Sa Ding Ding “Harmony” Showcase

Posted by kenchill. Categories Events, Flyers, Music

Renown electronica & pop folk singer songwriter & BBC Radio 3 World Music Award winner Sa Ding Ding from Inner Mongolia will be here once again, this time at the invitation of Popular Books for an exclusive concert showcase, at the Plenary Hall, KL Convention Centre. Popular Book hopes to share her exquisite talent with us, in line with the forthcoming fifth Bookfest@ Malaysia 2010 (which will be held from 4th to 12th September).

Sa Ding Ding, who is of mixed Han and Mongolian parentage sings several languages including Mandarin, Sanskrit, Tibetan, as well an imaginary self created language to evoke the emotions in her songs. She also plays traditional instruments such as the guzheng and matouqin (horse-head fiddle), and is often acclaimed as the “Bjork of The East” or “Enya of The East”. She has also appeared at Womad, Harrogate Festival & The Royal Albert Hall in the UK.

Admission: With Redeemable Tickets

Ticket Redemption Conditions

1. With purchase of Universal Music Artistes’ CD products worth RM30 and above at any CD -RAMA outlet, you are entitled to ONE (1) Sa Dingding <Harmony> Showcase entry ticket.

2. With every purchase of Sa Ding Ding’s “Harmony” album, you are entitled to TWO (2) Sa Ding Ding “Harmony” Showcase entry tickets.

Note: For 12 years & above. Free seating.

Sa Dingding-Chinese culture ambassador in Western world.
(Courtesy of Universal Music Malaysia)

“I always thought I had more things to say, more things I wanted to express.”

Nobody, it is safe to say, expresses things quite like Sa Dingding, the 26-year-old star of Chinese electronica, who became one of the East’s most in-demand singers after the release of her debut album at the start of 2008. With her second album, Harmony, she delves deeper into the folk and traditional music of southwestern China in search of universal emotions and ways of expression.

She says things differently because she experiences things from an entirely different perspective. Born in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia in 1983, the daughter of a Mongolian mother and Han father, Dingding grew up a nomad, dividing her time between a small house on the grasslands, where her grandparents kept sheep, and the town, where they would spend winter. “It wasn’t a hard life,” she says, “there was enough milk and I had plenty of time to play. It was like heaven there, it taught me a lot about music and freedom.” When she was six she joined her parents, travelling around eastern China until they arrived in Beijing in 2000.

After coming second in a television talent show, she recorded a debut album that she now dismisses as “childish” because she had very little say in the material or production. Taking control of her career, she began recording demo versions of mantras, Tibetan chants, Sanskrit poetry and what, at first, appear to be Chinese folk songs but are actually sung in her own self-created “language”.

After these recordings were heard by the Universal A&R executives,who quickly signed her, Dingding found herself in demand in every corner of the planet. As the world focused its attention on Beijing in 2008, she was seen as a voice from the heart of contemporary China: a singer, producer, dancer, choreographer and representative of both China’s 21st-century future and its ancient, rural past.

“I think there is a lack of communication between people in the West and East. What I want to do is help people communicate. When I go abroad, people are very friendly, very interested in me because I am Chinese. I love the culture of my country, so part of my job is to introduce this culture to people in the West.” Her first European show was in front of a large, expectant crowd at the WOMAD festival; her second British date was a BBC Prom in the Royal Albert Hall, where she celebrated winning a coveted Radio 3 Award for World Music.

It was while on tour in Europe that she sat down for a meal with the producer Marius De Vries (U2, Bjork, Rufus Wainwright) and found a kindred spirit. “We were both interested in creating beats that were unique to China, not the western beats that everyone uses. We wanted to find a new way to mix the oriental elements with western electronic music. We shared so much we found we could communicate without words, we could understand each other very well using only simple English and simple Chinese.”

When Dingding returned to China in November 2008, she was determined to work with De Vries on her second album and sent him seven demos and rough arrangements she had been working on since the release of Alive. Then she travelled to Yunnan province in southwestern China and recorded sounds there that she wanted to incorporate into her new songs. These, too, found their way to De Vries.

“I had a lot of new ideas and I definitely didn’t want to make Alive Part II. There was a theme to that album, which was the relationship between humans and religion. This time I wanted to go further back and look at the relationship between humans and nature. There is an old Chinese proverb: ‘First there is harmony between people and nature, and then everything can come alive.’ This album goes back to that original thing we have with the earth, but musically it is more distinctively about the balance between East and West, between traditional and modern. I wanted to do something that was more than just Chinese folk elements on a western electronic base. I wanted to start from the roots of Chinese ethnic music and develop them for the modern electronic world.”

When De Vries arrived in China in February 2009, he already had the feeling and understanding for the album that Dingding wanted. “He had done a lot of homework on those demos and he had a lot of respect for the Yunnan elements. I had the lyrics translated for him to help him understand the deeper meaning of what I wanted to say and why I used Sanskrit or the self-created language.”

Together, the pair also developed a further three songs – Ha Ha Lili, Lucky Day and the mantra Xi Carnival – that emerged from the discussions they had about a music. Lucky Day sees the singer recording in English for the first time, with lyrics De Vries wrote about his experiences in China and set to beats that Dingding had decided should be a tribute to Michael Jackson (this was four months before his death).

Working on her own songs with a name producer was a new experience for her: Alive was self-produced and recorded before she had signed to a record label. This time there was pressure on her to live up to the potential of that debut. While she was aware she had to get everything right, to find different sounds, develop her understanding of harmony and ensure the backing vocals were exactly right, she knew she had a friend in the studio.

“Marius is very open and always wanted to learn new things. He would just tell me to go into the studio and sing whatever I want. The he would listen and choose one version and tell me to keep doing the song that way. The main thing I learnt from him, however, and which I will definitely acknowledge in the future, is that you have to be serious and respectful towards your music.” Despite the language difficulties, despite the time spent going out for meals and introducing De Vries to Yunnan culture, the seven demos and three news songs were turned into the completed album in just three weeks.

“Harmony is an expression of my thoughts and my life from spring 2009. When I was recording my first album I realised there are too many things that bother people and I wanted them to find calm from my music. Now I realise actually only by finding a balance between humanity and nature can people get this calm. If people found calm from Alive, I hope they find joy and happiness from Harmony.”


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