Songs about Tibet are becoming increasingly popular in China. Particularly admired are the songs of Han Hong, a Tibetan-born singer-songwriter whose music incorporates her personal experience and her intimate knowledge of this mysterious land. In today's "Our 'X' Generation", we profile Han Hong, a singer who's earned her place in the pop music scene through her distinct vocal and creative talents.
Han Hong's singing has distinctive Tibetan characteristics. She's able to shift freely from piercing high pitches to soft low tones. She once said that if she hadn't become fascinated by pop music, she would have become a Tibetan folk singer.
Born in Xigaze, Tibet's second largest city after Lhasa, Han Hong inherited her mother's talent as a singer. When she was very young, she used to watch her mother, a renowned Tibetan singer, sing and dance on stage. She dreamed that one day, she too would perform before great audiences.
On Christmas Eve 2003, Han's dream became true, when she staged her first ever solo concert at the Capital Gymnasium. More than twenty of her hits were presented in a luxurious treat for her fans. Her mum was also invited on stage to sing the song On the Gold Mountain in Beijing, together with Han. A popular folk song in China, the piece was first sung by Han's mother in the 1950s.
Quite a number of Han Hong's songs relate to her roots in Tibet. In her mind, her hometown hasn't changed in any way since the day she left at the age of nine. In the song Hometown, she sings an ode to the vast land, and recalls her carefree childhood. The song throws light on the mysterious and rich culture of Tibet, and swept various pop song billboards across China, collecting more than forty awards in three months.
In October last year, Han organized a charity concert in her hometown. With the plateau's thin air, singers endured a harsh time. All money earned from the concert was donated to a local disabled children's charity.
Although she mainly deals with Tibetan themes, as a pop singer in Beijing, Han Hong has had a lot of exposure to different styles of music. Her influences include Jazz, R-n-B, Rock-n-Roll, as well as Latin music, which are all reflected in her work.
Many people didn't expect Han Hong to become a famous pop star, since she didn't have the stunning looks and the slim figure that are usually associated with successful pop singers. Despite the discouraging comments, Han Hong didn't give up her pursuit of a career in music. Now she's acclaimed for being one of the few versatile female musicians in the country who not only sings well, but is also an accomplished songwriter.
Since started composing in 1993, Han Hong has written a number of popular songs for other singers. Most of the songs on her own albums are her own. Daybreak is one that she wrote that is based on a true story, which moved her considerably.
At the moment that the cable car fell and crashed, the father tried his best to hold his son high. The two-year-old kid survived, while her parents both died. Deeply touched by the story, Han also adopted the kid. She said she feels empathy with the boy, more than others, since she herself lost her father at the age of six.
Han was also invited to write and sing the theme song for Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoung's film The Touch. Combined elements of classical Tibetan folk music with pop music, the song was sung in Tibetan.
At the same time as embracing success, Han Hong also made many of her own dreams come true. She even established her own music label under the record company she signed. The thirty-something hopes to explore and train more talented Chinese singers, giving them a helping hand on the rocky road.
Singer-Songwriter Han Hong said, "I've experienced a hard time when I started singing. At that time, I was bothered that nobody appreciated me, and no one helped me. Now I've had a strong enough base, both financially and socially. I'm willing to help other real talented musicians fulfill their musical dreams, and become the top singers in China."
As an energetic and, from her appearance, slightly wild singer, Han Hong shows another side of her personality through her music; gentle and restrained. Having released her fifth album last April, she will stage her second solo concert in Shanghai in August.
Han has had her childhood dreams come true. She has earned her own place in the fiercely competitive music industry, through her raw talent and sheer hard work.
(CCTV August 16, 2005)