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Chinese-Kiwi Musical Duo Wows Conference-goers

Auckland-based duo Ersha Island wowed attendees at the 70th Annual Conference of the New Zealand China Friendship Society with a soul-pop music performance on keyboard and electric violin.

Chinese-Kiwi sisters Dani and Tee both received classical training in piano and violin at a prestigious Beijing-based musical conservatory. As Ersha Island, they are making music together that reflects their biracial upbringing.

‘We’ve played music all our lives,’ said Dani, ‘but it’s only recently that we’ve started to write songs and play music together. We play music in English and Mandarin and we want to promote more Asian works in Aotearoa.’

Dani and Tee say that the name Ersha Island is is a way of acknowledging their own heritage. Ersha Island (Ersha Dao in romanised Mandarin or pinyin; in Simplified Chinese) is an island in the Pearl River and part of the city of Guangzhou, where Dani and Tee grew up. They first learned to play music on Ersha Island.

In a youth forum held as part of the weekend conference, Dani said that there are many young people growing up as Chinese and Kiwi who are keen to celebrate their dual family backgrounds, languages, and cultures. Some span three or even four cultures.

‘We’re not just a mish-mash,’ said Dani. ‘We are proud of who we are and what we represent. And we want others to feel that, too.’

Participants in the youth forum spoke out about other marginalised groups in the Chinese-Kiwi community, such as those who identify as queer or on the LGBT spectrum. There was an opportunity, they said, for organisations like the New Zealand China Friendship Society to embrace and celebrate all these groups.

Sylvia Yang, the organiser of the youth forum and conference MC, agrees that the Society can play an important role in promoting inclusiveness and diversity.

‘Through the youth club we can create an environment and platform for our youth to share and communicate their experiences,’ said Sylvia. ‘It’s about empowering everyone.’

Sylvia Yang and youth forum participant Jake Law are both standing this year in the Auckland Council election as candidates for the Albany ward. Sylvia is also President of the Society’s Youth Club.

Newly elected President of the Society Chris Lipscombe congratulated Sylvia on creating an opportunity for younger voices to be heard at the conference.

‘Sylvia’s work with the Youth Club is critical to the future of our Society,’ President Lipscombe said. ‘The silver generation may have led the way in the past but it’s time to let others come through.’

This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and the People’s Republic of China. The New Zealand China Friendship Society has been promoting goodwill, understanding and friendship between the two countries since 1952.

© Scoop Media

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