Speaking of tourists, no trip to Shanghai would be complete without a visit to the Peace Hotel, home of the Old Jazz Band. It’s one of the best ways to relive 1930s Shanghai.
And I don’t even care if it’s a tourist trap.
My parents stumbled upon this band of senior citizens 15 years ago when we stayed at the Peace on my pseudo-honeymoon. (I guess if I had a honeymoon for that marriage, it was in Shanghai, parents, uncle, and brother included.)
“You’ll never guess what we did last night,” my mom told me one morning at breakfast in the Peace’s graying and tattered dining room (since refurbished).
It could be anything, so I simply shrugged.
“We went for a drink in the hotel and stumbled upon this old jazz band. It’s like stepping back 60 years.”
So I dragged my new husband there that night to see what all the fuss was about. I hadn’t seen that many foreigners since I left Hong Kong a few months before. It was then that I appreciated Deng Xiaoping’s lifting the ban on jazz music back in the late 1970s. My husband, a musician himself, said he had no interest in jazz, so we only stayed for a few minutes. In 1995, jazz music didn’t seem very popular with the locals, but that’s all changed now.
The Old Jazz Band at the Peace Hotel reconvened in 1980 after the jazz ban was lifted and has been going strong ever since. Members have come and gone (literally), and all are senior citizens. Some even played in Shanghai clubs pre-1949.