Coming right on the heels of the Lijiang, the Dali Street Fair takes place in one of the middle kingdom's very most laid-back little towns, Dali.
See the poster on the right and you'll see an eclectic line up of unheard-of indie bands, food and events that would have even the most discriminating hipster-wannabe doin' the Jimmy Swaggart (Hallelujah!)
We caught up with the Dali Hump's own Brian Keane to get a better idea of Dali Street Festival is all about
Stephan Larose: So, what's so great about Dali?
Brian Keane: What’s not great about Dali? The climate’s perfect: ten months of warm, blue-skied summer. The scenery is spectacular, the food fresh and tasty, and you can have a night on the town for a few shiny trinkets and a bell. The local Bai people are friendly and welcoming, with a rich tradition of culture and history. The mountains are high and the emperor is far away.
Dali’s unique. It’s a town where artists, musicians and performers come to be inspired. It attracts creative people from all over China and the rest of the world. So we live in this beautiful place in the sun with all these interesting people—a multi-cultural community of artists, musicians, writers and performers. Dali is a place where cultural exchange inspires creativity, and creativity is the platform for cultural exchange.
SL: And what is the Dali Hump exactly?
[pullquote]We’re an international creative community. It’s like the United Nations for broke, idealistic, bohemian types—only less dysfunctional[/pullquote]BK: I could say it’s a guest house, live music bar and restaurant, but that would leave out most, and the best part, of the story.
The Chinese government is pushing Kunming to be the commercial and transport hub of west China, and Dali has been pinpointed as the culture and arts capital of the region. China’s changing faster than any country has at any time in history. And like everywhere in China, change in Dali is inevitable. By getting involved, we hope to push that change in a positive direction. If Dali is the "arts capital of west China," we want that to be more than just a label.
The Dali Hump was envisaged as a platform for creative people, both local and foreign, to come together, meet each other, and promote their work. We’re an international creative community. It’s like the United Nations for broke, idealistic, bohemian types—only less dysfunctional.
We work with the local Arts Council. We let artists and musicians live at the Dali Hump free of charge. And we’re involved in all kinds of events involving art and artists, not just in Dali, but all over west China. We’re very much interested in promoting the diverse local Yunnan cultures in their own right, not just as tourist attractions. And our current projects range from organizing writers’ retreats to kite jumping.
SL: How did you guys get involved in this street fair business? Why?
BK: It’s our own thing. We came up with it over a plate of fried goat cheese and a bottle of Dali beer.
Our idea for the Street Fair is to create a monthly opportunity for Dali’s creative people and independent small businesses to come together, display their work, crafts or goods, and let people know they’re here. There are a lot of interesting creative people in Dali doing a lot of interesting things. But many visitors to Dali come and go without realizing all our town has to offer. We want this to change—Dali is special, and we want people to see that.
We also hope the Street Fair will benefit the Dali community. The Old Town is a melting pot of local people from different minority groups (Bai, Dai, Yi), settlers from elsewhere in China, and a good mix of foreigners. The Street Fair is a way for all these people to get to know each other and see what we’re all doing creatively in this middle of nowhere, mountain paradise.
SL: How excited are you for this event? Describe some of the epic moments you foresee.
BK: There’s bound to be madness—the Quebec Redneck Bluegrass Project, easily spotted in their farm animal outfits—always get everyone dancing and we tolerate their crazy antics because the music’s so good. There'll also be people playing with and breathing fire on a crowded Chinese street—use your imagination!
We’ve been excited since we first came up with the idea, because we could see immediately that this event can be a fun day for ourselves, the locals and the tourists. Immediately we had a positive response around town, and since we’ve begun to receive so much interest from the media, excitement has only grown.
There’ll be free food from all over the world—barbecued duck to rabbit, Thai food and German breads and loads of cheap drinks. You can get a foot massage while drinking a mohito and listening to Liu Feng, our Gu Qing master. Besides how wrong can you go with a man who has a television for a head dancing to Bai reggae while munching on samosas?
SL: What the heck is the Circus and Cabaret from London?
BK: The Circus is Other Half Productions, started in 1999 by Jake Goode and Jo Galbraith from England. They’ve performed for the last 12 years with acts you have to see to believe—acrobatics, clowning, street theatre and cabaret. If you don’t want it, they don’t got it. They do lots of television, and have performed at international events on four continents, including the 2010 Shanghai Expo.
SL: I gotta tell you, this event offers one of the most eclectic list of activities I've ever seen. What else is going on there besides interactive art workshops, Gu Qing master folk legend Liu Feng and friends, and a book fair?
BK: There’ll be live giant sand sculpture and a woman who thinks she’s a sofa.…But to see more you’ll either have to come or check out this space or www.dalihump.com after the mayhem.