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December 12, 2010

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Vocalist with world music vibe

SA Dingding creates haunting voices and ethereal crossover songs, blending Western electronic vibe with mysterious, primitive and ethnic music from the East.

Sa, who was born in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, won fans with her first album "Alive" in 2008. It won BBC Radio 3's World Music Award for the Asia-Pacific region that year. She was the first Chinese to receive the award.

She was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 and performed at world music festivals in various countries.

In January this year, Sa released her second album, "Harmony," and sales went double-platinum on the Chinese mainland.

She and her band performed in a Shanghai concert on December 4.

Sa grew up listening to ethnic music all the time while living with her grandmother on the vast Mongolian grasslands until she was six. She later taught herself Tibetan and Sanskrit. She even invented her own language, a seemingly meaningless humming that crosses language barriers.

Wearing a woven cowboy hat, a red cape with tassels, dramatic ethnic accessories and long black boots, she addressed a recent news conference about her latest Hennessy Artistry concert. She appeared with fellow performers Harlem Yu, Ciara and Seo In Yong.

Q: How's your collaboration with various artists, such as Eason Chan and vocalist Wu Ching-feng of the Taiwan band "Sodagreen"?

A: It was fantastic. I like to work with different artists and I can always see my potential in these collaborations. I don't want to limit myself to a particular music type or style. I'm willing to undertake adventures and I'm impulsive in trying new things. In the final song with Wu Ching-feng for John Wu's latest film "Jianyu," I honestly had doubts beforehand because both of our voices and singing styles are way too distinctive. But in the end, it turned out to be a great success. Many viewers stayed in their seats after the film ended just to listen to the song. People like it since it suits the scenes and dramatic conflicts. Collaborations gave me a lot of confidence for the future. I used to work with foreign artists like Deep Forest. In the future, I will seek more opportunities with domestic artists.

Q: What's your next collaboration?

A: I don't rush. I prefer to make it less deliberate. All my former collaborations are due to good timing. So I'll just wait for the right time to work with the right person.

Q: Do you perform any rituals before going on stage?

A: Kind of. Before each concert, I call my band together. We gather around in a circle, put our hands together and yell "Hah!" A concert is so important to performers. Whether it is a success or not depends on how much you can give to the audience. So I need everyone to get focused before we go on stage.

Q: What are you working on?

A: I'm planning to set up an art performance center in 789 Art Center in Beijing to showcase terrific artists from around 30 countries. It will open sometime next year. I hope music lovers will be able to find various kinds of music, far different from what they are used to. We aren't afraid the audience cannot accept new kinds of music - we are more afraid they have no chance to learn about other music.

Q: What are you listening to these days?

A: I'm listening to a female Spanish folk singer, whose name I unfortunately forget. I'm also watching the film "Goodbye Beethoven" and I strongly recommend it. I recently fall in love with the things that have endured over time, such as classical music. Very fascinating!

Q: What's your fashion style?

A: My work gives me plenty of opportunities to make bold fashion statements. I like to dress in a personalized style and a little bit mix and match. I wove the long wool gloves I'm wearing today and I stitched some casual patterns on the hat. It's a hobby. I'm looking forward to having my own brand one day. On stage, I prefer to be more ethnic. I believe stage image complements performance and music. My music is relatively abstract so my costumes help the audience understand the ethnic cultures in my songs. Besides, we Chinese are responsible for caring and protecting our own ethnic cultures, aren't we?

Q: Do you have any collections?

A: Absolutely. I'm a total fetishist. (Laughs) I collect handicrafts and accessories. I also collect all the music carriers that no longer exist on the markets, such as old cassette tapes and MDs.


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