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Guangzhou Dreams - Wayne Tait, the Flying Kiwi
For his love and health, Kiwi, or New Zealander Wayne Tait, came to Guangzhou eleven years ago; he has stayed ever since. With his motto "Let your imagination and creativity fly," the sound engineer set up his sound company.

Updated:1334299335Source:GZ Morning Post

Growing up in the small, farming and fishing village of Hampden, New Zealand, with its population of 200, offered particular challenges to Wayne Tait, "it was impossible to get a girlfriend," he recalls, joking: "and all of the sheep were really afraid of me!" Wayne's first hero was Phil Collins, the British singer-songwriter-drummer of the progressive rock band Genesis. Wayne got his first drum kit at twelve. At this age he was already experimenting with sound and electronics: "The first rock concert that I went to was really loud and I said to myself, ‘Okay, this is where I belong, where this Kiwi can fly!'"

Kiwi is the nickname used internationally for New Zealanders, as well as being a relatively common self-reference. The name derives from the kiwi, a flightless bird which is native to, and the national symbol of, New Zealand.

His second cousin, John Haugh, he reports, was a well-respected folk singer. "That's probably where my music gene comes from," added Wayne, noting that some of his earliest sound engineering gigs had been for Haugh out on farms and "wool sheds," as Kiwis call their barns.
Moving to the North Island city of Auckland, the largest metropolis in New Zealand at nineteen, he became a trainee sound engineer, an apprenticeship that would last over five years, earning just sixty New Zealand dollars (/309RMB) a gig, less than a quarter of the income of a qualified sound engineer's comparative earnings at the time.

He paid a high price for his sound engineer apprenticeship. Not only was he earning little, but the work week consisted of driving, unloading, setting up the show, breaking it down and loading a heavy truck for some 14 hours a day, bringing the average day's work to some 16-18 hours.

Later, in a sound rental and studio company partnership that lasted ten years, this schedule did not sit well with his wife, who felt sure he was living the "vida loca (crazy life)" with groupies, whereas, in fact, his grueling work schedule hardly permitted such exploits -- sleep was the drug of choice.

One dark and stormy night, his wife took a big knife to him and, in popular vernacular, told him to leave despite a broken ankle and torrential rain. Hobbling off from the house, he decided to join his brother in Sydney.

There, he started doing intelligent lighting for dance and rave parties, earning enough to pay for a year's university certificate course in live-sound engineering.

He had difficulty adapting to Australia, feeling that the Kiwi lifestyle, due to the fewer people in his country -- some four million -- called for a more sociable social climate and a cooperative spirit, compared to Australia's twenty-one million who he found created an "each to his own" attitude. He noted another disturbing difference: "Everyone in my country lives on the ground in a house, not on the sixty-first floor; that was quite a shock to me too."

Two impetuses took him to China, love and sickness. He had found a Cantonese girlfriend in Auckland, and also discovered that he was diabetic.

Both his love and his lifestyle, he figured, would be better served by living in China, and they consequently moved to Shenzhen, which was "close enough to Hong Kong that, if things didn't work out, we could jump on a plane and fly home." After a month of total culture shock, however, he returned to New Zealand, settled his affairs and returned to live in Guangzhou.

On one hand he felt that everything he needed was in Guangzhou, while, on the other hand, every day here was a challenge, unlike back in New Zealand, where the social welfare and information systems were so good and the language was no problem. "But I like challenges," he noted.
He grew up in an environment where "if you didn't step up and do something, you'd end up on the dole and throw your life away." Indeed, today his New Zealand social welfare would significantly exceed his current Guangzhou salary. However, without that safety net here in China, he felt -- and still enjoys -- "the urgency to succeed."

With several serious health concerns, the city's availability of first-class medical attention and medicine at affordable prices was also central in his decision to stay. "Here I can still make enough to survive rather well; if I was back in my own country, I might be dead by now, as I'd have to be sitting on a long waiting list to receive attention."

After eleven years in Guangzhou, his goals are still quite humble: "The primary goal here is to break even and just be able to get ahead a little. One of the best things about being a sound engineer here is seeing people's faces light up and their bodies begin to move naturally and uncontrollably when they hear a band playing a song that really moves them."

Sometimes the crowd's singing is louder than the singer's -- for Wayne, that's unity: foreigners and Chinese, friends and strangers, singing together in a shared experience then and there, created by the mood, the atmosphere and the music.

Earlier this year, he went to Hong Kong to set up the sound system for the Hard Rock Café, which made him enough money to buy a small BYD car which he relies on to get him home after those late night gigs.

For most inner-city travel, however, Wayne loves Guangzhou's efficient, agreeable Metro system that gets people to their destination faster than any other system; prices too, he finds, are still quite reasonable compared to other major cities in China. Unlike many foreigners in Guangzhou, he delights in the bargaining system that prevails in the purchasing of most goods and services.

Above all, Wayne loves the Guangzhou people: "The family structure and the Cantonese culture are very warm and inviting," he observed. The Cantonese cultural pride and Guangzhou's economic drive all contribute to a freer, more liberal atmosphere, he feels. "Guangzhou people are helpful and their hearts are in the right place; ‘Just keep going, and you'll find it' they say."

He hopes to see Guangzhou appreciate and support the emerging live bands that he advises each week. Guangzhou's burgeoning middle class are now beginning to seek more than Benz, Gucci and Hello Kitty; they want to enjoy the arts, both global and local.

Cantonese people are quick to recognize and patronize quality goods and services, so Wayne hopes to see the city's new music scenes flourish in the coming years, where audiences and musicians create the synergy necessary to evolve together -- the best is yet to come.
A few days after our interview, Wayne sent me a message. "My sound company's name is ‘Flying Kiwi Productions,"' it noted, "the kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand, but it can't fly. My motto has always been: ‘Let your imagination and creativity fly.'"

(By Doc Martin)

The story above is contributed by our media partner GZ Morning Post.
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Editor:Lynus Tan
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