TV ex­po­sure

World mu­sic artist shows new side on small screen

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN NAN chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Her slim fig­ure is wrapped in a long leather cape dress. Her long straight hair looks par­tic­u­larly black un­der a shiny sliver head­piece, which has long pheas­ant feath­ers.

It is 8 pm on a cold evening in a five-star ho­tel in San­l­i­tun, a pop­u­lar com­mer­cial area in the cap­i­tal’s down­town area.

Chi­nese singer Sa Dingding has done a news con­fer­ence in the af­ter­noon and has been do­ing in­ter­views for four hours.

She is there to re­new her con­tract with the Univer­sal Mu­sic Group af­ter a 10-year col­lab­o­ra­tion as well as to an­nounce her new al­bum, which will be re­leased early next year.

“I want ev­ery one of my songs to be like a drama. Each song is a story, and I am not just singing but also por­tray­ing roles,” says Sa, who per­forms a song Wu Kong at the news con­fer­ence. It was writ­ten and first per­formed by Dai Quan in the sec­ond sea­son of the TV show Song of China in 2015 and broad­cast by China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion.

The song, which takes its name from Sun Wukong — also known as the Mon­key King — the main char­ac­ter in the 16th-cen­tury Chi­nese clas­si­cal novel Jour­ney to the West by Ming Dy­nasty (13681644) writer Wu Cheng’en, is a soul­ful blend of pop mu­sic and Pek­ing Opera, and a hit in China in 2015.

The 32-year-old — who’s bet­ter known as a world mu­sic artist and won a BBC World Mu­sic Award in 2008 for her al­bum Alive — also per­formed the song on the TV show Masked King broad­cast by Jiangsu Satel­lite TV Sta­tion in Oc­to­ber.

For singers like Sa, do­ing TV shows is typ­i­cally not seen as a great ca­reer move as they usu­ally do not have a large fan base like typ­i­cal pop singers.

But jus­ti­fy­ing her de­ci­sion, Sa says: “I agreed to do the TV show ( Masked King) only be­cause it was a platform for me to show­case my voice in a dif­fer­ent way.

“I know that, from my mu­sic style, I cater to a mi­nor­ity. And my voice is often over­shad­owed be­cause my songs often com­prise heavy elec­tronic sounds and mys­te­ri­ous lan­guage. But, when I sang pop and rock songs on TV, the au­di­ence gained a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of me.”

Af­ter her TV per­for­mance, she re­ceived lots of mes­sages via her Sina Weibo ac­count, which has nearly 2 mil­lion fol­low­ers. While some said that they were sur­prised by her singing, oth­ers started to pay at­ten­tion to her pre­vi­ous al­bums.

Early this year, she also took part in an­other TV show, the sec­ond sea­son of Ding Ge Long Dong Qiang, a re­al­ity show broad­cast by CCTV to pro­mote tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­sic by giv­ing it a con­tem­po­rary touch.

“The show is more of a con­tin­u­a­tion of what I have been do­ing. It in­tro­duces tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­si­cians, most of whom are from eth­nic groups,” says Sa.

“I en­joy work­ing with these mu­si­cians, whose mu­sic is prim­i­tive and charm­ing.”

Sa was born into a fam­ily with eth­nic Han and Mon­go­lian in­flu­ences.

Her fa­ther is from Shan­dong prov­ince and her mother from the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­tonomous re­gion.

Sa, whose real name is Zhou Peng, de­vel­oped an early in­ter­est in the eth­nic cul­ture and mu­sic of the re­gion, where she lived as a child.

For the first six years of her life, Sa spent the sum­mer trav­el­ing across the pas­ture­lands of In­ner Mon­go­lia with her grand­mother.

Later, she moved to eastern and then cen­tral China with her par­ents, be­fore set­tling in Bei­jing, where she stud­ied mu­sic at the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Acad­emy of Art.

Sa par­tic­i­pated in the Ninth CCTV Youth Singers Com­pe­ti­tion in 2000, where she stood sec­ond.

Ear­lier, at 18, she had re­leased two elec­tronic mu­sic al­bums be­fore she changed her name from Zhou Peng to Sa Dingding.

Mean­while, Sa has spent years trav­el­ing to gain mu­si­cal in­spi­ra­tion from eth­nic re­gions.

Her al­bum, Alive, re­leased in 2007, was her big break that in­tro­duced her to Western au­di­ences.

In 2008, she per­formed at the Royal Al­bert Hall and later launched a Euro­pean tour.

Speak­ing about how Alive — in which she sings in Man­darin, San­skrit, Ti­betan and a self-cre­ated lan­guage — came about, Sa says: “When I look back, I can still re­call when I pro­posed the idea to record com­pa­nies, they told me that it was hard to cat­e­go­rize my mu­sic and that it (the al­bum) would be very hard to sell.

“But now, more peo­ple lis­ten to world mu­sic and they are open to a va­ri­ety of gen­res. This gives me con­fi­dence to keep try­ing out my mu­si­cal ideas.”

Her new al­bum will con­tain her lat­est ex­plo­rations in­spired by eth­nic groups in Yun­nan prov­ince, which she vis­ited early this year.

Car­alinda Booth, the A&R con­sul­tant at Univer­sal Mu­sic China, who has been work­ing with Sa since the singer joined the record com­pany in 2006, says: “I am im­pressed by her voice and her mu­sic. I am proud of her, and I am look­ing for­ward to work­ing with her for the next 10 years.”

FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

Sa Dingding per­forms

Wukong, a song in­spired by the tale of the Mon­key King, in Bei­jing.

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