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Rebecca Kanthor on The Family Behind Hand in Hand Children’s Music Festival
By Apr 11, 2018 Community
Rebecca Kanthor and Liu Jian are the Shanghai-based couple that decided to organize a children's music festival in China, due to a lack of variety in kid-pop. If you build it, they will come. And they have, with the third edition of Hand in Hand Children's Music Festival, bigger than its predecessors. Just like the the first time around headliners include the award-winning Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band from the U.S. and Hippe Gasten, a kid friendly rock band from Holland.

We sat down with Rebecca to get the scoop on how this whole thing went from passion project to an eight-city tour and why she (a journalist) and her musician husband put so much work into it outside of their 9-to-5's.



SmSh: First can you tell us a little bit about Hand in Hand and how it all got started?

Rebecca: My husband and I created this festival because we want parents and kids to enjoy music together. We met through music, we used to go to music festivals and live shows all the time, but once we had kids it wasn’t as easy to take them along. One time we took our daughter to a music festival where my husband was performing, and it was just terrible. The music was too loud, she was crying, it was raining, there was nowhere to change her diaper, it was just a bad experience all around...I got really sad because live music is a huge part of my life and I didn’t want to give it up.

Later on, we were looking for music to share with our kids and my husband did a Baidu search and was disappointed to realize—there’s really no new kid’s music in China. My mom sent us a CD from the U.S. and he couldn’t believe the quality of the music, so he got all excited and said: ‘we’re going to bring these bands to China.’ Then we started to search around and realized this is a huge phenomenon around the world. We wanted to bring them to China and show Chinese families that kid's music can be really fun for parents and kids, so that’s why we’re doing it.


SmSh: Are any of the bands in the festival from that first CD your husband heard?

Rebecca: Yes! Lucky Diaz, they sing in Spanish and English, they’re from L.A. and we just love them. They make really good music—their lyrics and songs are just really meant for kids. They have this one song called Pretty Princess, and I’m not a princess person but my daughter who’s six really is and this song, it gave us a way to talk to her about it. So the song is like princesses wear a crown on their head, they have a wand, but then the song changes and it's like ‘If you want to be a princess you have to be just and kind, the love you give is the love you find.’ The lyrics have such a good message, you want your kid to hear that, and at the same time they can dance to it.

SmSh: Why do you think more music options is important for kids?

Rebecca: My husband told me he didn't hear rock music until he was 16, and it changed his life, realizing he could find his own path and follow his dreams, and he said, "What if you let a 4 year old hear that kind of music? They can have a dream too." When he said that…I was like yes of course I’m going to help him do this.

The way I interact with my kids, a lot of it's through music. It’s just fun and you can learn, you can experience the world, you can open your eyes to things. So if there’s only one kind of music you’re letting them listen to it’s like you’re just playing one note, and cutting them off from opening their minds to new things. Our big hope is that through this music festival, Chinese musicians realize they can make more varied music for kids and that there will be more options.


SmSh: What’s the children’s fest scene like in China, are you the first?

Rebecca: There have been others, but they’re not like ours. Everything we do, we put kids first. We adjust the sound levels to take into account that kid’s ears are very sensitive, we make sure there’s a nursing station, diaper changing station, and we put the lyrics up on screen so parents can know if it’s appropriate for their kids—we target everything towards families, and I don’t think anyone else is doing that. And we're doing it at a high quality level; the equipment we’re using, the lights, everything is top of the line, no cutting corners.

I only have a certain amount of time with my kids, I don’t want to be bored at an event and I don’t want to take them to something where they’re bored. We want an event where parents and kids are equally engaged; we went to Chengdu last year, and there was this grandma who was so into it, jumping on stage—she said it was the first time she had seen this kind of music, and then I realized the parents of the child probably hadn’t heard live music either so it was three generations experiencing live music for the first time, and they were all engaging in a different way, that’s pretty cool.


SmSh: This is the third edition, how has it changed? Have you seen it grow?

Rebecca: Oh yeah, so the first time in Shanghai we were at MAO Livehouse, it was totally fun but not a huge show. The second time we did four shows in one day, with 900 people at each show, and this time we’re going to do four shows over two days and we’re going to 8 cities, so we just keep getting bigger and bigger—and we want to go to 100 cities and that’s our goal over the next 5 years, we’re going to bring more bands, and bands from at least 10 different countries. This time we’ll also have two CD recordings of the bands that will be there. Their music isn’t available online in China, so it’s exciting because finally families can take the music home.

We plan to keep growing, to welcome more families to the Hand in Hand experience!


on Tue May 1 2018

Hand In Hand Children's Music Festival

Shanghai Art Theatre - 466 Jiangning Road, near Wuding Lu

The show has a 90 minute runtime including a 20 min intermission. The third edition will see performances from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band and Hippe Gasten, for kids ages 1 and up. Tickets range from 160-560rmb and times vary. Get more details and your tickets here.

For more info you can go to Hand in Hand's official website or find them on WeChat by searching HandinHand.


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  • 1 year ago George Kornfeld Unverified User

    Dear Rebecca and Liu Jian,
    WOW! This is an amazing article and I wish you lots of success. What a wonderful project you have undertaken.
    Uncle George

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