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International Fireworks Competition in Macau


Every year, Macau, China hosts an international fireworks competition.

Commentator Jake Warga was invited to photograph on the night the American team was competing. And he brings us this story.


JAKE WARGA: Here's the thing, fireworks make me think of war, of bombs bursting in the air.

I'm ushered with the rest of the press to an outdoor restaurant to watch the fireworks competition. Inside is a lounge singer. Smiling posters announce him as Singing Peter.

Mr. PEDRITO CUEVA(ph) (Lounge Singer): My real name is Pedrito Cueva.

WARGA: It turns out, he learned most of his songs from American troops during the Vietnam War.

Mr. CUEVA: When I was in Vietnam, I played for the American soldiers, over '65 until '72. That was terrible. You know, sometimes, we were playing and there was an incoming, and I have to throw my guitar.


Unidentified Man #2: Three, two, one, go.

Unidentified Man #3: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, a taste of America.

Mr. PAUL SOUZA (Member, American Team, Macau International Fireworks Display Contest): Hi, my name is Paul Souza from Pyro Spectaculars by Souza in California. We're here in Macau representing the United States of America in an international fireworks competition. Family-owned business and I'm fifth generation in the family. We've worked on four Olympics. We've done all the SuperBowls for, like, the last 15 years.

"When the Saints Go Marching In," yeah. It is very typical for the Americans that show up to these competitions with more stuff than anybody, and the biggest and the loudest and, you know, very, very American. And in some ways, we've done that today. Shock and awe, baby. We're calling the show, Taste of America. In a big portion of the show, we're using songs that are geographically correct to different portions of America.

And we're pretty much going from west to east, starting in California, ending up in New York. And then we're also doing colored tableaus to kind of bring out that feeling, like California here we come. We're using a lot of orange fireworks to, you know, represent the Golden Gate Bridge, and Georgia, a lot of peach.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SOUZA: I really want to develop some imagery where a person watching the show really feels like they're in America or get to sense that they are. The sequence of white comets, which comets are with, you remember the Gulf War, the stream of tracer bullets, that's what a comet looks like. What we're trying to do is demonstrate our mastery of precision firing and angles.

(Soundbite of song "We Are The World")

Mr. SOUZA: As the second act of the show starts, we're trying to promote, like, peace and unity and harmony. And the song is for that, "One World" by John Tesh. "We Are The World," you know, we're bringing some songs back.

(Soundbite of song "We Are The World")

Mr. SOUZA: There's somewhat of an awkwardness trying to, you know, promote world peace in my show, and we're on the other side of the world bombing people so. I don't think fireworks are the answer to world peace. But I do know that fireworks are loved by everybody.

All the Souza marches are very patriotic. If somebody invades the land that you live on, you're going to defend yourself. I believe it was Hamilton that said, this, forever, this day should forever be celebrated with pomp and fireworks. And they took that literally.

WARGA: The sky explodes with so many colors and patterns. It's overwhelming. But I don't think it's beautiful. It's chaotic and impressive. Shock and awe, baby.

Unidentified Man #3: Ladies and gentlemen, we hope you've enjoyed our presentation of A Taste of America.

Mr. SOUZA: That worked out.

(Soundbite of song "Imagine")

Mr. CUEVA: (Singing) Nothing to kill or die for…

WARGA: On the way out, exiting through the restaurant, Peter is singing to a table of smiling Chinese tourists, one of the familiar songs he's probably been singing for over 30 years.

(Soundbite of song "Imagine")

Mr. CUEVA: (Singing) …living life in peace.

The peace, everybody is aiming for. You know, I'm glad (unintelligible). It's, I'm sure it will come.

(Soundbite of song "Imagine")

Mr. CUEVA: (Singing) And the world will be as one.

SIEGEL: Jake Warga lives in Seattle.

Mr. CUEVA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And we hope you're having a glorious Fourth. It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.