My Dubai: Chen Jun

Chen Jun is one of the most prominent players of the erhu in the world. His mastery of this traditional musical instrument, known as the 'Chinese violin', most recently led him to Dubai, where he performed at the Dubai World Cup Long Weekend. He talks about his first time in the emirate, as well as "feeling the souls of the Arabic people"

When I first came to Dubai, my primary impression was that the emirate is a highly modern city, which is immediately plain to see when arriving at the aiport . I was also struck by the features of peoples’ faces here: they have beautiful outlines, and almost look like sculptures.

I recently played at Dubai World Cup Long Weekend, which is a gathering of business and thought leaders from around the world, hosted by Falcon and Associates. There was a moment when I was playing that I clearly felt the closeness between the global audience and the traditional Chinese musical form; there was absolutely no barrier for them to appreciate what my music was trying to express and the emotion behind the melody. I felt that it was a pivotal moment for the merging of traditional Chinese music onto a global scene. .

During this trip, I obviously had to visit the famous Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, as well as a few other world-renowned hotels. We also took a helicopter tour, which was a very glamorous way to experience the city from a unique perspective. However, if I have to recommend one thing, it would not be a tangible place; rather, I wish to ask my fellow Chinese visitors to understand the richness of the souls of the Arabic people here. Aside from the glamour, it is vital to notice Dubai’s cultural transformation over time. If I have the chance to come here again, I really want to visit Dubai Museum and more of its galleries, to understand the meeting point between heritage and modernity.

Chen Jun
Chen Jun performs at the Dubai World Cup Long Weekend in February this year

Before coming here, I knew only a little bit about Arabic people, such as some conventions and etiquettes. I thought it might be a relatively conservative place. After being in Dubai and during the conversation with the people here, I discovered that while traditions do exist and are well preserved, the people here have such a broad vision. It’s impossible for a country without vision to deliver miracles that can surprise the whole world. The architecture, hotels, and so on in the city are just external representations of Dubai; but the real formula to its success lies in a long-standing heritage coupled with an open attitude towards modern life. And I firmly believe this will take them further.

To be a musician, 30 per cent is natural instinct: in terms of being sensitive to a melody, the capability to memorise, and appreciating music. Another 30 per cent is nurtured by the painstaking practice and exploration it takes to reach a professional level of technique and expression. However, to be a real master one needs some sort of inspiration, and it’s not something you can go and find. It arrives over time, after constant commitment, refining, and patience. And when it comes to you, you will know.