An Israeli 'Passerby' en route to China for a new experience
Israeli musician Gilad Segev is flying to China again, but this time he will have the company of his 3-year-old son.
Also known as Gilad Passerby, the Israeli musician fell in love with China "at first sight" 10 years ago. He started the Passerby initiative in 2015 to collaborate with international artists. Between 2013 and 2019, the Passerby performed and worked in China.
"I'm always at home in China. Home is an emotion, not a building. I feel at home in China, even though my real home is in Israel," he told Shanghai Daily.
"So I'm excited to come back after three years and show my son the nation and people that I feel really connected to."
The musician celebrated the relationship between China and Israel with the release of a song and music video. Segev sings in Mandarin with Chinese vocalist Liang Ning, and a children's choir from Shanghai chants in Hebrew. The song praises life's little details, and the miracles and beauty hidden within.
"Both languages have a very rich history that dates back many centuries. That is the finest way to honor the Chinese language, and I have a great deal of respect for Chinese culture and language.
"I practiced many times to sing in Chinese."
The inspiration came from Segev's performance in Shanghai three years ago, when he had the children's choir chant in Hebrew, which was well-liked by the audience.
"I wanted to build an emotional bridge with this collaboration," he explained. "Everything we do in life that involves collaboration boils down to trust. And it is our goal to instill trust in everyone by demonstrating how we are all connected."
He said the strong bond between Chinese and Israelis is rooted in thousands of years of culture on both sides, with many similarities.
The music video explores this bridge by visually juxtaposing both ancient and modern faces and landscapes of the two countries, such as Confucius with a Jewish rabbi, Qinghai Lake and the Dead Sea, the Great Wall of China and the Jerusalem Western Wall, and cosmopolitan views of Beijing and Shanghai with those of Tel Aviv.
"I see myself playing two roles," he said. "One is a bystander who travels the world telling the story of China. The other is attempting to forge an emotional link between China and Israel. That bridge is about culture, innovation and tourism – all different ways for people to meet."
The artist first visited China for concerts in Beijing in 2013 and then returned in 2014 to perform at Shanghai's Zebra Music Festival.
He traveled to numerous Chinese cities, where the rich culture and multi-identities of China's diverse regions captivated him and inspired him to launch Project 34, which aims to compose a song for each of China's 34 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, focusing on local culture and music.
"Many foreigners wonder what China is," he said. "I felt compelled to respond appropriately. I want to focus on Chinese culture, landscape and the hearts of the Chinese people, and I hope that through the song and video, I can present China's beauty on an international level, and have an answer on what China is."
He tries to find the distinct identity of each region, often beginning with local music. He has released 17 videos since the project's inception in June 2020, and can't wait to return for the other half, beginning with filming the video in Jiangsu Province.
"Project 34 is a methodical approach to getting to know all of China," he added.
"And I'm pleased that many Project 34 viewers say they get to know China more deeply and differently than they do in the news after watching the videos. They learn new things about China, such as how rich the culture is, the rainbow mountains in Gansu, the nature in Yunnan, city life, and how Shanghai feels. All of them are beautiful, in my opinion."
But Shanghai holds a special place in his heart, and he tries to visit it as often as possible.
"Shanghai is unlike any other city. It is a very dynamic city that constantly changes but never loses its heart," he said.
"It is a city where you can look deep into the past and far into the future. Here, I can imagine life thousands of years ago, as well as thousands of years into the future. It exemplifies what humanity is capable of."