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On April 4, as part of the jazz concert series- JZ in the Orient -the Shanghai Orient Art Centre welcomed jazz pianist David Braid for a Sunday afternoon concert. In the minimalist setting of a circular wooden stage, Braid, 35, strolled on with a familiarity born out of playing in Shanghai since 2004. Performing a concert entitled ‘Solo journey into the heart,’ Braid’s preparation ritual involved a meditative bowing of the head and meticulous hand-rubbing.

Perhaps he was avoiding a repeat of an earlier concert in Copenhagen. “I had to return to my hotel room just before the concert and all I could find was a bicycle. So I rode back just in time and had to start playing with really cold hands, that was hard.” Braid recalled.

The Canadian is more used to performing with a band- playing solo is relatively new -but Braid’s raw talent as a pianist was exhibited when his performances were roused into a faster pace. His fingers played with such measured ferocity that it seemed as if they were on fast-forward. Both hands, benefiting from 32 years of musical experience, enjoyed a prodigious familiarity. Braid’s left hand kept rhythm, whilst his right wandered around the keyboard, occasionally punching an atmospheric chord.

With a repertoire compromised largely of high-tempo numbers, Braid stirred his audience into a frenzy of sporadic toe-tapping. At one point, a younger member was inspired into rhythmically clapping his hands, before being swiftly rebuked by his parents. With a number of awards to his name, including the prestigious Juno award, Braid’s recital cannot be so easily profiled and the concert ranged from emotive twangs to delicate key-strokes, weaving a moody and serene ambience.

We caught up with Braid during the interval, where he was remarkably laid-back and came across as a well-spoken and modest musician. Braid felt privileged to be in different places like Shanghai and saw his role as an ambassador. “I feel an obligation to absorb the culture and mingle with the common person.” He even had a go at speaking Chinese to the audience, which was received with good humour.

Braid composes his own music and is responsible for over seventy songs, so where does he get the inspiration for this? “Inspiration is never direct as people assume, it’s so abstract and so many factors that come into play. Life is the main factor, but it’s all accumulative from different experiences.” One of Braid’s songs, Resolute bay, was inspired by the snow and cold of his homeland in Northern Canada.

Having collaborated with such diverse artists as Indian sitar exponent Vineet Vyas and Guzheng musician Chang Jing, Braid maintains that he cannot name his ideal partner. “It’s all based on the moment. They might not be a skilled player, but if you have the right connection then it will work.”

Playing since he was three years old, Braid has developed an intimate understanding with the music and sharing it with the audience. “The arts are a special, ancient thing, the exchange between the audience and musician is everything. That is my tireless endeavour.”

Currently in the beginning of a five week tour of China, Guangzhou and Beijing next, Braid will be returning to Shanghai on April 13 to collaborate with Chinese guitarist Lawrence Ku at the JZ Club.

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Tonight Shanghai will be treated to some Baltic beats, as Estonian DJ Andreas Widenski is bringing his funky house music to Lotus nightclub.

 

Now on the back end of his world tour, which will see him spinning tracks in Thailand and Hong Kong next week, Widenski promised a good show.

“You can expect the freshest in house music, a lot of the tracks I’m playing haven’t been released yet and some never will be released.”

After 14 years in the game, and still sporting the token multi-colored pattern on his long-sleeved shirt, Widenski, 29, is an old hand on the DJ scene. His CV includes the likes of Ibiza’s multi-award winning club Pacha and uber-club Vertigo in Hong Kong. However Widenski now has a young son, and his busy schedule of one hundred gigs a year is taking its toll.

“The older you get, the more you think of your health. I recently had a gig where I was on from 5am-8am, it was hard to stay awake.”

Having played to sets to baying crowds from 17 different countries, Widenski has grown to appreciate the cultural value of his tours and he now plays with CDs because they are easier to travel with.

“I want to see the world as much as possible, and music is the way to do it. I don’t just come here for the gig, I like to enjoy the local food and culture.” This included a quick trip on Tuesday night to pick up some Tsingtao beer to enjoy in his hotel room.

