This Music Video Is an Ode to Anyone Who’s Ever Fallen in Love with China

By Matthew Bossons, July 1, 2019

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Can you play 10 instruments? We certainly can’t, but today we’re excited to introduce a China-based Canadian expat who can: David Klinck. Having lived in China for what he describes as “15 great years” – 13 of which he has spent in Guangzhou, Klinck is known to most people in China as Jianada (Canada) Daiwei (戴伟).

The owner of an English training center located in Guangzhou, Klinck has written eight textbooks and designed an entire curriculum from scratch – although he is perhaps best known for his media and musical exploits.

Back in 2012, Klinck made the news across China for correcting a number of very ‘embarrassing’ mistakes on China’s driver’s license, which thrust him into the spotlight and earned him part-time gigs on Chinese-language TV and as a radio host. He has also composed three Chinese New Year’s songs, which were performed on Guangzhou TV’s Spring Festival Gala on three separate years.

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Image via David Klinck

Klinck’s latest project is a song titled ‘The 中国-est 老外 In All 天下,’ which roughly translates to ‘The Most Chinese Foreigner In All The Land Under Heaven.’ Recorded in his Guangzhou recording studio, Klinck also produced a brilliant music video to accompany the piece, which features shots captured across Guangzhou and Guangdong at large.

We recently caught up with Klinck to chat about his newest musical endeavor, filming his first music video and the challenges of creating music that bridges cultures.

You play almost every instrument in this song, tell us a bit about the recording process and what it is like to write music for such a large number of instruments?
Actually, music is my passion, I love orchestrating and finding ways to mix instruments in interesting ways. Every time I write a song, I try to incorporate different types of instruments, playing different melodies and rhythms off each other. 

For this song, because it is a mix of Chinese and Western cultures, I chose to use a mix of classic Western instruments (sax and trumpet with a rock band) with two Chinese instruments (guzheng and matouqin).

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Image via David Klinck

I wanted to maintain my Western background, but also accentuate my newfound Asian side. The orchestration is actually pretty intricate, mixing elements of rock, old jazz, swing, trap, rap and Chinese folk music, among others. The song itself took me about two months to write and record. 

The mix of cultures also comes through in the lyrics, which use Chinese words and cultural concepts with entirely English grammar; it’s almost a new language in a way. The lyrics to this song are my love letter to China, which has been very good to me for the past 15 years, while also respecting my Canadian and Western roots.

I understand this project took you a very long time to assemble. How long specifically, and what were the greatest challenges?
Oh yeah, the entire project took about a year from start to finish. Of course, it wasn’t consistent work, I had many other projects going on at the same time. That being said, it was still a massive undertaking for me, especially because I had no experience with directing or editing video before.

The greatest challenge for me was the editing, because to create all the visuals I had in my head, I had to learn all the skills from scratch. Also, as I found out through experimentation, timing and rhythm are really essential to keeping visuals interesting.

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Image via David Klinck

Writing the lyrics in a ‘language’ that has never been used before was also challenging, but also really rewarding and fun. I’m just afraid nobody will understand what I’m singing about – it will make for a very challenging karaoke night.

Other challenges included shooting the music video – finding locations and friends to help shoot, and just finding time to work on the project – I’m a very busy man. Now that I think about it, the whole process was a huge challenge.

The video looks great and has some fantastic shots of both real-life situations in China and yourself jamming out. What’s the story behind the multiple ‘Davids’?
From the outset, I had it in my mind that I wanted to have multiple ‘mes’ performing all the instruments. Nobody knows this, but the reason I chose to do it this way is because of my experience in China. Every time I let friends hear a song of mine, or just tell people that I’m a composer, they always ask me where I studied music. Well, the truth is that I never studied music and never studied cinema, I’m totally self-taught… And making this project, I really wanted to show people that you can basically do anything you want, as long as you have an idea in your head, and you’re willing to work for it.

Which locations are featured in the music video?
I knew I wanted the video to have interactions with Chinese people, especially the people who are the backbone of China – the people that provide us with food. They don’t often get enough credit for their hard work.

The ‘working the field’ shots were all captured with a villager in Gaoliao village, Lianshan. Some local friends told me they could take me to a little village in the mountains that is the farthest place from commercialism and tourism. When we arrived, there was just one villager working the fields – thank God he was amazingly friendly and cooperative.

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Image via David Klinck

The ‘building the house’ shots were done in a small village near Hunan and Guangxi, where I helped a local family rebuild their ancestral temple slash home. The ‘jump rope girls’ shots were taken in the same village. 

The clips with horses were shot in North Guangdong, while the ‘rock Davids’ and ‘brass Davids’ were captured in Guangzhou.

Give us some insight into the inspiration behind this project? Was it born out of boredom or a long-term goal?
I’ve lived in China for 15 years. Most of my friends are Chinese, and I’ve absorbed a lot of their culture. I wanted to write a song about this ‘guy’ – maybe me, maybe another Westerner – who is between cultures. He loves both worlds, and they become one inside his body and mind. This is the reason I used so many split-screen shots, and ‘multiple David’ shots.

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Image via David Klinck

After I wrote and recorded the song, I felt it captured that feeling pretty well. The visuals came naturally to my mind, and I suddenly decided to make a video out of them. Once that decision was made, the whole thing grew in my mind over a few months.

It definitely was not born out of boredom. I love to be busy, and I have this burning need to create things all the time. If I don’t create, I go crazy. When I do create, I also go crazy, but in a much healthier way.

What’s next? Can we expect a follow-up video in the coming months or years?
Now that this video is done, I would say that my long-term plan music-wise is to keep going. I have many more finished songs, and many unfinished ones coming. It would be great to shoot some more videos too. Ideas are already growing, so I’d say you can definitely expect some more stuff in the coming months or years.

Watch Klinck’s music video for ‘The 中国-est 老外 In All 天下’ below (VPN off):

READ MORE: Jonny Long: US College Drop-Out Turned Chinese Media Sensation

[Cover image via David Klinck]

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