As I ventured through the brisk air and snowy streets of Boston, I had several concerns about where I was going. What would be my concert experience? Given that the weather made it a less than favorable journey, I wasn't expecting a full Berklee Caf Show, but to my surprise it was packed from top to bottom. I was immediately intrigued as to what this Caf Show was about, and who exactly was performing. The only info I had was on the Caf schedule, and the concert was labeled "Great Chinese Songbook." This title caught my eye from the get-go, yet I couldn't find any social media or other information on the act, resulting in this blind concert approach.
While I was waiting for the show to begin, it became more apparent this was no regular Thursday night Caf Show. Overhearing some of the crowd murmur around me, I soon learned this show was actually renamed to the Jay Chou Tribute Concert (who is a renowned Taiwanese songwriter and record producer). This felt like a very special opportunity and intimate show for Berklee’s Taiwanese population, as much of the audience was comprised of this ethical background. When the concert began, a plethora of musicians took to the stage: violin, cello, viola, electric guitar, bass, drums, background singers, and a lead vocalist.
One of the most engaging elements of the show was the swapping of lead vocal positions. Just about every few songs a different vocalist would take over the primary singing role bringing a refreshing and dynamic experience to the overall set. After the set, I managed to speak with the show's main organizer (who was also one of the vocalists), Yuka Chen. I learned the show was originally titled “Great Chinese Songbook” (the title I saw), but was recently renamed to the Jay Chou Tribute show. She also explained to me who exactly Jay Chou was, which helped bring to context the importance of this show, and what it meant to many of the audience members watching.
Every song in the set was sung in Mandarin, making it hard for non-Mandarin speakers to connect with the lyrics and song meaning. However, this is entirely unrelated to the point of the concert, nor did it devalue the experience at all. In fact, it made it so much more intriguing to hear music that’s part of a different culture than the typical pop-rock Caf Shows, and other tribute shows I’ve seen in previous years. Seeing the Jay Chou Tribute show was a remarkable showcase of passionate and masterful musicianship, but also an eye opening experience. Berklee has such a diverse student body, and this is partly what made me want to attend the school, which goes to show that experiencing such diversity and culture is best done first hand.