LITTLE BIG PORTRAIT of Zhang Zhang
A VIOLIN PLAYER WITH A HEART
After China, Switzerland, but also Thailand, Canada, the United States and France, the Chinese violin player Zhang Zhang has decided to settle settled in the principality in 2000, where she is now a violinist of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo
« I belong here », says the nomad artist who wants to combine classical music with humanitarian engagement.
Her life could be a novel, with all the typical saga twists: wealth, talent, poverty, exile. Her mother is a famous actress and her dad a well-known violin player, but Zhang had a childhood in poverty in Mao’s China. Born in a family of intellectuals, her parents and grandparents were in detention camps. Just before her birth, they got the authorization to come back to Beijing to live in the kitchen of their old family home while the rest of the house was being occupied by people close to the communist party.
This is where Zhang spent the first years of her life with her little brother. « A happy childhood», she remembers. Despite her daily violin practice! Her father, a violin player in Mrs Mao’s orchestra, taught his gifted daughter when he wasn’t travelling- The rest of the time, her grand-mother was educating her.
Exile and travels
One day, Zhang’s parents got the authorization to travel to Hong Kong and Thailand but only with one of their children. They chose Zhang and left her little brother behind with his grandparents. This was heartbreaking and she only saw him him 5 years later, in Canada, when Zhang and her parents became Canadian citizens. Since then, her brother, has been living in Canada, on the contrary to his sister who hasn’t stopped travelling and performing in concerts around the world. « but since I am in Monaco, it’s the first time I stay for so long in one place! »
A violinist of the Philarmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo, Zhang is also a very active woman. She is a very curious and committed individual. She has founded the organization Zhangomusiq in 2007 in Monaco to promote Musical Philanthropy. She has created a rock band, the Zhang Zhang Band and a string quartet that perform for charity concerts. What drives her today is to combine classical music and charity. Zhang, who among other things is ambassador of Défi pour la terre (Challenge for the earth) from the Nicolas Hulot foundation, organizes musical concerts where 100% of the revenues are given to different humanitarian and ecological projects around the world : girl’s education, micro credit, environment etc. «Music is universal and it helps join people that speak different languages. I love to gather different people who can enjoy a nice evening while doing a good deed. »
"The sea is my inspiration"
Which place do you find the most inspiring in Monaco?
The sea. I swim all year round, except for the month of March, which can be too cold. When I am immersed in the water I feel complete, there is a sense of vitality, pure beauty, and equilibrium. It is not always easy, depending on the temperature and the waves, but it is here that I feel most harmonious with myself and with nature.
Your favourite restaurants ?
I stopped eating meat on April 9th, 2016, inspired by my friend Tristan Lecompte who created Alter Eco and Purproject. There are many great things to eat even when we stop eating meat! Quai des Artist, Equivita, Avenue 31 are some of my favorites. For some real luxury dining, La Vista Mar is on the top of my list.
A beauty tip to share? Or your secret to stay in shape?
I begin the day by drinking a glass of fresh lemon juice in warm water, and since two years I have not had a cold! I also use 100+ UV protection, even when it is overcast.
One of your little daily pleasures ?
I love to read and write. As a child in China, we did not have toys, but there was plenty of books around. These days I am reading works of Carl Gustav Jung, which I find absolutely fascinating, Chinese classics Zhuang Zi and Lao Zi, and works on history by Arnold J Toynbee, who says "Civilizations always dies by suicide, never by murder." He poses interesting questions that is very valid in our own era as well. I also love comics. I started to learn French with Tintin and Petit Nicolas! When I write, it is mostly short poetry. I feel at times that is the only way I can truly express my self, much more than spoken words.
A local artist you admire ?
I have been a fan and follower of the great John McLaughlin long before I had the chance to meet him. And the day I met him in Monaco was my personal' Elvis' Moment! I could not believe it! And I asked to shake his hand twice! We have since become good friends, John remains a real inspiration and teacher, whose artistry and humanity continues to encourage me to become a better musician. Nick Danziger the Photographer Journalist, whose amazing life story and profound humanitarian projects have been a key inspiration in my own Musical Philanthropy activities.
The one and only Bernice Coppieters the Ballerina will always remain in my mind as the most enchanting and powerful artist. I had the chance to accompany her as part of the OPMC during 15 years when we performed with the Ballet de Monte Carlo, she translated beauty with her immense talent and artistry. To me she remains the brightest étoile of the Ballet stage.
Your secret addresses to share with our Little Big Monaco reader?
Not so much an address but an activity, In the summer months, I like to swim in the sea at night. There is a special kind of magic to be immersed beneath a starry night, sometimes the moon, sometimes the clouds, always a very special delight. Monaco is indeed a very special place, where a woman has the liberty to enjoy solo night swims without ever being concerned. I recommend it to everyone, a night swim in the sea is truly a marvelous experience not to be missed!
For more information: www.zhangzhang.com
You can also watch her TedX Talk in Cannes:"Music is a Powerful Instrument for Positive Change" : www.youtube.com/watch?v=HERDUt6j7hA
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