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11 avril 2008

Sa Ding Ding: China's next major export?

Scanning The Independent the other day, we came across a piece about a gloriously named singer called 萨顶顶 (Sa Ding Ding) that caught our eye. Born to a Mongolian mother and Han Chinese father, the article calls her a 'former Mongolian nomad' who is 'poised to sweep the globe' with her blend of traditional folk sounds and dance music. Intrigued, we had a hunt on Baidu's ever-reliable MP3 search engine (not that Shanghaiist condones illegal downloading of course) and found that searching for her name in characters returns quite a few results.

Singing in Tibetan, Sanskrit, Lagu, and a Sigur Rós-style made-up language, Sa Ding Ding's music reminds Shanghaiist of the sort of thing Nitin Sawhney has been doing for years — folky warbling vocals and traditional instruments set to low-fi dance beats — but her music is certainly an interesting departure from the wave of bubblegum pop groups found on most Chinese radio stations (as much as we love S.H.E. and Jolin Tsai). People are already talking about her as the next Björk — although that's perhaps not the most favourable of comparisons in China right now — or the next Enya — a really unfavourable comparison in Shanghaiist's eyes.

To be honest, at first we found her songs a bit grating, but the more we listen, the more they are growing on us and a few tracks in particular stand out — '万物生' ('Alive'), '锡林河边的老人' ('Oldster by Xilian River'), '飞鸟和花' ('Flickering with Blossoms'). We reckon it's Sunday morning listening or the sort of thing you'd hear playing in an organic café somewhere but someone over at music industry monolith Universal is banking on Ding Ding going really big — with a series of high profile performances scheduled throughout the summer.

She will travel to London this week where she is hotly tipped to celebrate the re-release of her album '万物生' ('Alive') by walking away with a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award. Such recognition is highly coveted by artists who fall under that most ridiculously entitled of genres, 'World Music' (to be fair to the Beeb they regionalise it), and Ding Ding's record company is planning to use her UK appearance as a launch pad for her re-released album, following it with a series of performances — including WOMAD and the Royal Albert Hall — before bringing her back to Beijing for a special concert during the Olympics, when they suspect there may be a few journalists milling about in the capital.

Given all the fuss then, you may well be hearing a lot more from Sa Ding Ding in the near future.

For more info, check her official site.

By Jake Newby

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