DY­NAMIC DUO Af­ter years of pay­ing the dues at cafes, Mr. Miss fi­nally gets to cel­e­brate suc­cess. Chen Nan re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - YOUTH -

Du Kai and Liu Lian are do­ing in­ter­views in a Bei­jing cof­fee­house be­fore an up­com­ing party to cel­e­brate their win­ning the best vo­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion award at the 28th Golden Melody Awards in June.

They are the first per­form­ers from the Chi­nese main­land to win the award, and the Bei­jing-based jazz and pop duo’s de­but al­bum, Mr. Miss, af­ter the name of their act, also set a record among singers from the main­land by be­ing nom­i­nated in two other cat­e­gories — best al­bum pro­ducer and best new­comer.

“When our name was an­nounced that was a big ‘wow’ mo­ment for us,” says Du, the 33-year-old male singersong­writer of the band.

“The three nom­i­na­tions were be­yond our ex­pec­ta­tions, let alone win­ning an award,” says the fe­male singer-song­writer Liu, 27, who also works for a pub­lic re­la­tions com­pany in Bei­jing.

Even get­ting to the awards, held in Taipei on June 18, was full of drama for the duo.

The day be­fore they flew to Taipei to at­tend the awards cer­e­mony, they per­formed a show in Nan­chang, Jiangxi prov­ince. Due to heavy rain, their flight was can­celed and they had to drive about 10 hours to Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince, to catch an­other plane.

For­tu­nately they made it to the cer­e­mony at the last minute. Al­though they missed the chance to walk on the red car­pet, they still man­aged to hug and scream in joy and give an im­promptu speech.

It was a far cry from four years ago, when the Bei­jing­based duo were still strug­gling to pur­sue their mu­sic dream play­ing at a cof­fee­house in the cap­i­tal and get­ting 300 yuan ($44) for each live performance.

That changed when they met Ge Fei, their cur­rent man­ager, in 2011, when they were part of a project aimed at sup­port­ing young orig­i­nal Chi­nese singers.

Ge, 44, who grad­u­ated from Sichuan Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic and ma­jored in per­cus­sion performance, has played in his own rock band and worked as mu­sic pro­ducer at a main­stream en­ter­tain­ment com­pany. In 2009, he co-founded the in­die mu­sic la­bel, Cao Sheng Mu­sic, with Tai­wan veteran song­writer and pro­ducer Chou Chih-ping.

“We founded our own la­bel with the hope of sup­port­ing in­de­pen­dent orig­i­nal Chi­nese mu­si­cians. The award given to Mr. Miss boosts our con­fi­dence we can do that,” says Ge.

He says what ap­pealed to him was the duo’s songs, de­spite be­ing jazzy, were ac­ces­si­ble to au­di­ences.

“I was im­pressed by their mu­sic. Jazz is not a main­stream genre in China but their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of jazz made their songs easy to lis­ten to and un­der­stand,” says Ge, who also pro­duced the duo’s first al­bum.

“The only thing we were con­cerned about in the be­gin­ning was they didn’t have enough orig­i­nal ma­te­rial. But they worked very hard to write their own mu­sic in­stead of adapt­ing some clas­sic pop songs into jazz. Though it took them seven years to fi­nally re­lease their de­but al­bum, it’s been worth it,” says Ge

heir first orig­i­nal song was called The Story of Mr. Miss, which Liu wrote in about a week. It is in­cluded in their de­but al­bum, along with 10 other orig­i­nal songs.

Thanks to Du’s re­search into vaude­ville, a form of the­atri­cal mu­si­cal play, which was pop­u­lar in the United States from the 1880s to 1930s, Mr. Miss stands out among their peers for their orig­i­nal jazz-pop rhythms and sto­ry­telling lyrics.

“When you look at the history of Broad­way mu­si­cals, you find many jazz stan­dards. Look­ing fur­ther back, we dis­cov­ered vaude­ville,” says Du. “Our lyrics por­tray im­ages, which are suit­able for telling sto­ries to the lis­ten­ers. With our in­ter­ac­tion on­stage, it’s easy and fun to bring lis­ten­ers into a par­tic­u­lar scene.”

They also used The Great Amer­i­can Song­book, also known as “Amer­i­can stan­dards”, for in­spi­ra­tion and pol­ished their per­form­ing tech­niques via stream­ing shows.

Later this year, the duo will un­der­take a na­tional tour of ma­jor cities, such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Chengdu, as well as per­form­ing at out­door mu­sic fes­ti­vals, such as Zhang­bei Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, which will be held from July 28 to 30 in Zhang­bei county, He­bei prov­ince.

Our lyrics por­tray im­ages, which are suit­able for telling sto­ries to the lis­ten­ers.” Du Kai, singer-song­writer

Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The band Mr. Miss wins the best vo­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion award at Tai­wan’s Golden Melody Awards in June.

Du Kai (left) and Liu Lian stand out among their peers for their orig­i­nal jazz-pop rhythms and sto­ry­telling lyrics.

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