The Shanghai World Expo opened on April 30, 2010 with a grand ceremony followed with dazzling fireworks. The Expo's theme song "Better City, Better Life", co-wrote by music giants Quincy Jones and Tan Dun, debuted at the opening ceremony. Here is what Yue-Sai wrote about the origin of the song. You can also watch the performance by Siedah Garrett and Jonathan Buck by clicking the link below.
Who came up with the idea of "ala nonn"("me and you" in Shanghai dialet)?
A lot of people asked me because it is such a great idea. I tell you the truth now. I know the truth. The decision to use "ala nonn" was made in January 2010 in Los Angeles. This is what happened.
Mr. Teng Jun Jie in charge of the Opening Ceremony of the World Expo is the one who came up with the idea of using the Shanghainese words for the song. The original was "hari on" But while we were all meeting in January, the decision was made then and there that we will change "hari on" to "ala nonn", "me and you" in shanghai dialect, making the song all so relevant to Shanghai. It was not to anyone else's credit, but Mr. Teng Jun Jie. I immediately agreed and told Quincy to use it for SURE. THUS, "ala nonn" is now in the song. Some of the people you see in the picture were all there to witness.
The other Chinese words in the song?
"yi bu yi bu", step by step in English, was totally Quincy's. No one can claim credit. Quincy knows a few Chinese words, and "yi bu, yi bu" is one of them!!!
How did the song happen?
Last June, I invited Quincy Jones to come to the Shanghai Film Festival to receive a Life Time Achievement Award. At that time, Jason Wu, deputy of the World Expo asked me to invite Quincy to write the Expo theme song. They met each other, and Quincy agreed. Quincy worked on this song, its melody and its lyrics for months.
In April, the song was ready for recording. I was even at the recording of the song in Los Angeles. We used the studio where Quincy recorded the famous Michael Jackson hits, like "Thriller" and "Bad". We felt very honored to have been there.
Then came the two singers that are needed to sing at the Opening Ceremony. Quincy invited Siedah Garrett and Jonathan Buck to come. Siedah is a brilliant song writer who co-wrote "Men in the Mirror" and toured with Michael Jackson and Madonna. A very, very experienced singer and performer. Jonathan Buck has 3 platinum records to his name.
They arrived on the 20th of April and the moment they dropped off their luggage in the hotel, they went straight to the Expo Performing Center for rehearsal. The next 10 days they were so so so busy rehearsing and also filming a music video for the song. They worked soooooo hard. One day Siedah cried as she was working 16 straight hours. Poor girl!
I feel like Im a midwife of this song. So, when it was finally performed at the Opening Ceremony, I felt like crying because I know how much work has gone into those 3.5 minutes. From the inception of the song to inviting the two wonderful singers to the final travel arrangements for everyone, oh, so much work!
But the song is wonderful. It is definitely Quincy, such singable melody and rhythms! I hope you all enjoy the song "Better City, Better Life"!