SZ band brings world flavor to music scene

Writer: Lin Songtao  |  Editor: Zhang Zeling  |  From: Original  |  Updated: 2024-04-16

Glintwine signs autographs for fans at Mountain View Theater in November 2023. Photos by Lin Songtao unless otherwise stated

It's rare to see a singer performing songs in five different languages from nine countries in a single concert, but a band in Shenzhen has achieved this.

Didi (3rd R) with Geo Folk Tour during the 2019 Shenzhen Belt and Road International Music Festival. Courtesy of Didi

Shenzhen band Glintwine stands out in the local music scene with their unique performances. It was formed in 2021 by two Yale University graduates namely Zhang Qiudi, better known as Didi, and Pu Xiaobo.

Didi, who grew up in Shenzhen, was once a member of the Yale Citations, an a cappella group. Pu, a classical guitarist, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the renowned Curtis Institute of Music and a master’s at Yale.

“I feel that Yale is a very artsy school. We did all kinds of music and different kinds of shows there,” Didi said. “The experiences shaped me as a musician today.”

The band’s style integrates international musical expressions that take from various cultures, thanks for Didi’s experiences in several countries along the ancient Silk Road and her broad vision in music.

Glintwine performs at Mountain View Theater in Nanshan District in November 2023.

After Didi graduated from Yale, she first stayed in Russia and later worked at Kazakhstan’s National Geographic Society. She also set foot in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine.

Didi broadened her musical style by collaborating with Central Asian artists. She has worked with the Geo Folk Tour group, a Georgian choir, and invited them to attend the Belt and Road International Music Festival in Shenzhen.

“I realized what I’m good at is not just singing English songs or writing some of my original songs, but one of the special things about what I can do is to bring the music from those countries to different audiences,” Didi recalled.

Didi said she has always been a language geek. “I’ve studied Russian for many years, and I speak Russian. When talking about my experience in the Silk Road countries, I love learning local songs. To convey the songs authentically, mastering the local language is essential for me.”

“I really enjoy getting lyrics right. I love to find teachers to teach me pronunciation, trying to get it as perfect as I can,” she said.

In 2022, the band released its first album “Sip on That Glintwine,” featuring 12 adapted pieces of jazz classics, Latin tango-style melody, French chansons, and more.

“We arranged most of the songs in a Spanish way and used classical technique a lot; that’s what I think is really special for us,” Pu said. “If you listen to the guitar, it may not be what you’ve typically heard in a band with guitars. With different kinds of elements, we can make our works sound really ‘big.’”

In summer last year, the band’s original Chinese EP was rolled out. “You can also hear our previous styles in our original music. They’re more pop, but also with various elements from the first album. But incorporating them into Chinese is a big challenge,” Didi said.

Didi and Pu met in Shenzhen in 2021. “First, we finished a song together for the Yale Club of Shenzhen. As he said, he was trained classically, so he has a lot of techniques he can use while playing guitar. So, I realized we can do different genres and styles together because I also listen to all sorts of music,” Didi recalled.

“We’re still trying to make more music that people want to hear, and that’s also important. We also want to have a bigger market; but at the same time, we want to keep more classical and world music repertoire,” she said. “It’s quite challenging to balance all those elements.”

Pu noted that the market in Shenzhen is growing, and the artists are willing to come to the city for an adventure. “Shenzhen has a large demand in authentic classical music.”

Glintwine rehearses with a Serbian drummer (C) at a studio in Nanshan District. 

“We have worked with many Shenzhen producers and foreign musicians. Now in our band, we often play with a Serbian drummer who is also based in Shenzhen. So, we are doing what we can to bring the community closer and try to work with more musicians and artists from here,” Didi added.

Currently, Didi is recording her solo album, featuring songs in Russian, Georgian, Kazak, Polish, Armenian, Hebrew, and more.

The band members hope they can be on TV in the next few years. “We can contribute to Shenzhen’s art scene. We’re trying to be on a show to feature what Shenzhen people can do in music, because the city is diverse and we’re also trying to be diverse,” Didi said. 

​It's rare to see a singer performing songs in five different languages from nine countries in a single concert, but a band in Shenzhen has achieved this.