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November 3, 2010

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Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Singer proves that it's never too late

Shanghainese pub singer Shao Junyan silenced the critics when he came third in a TV talent show. Now he's preparing for his first solo concert on the Bund as Nie Xin reports.
Shao Junyan still clearly remembers his performance last year on the popular TV talent program "My Show." He passionately performed the Chinese love song "10:30pm at the Airport," an R&B song originally sung by Taiwanese pop singer David Tao.
Shao eventually took third place in the singing competition - and won numerous fans with his good looks, singing ability and emotional voice.
At the end of this month, Shao will hold his first solo concert "Sing for the Bund" in the Roosevelt Building at Bund 27.
The concert will showcase his music in "New Haipai (Shanghai style)," combined with multimedia visuals and stage dramatics.
Born and raised in Shanghai, Shao regards the Bund as the landmark of the city.
"When I was young, I liked listening to music along the Bund, especially on light rainy days," he says. "I am now making a music style called 'New Haipai'."
Haipai refers to the style especially typical in Shanghai which combines the East and West, old and new.
The 32-year-old Shanghainese singer seems to have been late in finding success, after years of trying and difficulties.
When he appeared on the stage of the TV singing program in 2009, few people knew he had been struggling in the entertainment industry for more than 10 years, despite having a record company contract, a single release and a lengthy pub-singing career.
Shao started to learn playing the Chinese flute at the age of 9, which was also his major at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
"(When I started) No one around me could imagine that a shy boy like me would persist with his dream to become a pop singer for such a long time," Shao smiles. "It was when he was 18 years old."
Shao sang an old English song "If I Never Knew You" at a campus singing competition, and was surprised to win the champion. "It's the first time that I found my voice could be different," he says.
At that point, the young boy started to think of a new direction in his life - to become a pop singer.
Shao likes classic English songs and Chinese pop songs from the 1980s and 1990s, both in Cantonese and Mandarin. He calls them "classic."
From 1996, Shao started to sing jazz and R&B, his favorite music styles, yet quite pioneering at that time.
With his background in traditional musical instruments, Shao began experimenting with crossover music as early as in 2000.
He recorded "China's Guy" with a Western bassist and pianist, a Chinese drummer and an erhu (two-string Chinese instrument) player.
Before Shao participated in "My Show," he had sung as a pub singer for 10 years in Music Box, one of the best live venues in Shanghai.
This experience invited some negative comments when he was in the singing competition, from being too old to spending 10 years singing in a pub.
"No matter what, I'm proud of it. Ten years are such a long time, and it's an impressive and precious period in my life," he says. "The experience of singing in a pub made me grow up, gave me confidence in music and enriched my performance experience on stage - the live show is the soul to a singer, isn't it?"
Shao says that many Chinese people have bias against pub singers, as they don't understand the pub culture.
"They think pub singers are not professional or academic, but there are many legendary Western musicians who were pub singers," he says.
Misunderstandings like this, however, have never daunted him.
His insistence won him a lot of fans who call themselves "Yanhuo" (fireworks). At his first small private concert, Shao's fans created a song for their idol - "Song of Fireworks."
"I was so touched by them. In so many years, I was singing and touching others with my songs. But this time, I was touched by a song from my fans," he says.
Shao is sensitive, often touched by his fans. When some of his young mother fans took their babies to his live show on a cold snowy day, Shao couldn't control his tears.
"The success on 'My Show' brought me not only the fame, many fans, plenty of opportunities, but a group of good friends who are going to work with me," he says.
Pan Qian, a journalist, is one of them.
"Like other big fans of Shao, I love his songs and voice, especially his efforts and insistence on pursuing his dream," says Pan, who became Shao's current manager.
After the concert, besides a new EP, Shao plans to build his own studio with his partners to make something meaningful for music and culture.
As a singer, Shao says he sings from the heart.
"The feedback might be good or bad, but the criteria of being successful to me is leaving my voice in listeners' hearts," he says with sparkling eyes.
More information about the artist
Shao writes his own blog ( to share his feelings and ideas with fans and friends. There is no flashy writing, but all express the singer's simple and sincere thoughts.
"To me it's a different way to express myself compared with music," he says.
The concert 'Sing for the Bund'
Since "My Show" finished last October, Shao has been preparing his solo concert.
Cooperating with Yu Manwen and Her Friends studio, the upcoming concert will combine Shao's live singing, old movie clips and stage dramatics. The multimedia visuals will present the story of Shanghai.
Classic pop songs in Chinese and English about peace and love will be presented, including "I just Can't Stop Loving You," "Rock With You," "Love Is Very Simple," "Love Love Love," "Love Is Like a Tide," "Follow the Feelings" and "Just Friends."
Date: Late November-early December (to be confirmed)
Venue: Roosevelt Building, 27 Zhongshan Rd E1
About 'New Haipai'
Chen Gang, the Shanghai composer who created the famous "Butterfly Lovers Concerto," says: "There is no old haipai or new haipai. Haipai itself combines all the styles - old and new, East and West, pop and classic."
Voice from others
I have known Shao since early 1998 when he formed a singing trio and released an EP. When he performed at the M-Box, I also went to enjoy his performances.
I was surprised to see him at "My Show" as the oldest participant, but I was soon deeply touched by his songs and I felt that he was looking to find himself and get back to pursuing his music dream through this competition.
Shao's voice is warm and his interpretation of music is touching. I believe his upcoming concert will be the milestone in his music career. No matter what, I will be his supporter forever.


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