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World Heritage site in China to host country music festival

The idea may take a little getting used to but a UNESCO World Heritage site in the wild countryside of central China hopes to one day be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Nashville and the Grand Ole Oprey.

The connection, it seems, is a love of country music and it has this week been announced that second Zhangjiajie International Country Music Week will be held from September 10 to 16 this year in the picturesque Chinese town famed for its surrounding towering rock formations, its nearby caves and its lush forests.

Organizers are hoping to line up more than 500 musicians and more than 30 country music bands from across the globe for the event, which is being held to help "promote cultural development in all the world's regions through the medium of country music."

What's more, the festival is currently on the lookout for up to 60 international volunteers to help with translating during the week. Details can be found on the festival's official website.

Zhangjiajie first tested the country music market back in 2009, when the city's flamboyant mayor, Zhao Xiaoming, became a sensation across China by releasing a promotional video that saw him dressed up as a cowboy and singing a unique version of the John Denver hit "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

The idea, according to organizers, is to find the right balance between "culture" and "tourism" and this year's event has an animated version of the clip with Zhao but no cowboy hat. The festival is promising an eclectic mix of both international country artists and some of the homegrown variety, which will highlight the musical heritage of China's ethnic communities.

"Every effort needs to be made to turn the music festival into a regular event and to develop Zhangjiajie into an international country music venue," Ye Wenzhi, general manager of one of the event's organizers, the Huanglongdong Tourist Corp, told the China Daily newspaper.

The event also has the backing of Hunan provincial government and China's Ministry of Culture.