Widenski span onto the scene in 1996, where he started by playing sets at underground house parties and over the local radio of his high school in Estonia. He has since branched out, and his musical escapades include promoting club nights in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and managing his international DJ agency Macadam Music.

Widenski is relishing another opportunity to play to an Asian crowd, whom he says are the most open-minded and claims they are more interested in the music, and not showing off. He is, however hoping they are not as open-minded as the crowd he played to in Copenhagen two years ago.

“One guy suddenly took his pants and underwear off and continued dancing naked in front of the DJ booth, he probably enjoyed the track I was playing!”

You can catch DJ Widenski tonight at Lotus nightclub, Lane 66, Danshui Lu, People’s Square.

Ladies night: Girls get free drinks from 9-12pm.


He’s traversed the Great Wall of China, scaled the hills of Hong Kong and now marathon runner Jerome Colson is setting his sights on the Sahara desert.

 “Every marathon I have done before has been building up to this ultra-adventure.”Colson said.

With the rest of Accroteam- a six-man group of prolific marathoners- at his flanks, Colson is looking to add to his running repertoire by competing in the Marathon Des Sables, widely considered the hardest foot race in the world. Spanning six days across Southern Morocco, the race saps every ounce of energy from its 900 participants as they run across gravel, through palm groves and up sand dunes.

For a food and beverage director at the Ritz-Carlton who runs through the streets of Shanghai every Saturday morning, the desert constitutes terra incognita for this relatively inexperienced runner. After all, it was only three years ago when he donned the running shoes after being hit by a big realization that he was becoming, in his words, a little bit fat.

This was the point of no return, and his feet have since carried him across the world to marathons in Germany, Norway and Hong Kong. These, however, pale in comparison to his latest 250km challenge, which he has been building up to with his previous marathons and weekly runs.

Now in its 25th year The Marathon Des Sables, which runs from 2-12 April, has earned a fearsome reputation largely because of its relentless nature. Participants run an average of 40-80km each day, that’s six marathons in a row… in the desert! The mother of legs is an 80km beast, which equates to 20 hours of running in one day. No wonder there is a medical team shadowing the runners.

With this barrage of gruesome facts, it is interesting to discover that the one of the most difficult parts of the race is packing for it. “It’s a compromise, do you want comfort during the race or when you’re resting,” Colson says.  

Competitors have to carry 6.5 kg of food to stay alive but, beyond that, the contents are at their discretion. In an effort to limit his bag’s weight, Colson has adopted innovative methods such as tailoring his sleeping bag to his body shape and carrying only the exact amount of toothpaste he will need.

For a man used to sampling hors d’oeuvres in his job, the bland food- such as bread -participants carry with them may be a slight shock to the system. Colson has, however, afforded himself some comforts, a solar charger for his IPod nano and a few candy bars.

Not surprisingly, Colson isn’t just running for fun. Accroteam collects money each year for a charitable cause to help someone who is close to one of the runners. Named ‘Project Eleonore,’ this year’s cause is to provide equipment rooms in the French hospitals of Saint Luc and Marie Avaux for people suffering from polyarthritis rheumatica. The disease limits physical movement and the half-sister of one of the racers is suffering from it.

After six months of solid training, as the race approaches, Colson conceded he is nervous, but that’s a good thing. “If the stress doesn’t build up then I take it too easy and the race becomes much harder.”

Surpassing this is his difficulty of balancing family life. “It’s not just a commitment for me, it affects my wife and two little girls too. Every weekend I go out running so the balance with family life is not easy for me.”

 On Tuesday March 23, from 7-9pm, Jerome will be holding a fundraiser for Project Eleonore at the Cantina Agave, 291 Fumin Lu. The entrance fee is RMB250 and tacos, nachos, quesadillas, empanadas will be on offer, along with two drinks tokens (including beer, soft drinks and Margarita).

Information on Accroteam- http://www.accrorun.be

Information on Marathon Des Sables-www.saharamarathon.co.uk