The demand for Caribbean entertainment and culture in China is on the rise. Barbadian entertainer Kirk Brown, who performed at the Beijing International Expo 2019 in September, said there is a plethora of business opportunities for Barbadian artistes in the East Asian country.
In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Mr. Brown revealed that he and the 4K Band were given the opportunity to represent Barbados at the event, which attracted approximately 20 million patrons.
Musicians and artistes from Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago headlined the expo’s national day activities and the Caribbean Cultural Extravaganza over four days.
“I got involved in the Beijing International Expo through the National Cultural Foundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The opportunity was presented and I immediately jumped on it,” he said.
“…Caribbean bands have the opportunity to perform in Beijing and to earn significantly.”Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Sandra Husbands
After three days of travelling, Mr. Brown recalled it was “full pump from the time we landed because China is a 24-hour country. It was very refreshing because I like business”. Their itinerary included rehearsals, meetings, media interviews, promotions in the Bajan booth at the expo, as well as planned and unplanned performances.
Despite the hectic schedule, Kirk Brown proved he had “the formula to shake up” the crowds as he became one of the most popular acts at the expo. In fact, Mr. Brown and the 4K Band performed outside the event and had “the people eating up Bajan music”.
Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Sandra Husbands, who was invited by the expo’s organizers to the event, witnessed the performances.
“They performed with such beauty and energy it brought the Chinese to their feet. Kirk and his band were a terrific hit at that Chinese expo so much so they were able to secure additional gigs at a bar called Eudora, where they were given the opportunity to perform for Chinese patrons,” she said.
Minister Husbands continued: “What it indicated to us is that the Chinese are ready for the Caribbean. They are already enjoying reggae, hip hop…. There is a lot of room for Caribbean talent to perform at hotels. My understanding, after discussing with people the lay of the land in Beijing that many hotels are eager for entertainment and to be able to present it to their patrons to lift their experience, so Caribbean bands have the opportunity to perform in Beijing and to earn significantly.”
Agreeing with the Minister, Mr. Brown outlined that business opportunities included streaming, performing and collaborations with Chinese bands.
He disclosed that he has been negotiating with a booking agent to secure more gigs in Beijing and other Chinese cities, and also has plans to return for two more festivals in 2020.
“They looked at me as the three layers of entertainment – MC/hosting, DJing, and singing, some with the band and without the band. Caribbean MCs and DJs are very big and popular there because of our accents, even if we speak Chinese. It is a novelty to them. Other entertainers could definitely tap into that market, not only for economies of scale, but because it is a massive market, so you can’t lose. When you are looking at 1.3 to 1.5 billion people and you get 10 per cent of that, you are set for life. If you get 0.1 of a per cent or any other decimal point, you are still looking at over 10 to 100-150 million consumers. So, it is a market that understands volume,” Mr. Brown explained, praising Government “for having the foresight to look at a market like that”.
Minister Husbands outlined that in addition to Kirk Brown’s performance at the Beijing International Expo, Barbadian ceramist Glenis Paul had the opportunity to collaborate with renowned Chinese ceramist Ning Yan through a cultural exchange.
They produced two pieces to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The artwork was transferred on to envelopes and cell phone cases as a way to demonstrate the commercialization of art.
“What we want to do is to intensify this activity so that culture can take off in the Chinese market so that we are able to help our artists to commercialize their work,” she said.
The Minister further stated that the staff of the Barbadian Embassy in China keenly stands ready to work with Barbadian artistes or creative practitioners interested in doing work in the Chinese market.