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No one can sing quite like Ping

AS an accomplished pub singer with a distinctive voice, it's only a matter of time before Ping An makes it on to the big stage. But as Nie Xin discovers, his journey along the musical path so far hasn't always been an easy one.

Fans call him the "most beautiful male voice over Shanghai's night." Ping An, however, smiles and plays it down: "It's too much for me, and I'm really flattered."

The Shanghai pub singer has participated in many competitions including the nationwide Happy Boys in 2007, impressing audiences and judges with his pure sound and high pitch. The classic English songs he sang are breathtaking and can easily and surprisingly make a noisy bar go quiet.

Last year, Ping took a big step forward with a solo concert at the Jin Mao Concert Hall, singing his best English songs such as "Loving You," Chinese pop and his favorite rock songs.

Early next year, Ping will appear as special guest performer at the Lyceum Theater for local musician Wang Hao's eight shows. He will sing some new songs.

Ping says he showed an interest in music at a very young age when he learned violin and performed at school.

He remembers his first formal performance was made at high school, when he sang a song by Taiwanese boy band Little Tigers.

But later he followed a different route in life before deciding to take being a singer much more seriously.

Born to engineer parents, Ping majored in accounting at university and worked as an accountant after graduation.

But one year later he gave up the white-collar job.

"During that one year, I worked during the daytime as an accountant, and sang in pubs on Hengshan Road and in Hongqiao area at night as a hobby," Ping recalls.

He felt tired and found it was time to make a choice.

But the decision didn't receive the support of his parents, which made Ping confused and upset.

During the first two to three years after he had totally dedicated himself to his music career, the low pay and few performing chances made him sad.

"I remember the worst time I lived with only 10 yuan (US$1.5) in my pocket for the whole week," he says.

Luckily this trying time passed and his family also started to accept his choice, when other relatives and friends gave a lot of positive comments on his performance.

Ping's parents now sometimes go to bars to listen to his singing.

"I am happy with that. The support from family and friends is so important," he says, with tears in his eyes.

As one-eighth Russian, Ping looks white and skinny - standing 1.75m tall, only 62kg.

From his appearance, few people can imagine that he used to be a track and field athlete at school.

Though he never thinks his appearance has had a negative influence on his music career, not being tall and good-looking enough made him miss the chance to be the new vocalist of famous Taiwan band Shin.

"I collaborated with them for several concerts and they thought my voice and singing was perfect among other candidates," says Ping.

But finally a handsome candidate from Guizhou Province won the chance to be Shin's new vocalist.

Ping now leaves audiences deeply impressed with his beautiful singing and high pitch, as well as his shaven head. He is called xiao guang tou (little shaven head) by his fans.

"I keep the bald head as one of my features because I am a rocker," he says laughing.

Ping says rock music has always been his favorite and he likes U2 best.

"If I had a choice, I would insist on making rock music, singing rock and writing some songs as well. But I sing more pop at the pub to satisfy my audiences," he says.

But as he becomes more famous on the pub stage, Ping finds himself with more freedom to pick the songs he wants to perform.

"Because now they (the audiences) come to listen to me," he adds.

Ping says that some successful rock bands in Europe can get the attention of society and governments with humanitarian topics in their music.

During 2004 to 2007, Ping formed a rock band with three members and performed plenty of shows at music festivals.

However, he has never tagged himself as "successful."

Ping says that the definition of success to him is the combination of ability and opportunity.

"I know I have very good singing abilities and I make great effort. What I am waiting for is a good chance."

With so many years of effort on the musical path, Ping knows that to be successful not only depends on the music itself, but that commercial management and promotion are essential as well.

He says he is waiting for a good platform to put him on the shining stage and make everyone know him and his music.

He has been invited to participate in the popular Taiwanese TV singing competition "Super Star Avenue" next February. This is seen as a great chance for him to perform on a bigger stage.

Hear different voices

From fans

"We totally agree that Ping has the most beautiful male voice over the sky of Shanghai's night. He is such a good singer on the stage, but he looks like an office worker off the stage. He is so thin. We think he needs to go to the gym to become strong and good looking."

From Ping An

Ping An attributes his music career to two people - his father and his primary school music teacher.

He says his father plays violin at home. That's why he learned violin in childhood.

"Although my father didn't agree with me making a life from music at first, this music atmosphere at home influenced me," he says.

Ping's music teacher at primary school recognized his singing talent very early.

"I remember that I was already in middle school when I was going through the voice changing period. He (my music teacher in primary school) came to my middle school especially to remind me to protect my voice during that period," he recalls.

Where Ping An performs

SIVA Lounge, 888 Changping Rd

Date: Every Wednesday and Saturday, from 9pm

Melting Pot, 288 Taikang Rd

Date: Every Wednesday and Saturday, from 10:30pm

Le Voyage Asian Kitchen, 335 Yongjia Rd

Date: Every Thursday and Friday, from 10pm


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