I have always had a fascination with maps since I was a teenager and still think they are far superior to any Sat Nav system but there are times when I just like to wander off. If I like the look of a certain street then I usually toddle off to see what lies on that street. In Shanghai there are many weird and wonderful streets so I was spoilt for choice when I was there this year. From my room window I had a terrific view of East Yan'an Road but to the right of my view was a side street that always seemed to be crowded with people. On my second day in the city, I decided to take a look.
Jinling Street is the street I chose to investigate. It's a jolly name, has a musical ring to it which is appropriate as the street is full of musical instrument shops and is known as Music Street. A lot of the side streets in Shanghai had different names at the times of the British and French concessions. Jinling was called Ave Foch so this area was colonised by the British as it definitely has a Scottish ring to it.
The side road I saw from my window was a busy road filled with food stalls, hawkers and cafes called Xizang Road (Tibet Road). This leads on to Jinling Street (Jinling Xi Lu). My husband accompanied me on this trip and he wanted to walk in an easterly direction because he spotted a musical instrument shop. He was on the lookout for a new acoustic guitar but at that time he hadn't thought about transporting it back to Warsaw. At first we only saw a couple of musical shops intermingled with ordinary food and clothes shops but the further east we walked, more shops came into view.
Shops vary in size but most of them are very large with huge glass windows, packed with instruments of all kinds ranging from the smallest ukulelei, to a grand piano. My husband loves guitars and I could see he was dying to go into one of the shops to try some out.
The fourth shop caught our eye immediately as there were some wacky designs in outrageous metallic colours, the kind that glam rock bands loved to play in the 70s. These were a lot of fun to look at but the section we wanted to view was the acoustic guitar corner. In the window of this particular shop (I wish I could recall the name) we spotted a petrol blue semi acoustic guitar. This was the one my husband had his heart set on so we toddled into the shop to see if he could have a tinkle on the strings. There was only one man attending in the shop and at first we were both shy and didn't know what to say. We didn't say anything, only smiled and then walked over to look at the acoustic guitars. My husband picked one up and started plucking away and then the man came over to us and started smiling and speaking in broken English. My husband drew his attention to the blue acoustic and asked if he could try it out. It wasn't a problem; he went over to the window and came back with the most beautiful guitar I have ever seen. The man didn't do a hard sell or anything like that, I think he enjoyed listening to my husband play and said that he had a beautiful touch which of course he has. He’s a great guitarist.
After 30 minutes or so and twenty ditties later my husband decided that the action wasn't quite right and the sound was too harsh so even though he loved the guitar to look at and hold, it wasn't the right instrument for him. In a way, I was pleased because I would have worried myself to death thinking about transporting it on the plane back home. The man was very obliging and had a sweet smile. Before we left he asked my husband if he would like to try out some Chinese traditional instruments. Of course he said yes and was fascinated with the erhu, a sort of Chinese fiddle. We thought this was only used in traditional music but we were informed that contemporary musicians use the instrument and it is a very popular instrument played in rock and jazz bands. Another interesting instrument he tried was a guzheng, a zither type instrument that you pluck and has moveable bridges.
The Chinese percussion section was amazing and this is something else my husband is interested in and couldn't wait to start beating out some rhythms. There are so many drums to choose from and all different sizes. The ganggu was one he liked, a large drum that was designed in the shape of a flower pot. The Bangu was an opera drum but my husband wasn't too keen on the pitch of this so he soon stopped tinkering on that one and went out to try a zhangu. He really liked this drum of war and made a bit of din when practicing. I felt sorry for the poor bloke in the shop but he didn't mind, I think he was pleased that he had such an enthusiastic customer. It was a shame that we left empty handed but I know for a fact that next time we return from Shanghai we will be carrying a guitar. I hope it will be a guitar and not a set of drums!!