Voices from the east. 10 SBI contest at the end.
"Singer" (歌手, Ge1shou3) is a Chinese singing show that differs from its Western counterpart in that it is a competition between already established singers. From such a large country with diverse cultural heritages and with invited international contestants (such as Jessie J who won the 2018 season), there are going to be some exciting singing styles that are not familiar to western ears. I have already featured, and plan to feature, individual artists from the show, but here I want to pick out three outstanding performances.
Angela Chang (張韶涵)- "A Diao" (阿刁)
Angela Chang is a Taiwanese actress-singer. This song is about human strength sung about a mature Tibetan woman called A Diao (translates as "Sly one"). The song has amazing vibrato control in a sweet song. The rap bridge has a Tibetan backing singer and is sung from the silent voice of A Diao herself. This technique takes us from the viewpoint of the pitying singer and allows the more passionate voice of the subject come through.
Here's what A Diao says for herself:
I will not give up hope even if it is painful
Wounds become scars where beautiful flowers bloom
By the end of the song, the singer and by extension, the listener realised that A Diao accepts the freedom of her life. If you like your music bittersweet and your characters determinedly complex then this song is for you.
Tengri (ᠲᠡᠩᠭᠡᠷᠢ) - "Heaven" (天堂)
Tengri is from the Inner Mongolia part of China and is aged in his late 50s. His name means "Sky" and refers to the supreme god in the Altaic religion. This is a song of love for his homeland. The song starts with some Mongolian throat singing: the droning noise sounds a bit like a didgeridoo. The flute-like overtone is sung by the same singer - it's not a separate instrument. Tengri's singing style is passionate and the power clipped and restrained. You can feel the power and emotion building until he can hold it no more and he releases it in wolfy hoooooos across the
steppes stadium. These are sounds unfamiliar to a stage performance but are precisely how you sing when your homeland sings with you.
Aska Yang (楊宗緯) and Zhang Bichen (張碧晨) sing - "Bracing the Chill" (涼涼- "Liang2 Liang2")
"Chill" is the ending theme song from fantasy TV romance "Eternal Love" (三生三世十里桃花). The show's title translates as "3 lives, 3 worlds and ten miles of peach blossoms". To give an idea of popularity, it has over 50 BILLION views. The original TV show song (subs available) is sound mixed appropriately for the credits of a TV drama, but I love the live version because Ms Zhang explores the personality in her voice. Female Chinese pop-singers often have a thin breathy style that sounds very young but, in this performance, there is a plum-chutney-like richness in Ms Zhang's voice that will only grow as she matures. I'm a sucker for diction, so the way Ms Zhang sings "hua zuo" (1:55) the first time gives me goosebumps. Aksa and Bichen are both much more powerful and freer in their duet, and the live arrangement has their voices overlap more.
"A Diao" and "Heaven" both showcase singing styles that are unfamiliar to western ears and are great studies for those interested in vocal technique: "Heaven" for the power that is held back before being released and "A Diao" for the perfect vibrato control. "Chill" is a well-performed live duet where personality raises a song above studio polish.
There are many other great performances from the Chinese talent shows. I will showcase particular artists in future articles. But, if you think I've missed a performance, then please let me know in the comments below.
Did I mention my diction addiction? And what is that? Diction is the way that a singer voices the words. Diction is a mixture of the accent, syllabic stress, prosody, annunciation and timing of the delivery. Rihanna is a master at diction because she uses diction to give variety to repetitive lyrics. Anyway, the contest is to find somewhere in one of the above three songs where the diction is goose-bump inducing good. Please specify the song, the time within the song and the particular lyrics as best you can spell them.
10 SBI for the winner. 1 SBI each to the first 3 guessers.