my artistic palette increase tenfold.
The members of the band all came from different nations (Barbados, Italy and Cape Verde) giving its sound a unique flavour. In addition, the set up of the band was very interesting and distinctive.
I was playing flute, djembe (hand drum) or cajon, keys with bass in the left hand and singing. The guitarist Adriel from Cape Verde played guitar, bass drum and hi-hat simultaneously, while singing. While the lead singer, Alessia from Italy, sang and played snare drum.
Since the band was so diverse, and the fact that we were mainly playing original music, my writing abilities had to be honed, and being with Adriel, an experienced writer with acclaim in his home country, it was a real driving force. When I was home I always ran from singing.
Only in Beijing when I met twin producers Jackson Twinz, and presented my music to them with the intent of having someone else sing it, they told me they thought I could do it on my own. In disbelief I tried to back down from taking up the challenge, but they encourage me every step of the way.
Sennheiser, the German audio company, is one of the most successful producers of high-end microphones, headphones and avionics. What was your relationship with it?
The president of Sennheiser Greater China, Marc Vincent, saw our band perform at a bar. After he sat down with us, he said how he was left speechless and he was looking forward to offering the band a sponsorship. Our first performance with Sennheiser was being the featured guest at the launch of Sennheiser’s new headphones –– Momentum In Shanghai. That was truly an remarkable experience.
At the end of each gig we were offered Sennheiser’s latest audio equipment. The relationship continued till I left China.
If you were a musical instrument, which would you be, and why?
Hmmm . . . . I love them all, but there’s something about the acoustic guitar that intrigues me. Sorry, flute, you’re still my love. After seeing artist like Raul Midon, Newton Faulkner, Jon Gomm, Andy McKee and Antoine Dufour doing percussive techniques on the guitar I was astounded by how versatile a guitar can be. It can be soothing and gentle, but at times it can be free-spirited and rugged.
Where have you travelled to around the world, and what was the biggest crowed you performed for?
I’ve been to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, France, Switzerland, Jamaica, Trinidad, United States, St Vincent, Mongolia and Grenada. In Inner Mongolia and Shangdong, both at international music festivals, I played in front of crowds of more than 5,000.
It was exhilarating; however, I believe it’s much more difficult to play in front of small crowds. I think a Barbadian crowd is rather intimidating, in that here in Barbados we tend to be more critical . . . so if you’re coming here, ya better come good no matter your artistic prestige.
Most will not know that you were one of the actors in a Jackie Chan movie. Tell us about that experience.
Well my role was short, but I certainly stood out in the scene and I was also mentioned in the credits. CZ12, also known as Chinese Zodiac, is the 2012 Hong Kong-Chinese action film co-produced, written, directed by, and starring Jackie Chan. I had a music agent that told me and my bandmate (also a martial artist) about the audition.
At first I was telling myself I doubt I would be able to land this, seeing the lines of people vying for a shot at this role and the fact that I hadn’t been training rigorously for a long time. I did four auditions separate auditions during the space of two months and finally got through.
Almost every day I was on set with Jackie; eating in the same hall; watching them edit; witnessing with my own eyes the power of blue screen technology; and how scenes were choreographed or improvised on the spot . . . . This was all mind-blowing. On the set he was very focused and had a no-nonsense mentality –– only once in a while cracking a joke.
Sometimes it was challenging having to do over scenes and frustrating having to deal with more than one person giving you different messages. However, the cast was awesome. Everyone was like family. I think that was the most unforgettable time of my life.
Tell us about Star Of Chinese and The Beijing Foreign Students Musical Instrument Competition.
Star Of Chinese was a Chinese Mandarin speaking competition held in Beijing for foreign students. I was selected by my international centre to represent my university. I made it to the semifinals out of hundreds of other foreign students, which rewarded me with the opportunity to go on a trip to Nanjing and Suzhou with the other prize winners.
In The Beijing Foreign Students Musical Instrument Competition I got to third place with a solo flute piece.
What was your connection with the Chivas Regal brand?
While I was in a club dancing in my first year in China, I was approached by an Italian choreographer for the parties and promotions held by Chivas in China and she asked me to dance with them. I did mainly hip hop dances. This is something I was used too, because before I left I was an avid breakdancer, for example, dancing at secondary school concerts; being a part of UWI Dance Society and so on.
One thing that was new was doing a type of Latin fusion, mixing dances such as salsa, bachata, merengue with hip hop, house and breakdance, to create partner dances. Thankfully, I had a Costa Rican girlfriend who did help a lot in that department.
I understand you are fluent in Chinese Mandarin and Spanish with the ability to read and write Chinese. Have you been able to use these skill sets?
Each day at university in Beijing, all classes where taught in Chinese Mandarin, and all exams were written in Chinese. Plus, having to speak every day and being immersed full into their culture, fluency became natural.
Spanish, on the other hand, I guess stemmed from my mother being a Spanish teacher, but was really sharpened when I got to China and formed friendships with many persons in the Hispanic community.
In the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, I worked for the Barbados Tourism Authority to help with the operations of the Barbados Pavilion by exposing Barbadian products and investment opportunities to Chinese and other global executives and entrepreneurs –– be it in English, Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.
I also hosted the cultural performance of the BTA’s trip to Hangzhou, featuring stars such as Alison Hinds, Mikey, Blood, Dancin’ Africa and so on. I translated for the Colombian Wushu Federation, Spanish Wushu Federation and the Barbados China Friendship Association on their visits to Beijing.
I just registered a business under the name Acumen3, with two other Bajan partners (one living in China and the other a former student in Beijing). Some of the services we are looking to provide are translations for Barbadian clients from Chinese to English (and vice versa), consultation on the immersion into the Chinese market, education about Chinese culture and business practices, quality assurance of goods imported from China and teaching Chinese Mandarin to Barbadians
Would you return to China to live, and would you encourage other musicians to study and work in China, and why?
Sure thing. I’d return in a heartbeat; but for right now I have some other responsibilities I have to deal with. I believe everyone should get the chance to experience a culture that is totally different and captivating. There are tons of opportunities for Barbadian musicians to work in China and make a decent living.
All is needed is to make the right contacts and meet up with the right agents, which isn’t rocket science. That’s one of the very motives behind setting up Acumen3, to facilitate such exchanges of art and culture.
Who has contributed to your success?
Definitely the most driving factor would have to be my family and also my band Music Soulz in China.
Finish the statement: My greatest desire is . . .
. . . To become a prominent recording artist someday.
(Today’s Future is produced by C2J Foundation Inc., in partnership with Barbados TODAY. If you wish to contact any of the professionals being hghlighted, send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org)