Up-and-com­ing Hong Kong-based singer TIEN CHONG is sim­ply brim­ming with soul. She tells SEAN DINSMORE about the first sin­gle from her de­but al­bum, which is sure to leave you breath­less

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IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD of Tien Chong yet, you soon will. This 22-year-old Hongkonger is about to re­lease her first full-length al­bum through lo­cal la­bel MoFo Mu­sic, with a very im­por­tant as­sist from Ap­ple Mu­sic. The lat­ter named her one of its New Artist Spot­lights for China, mean­ing a spe­cial pro­mo­tional cam­paign, in­clud­ing re­gional in-store per­for­mances.

On first lis­ten to Chong's new Pu­tonghua sin­gle Breath­less, you might be tempted to com­pare her to neo-soul singers such as Amy Wine­house, Adele or Dionne Brom­field. But then, if you lis­ten to Over Me – her theme song for the 2016 film Heaven in the Dark, star­ring Jacky Che­ung and Karena Lam – you might be tempted to call her the Chi­nese Astrud Gil­berto. Whether it's her retro-soul belt­ing or her smoky lounge style, the com­par­isons are solid and she's been earn­ing a place in some very good com­pany.

At first glance, you may be sur­prised that such a diminu­tive woman packs such a pow­er­ful punch, but her voice seems to come from depths that ex­tend far be­yond her slen­der frame. It's a deep, rumbly cry that can tran­scend lyrics and sur­prise you by end­ing in a won­der­fully hoarse falsetto. Chong com­mands the stage as much as she does the speak­ers, ges­tic­u­lat­ing and mov­ing as if pos­sessed, in her '70s-in­spired mod at­tire – backed by an equally natty group of hip-look­ing, tight-play­ing, funky Chi­nese kids. It all adds up to some­thing com­pletely fresh and new for the Chi­nese mar­ket.

Chong's de­but sin­gle and video drops on Novem­ber 13; look for it on Ap­ple Mu­sic and iTunes. Be­fore she was head­ing up to Bei­jing to start pro­mo­tions with her man­ager Kelvin Avon (who runs MoFo Mu­sic) and the Ap­ple team, we had a chance to chat about her roots in mu­sic and life, and an amaz­ing lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in Cuba.

Give us a lit­tle back­ground about you. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in the UK, in the hos­pi­tal where my mother was a nurse. My fa­ther was a law stu­dent there, from Sin­ga­pore; they met and fell in love, and then I came along. Then my dad got of­fered a job in Hong Kong, so we moved here when I was a baby. We lived here for a few years un­til my fa­ther got a new job in Sin­ga­pore, so we moved and I kind of grew up there, but we also lived in Thai­land for a few years and then fi­nally set­tled back in Hong Kong. I went to high school here.

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