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The Coming Ones - Sa Ding Ding
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Release Info

Artists: Sa Ding Ding

Genre: World

Album: The Coming Ones
Release Date: June 21st 2013
Label; Go East, Universal Music UK

Who is Sa Ding Ding

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the world music scene, Sa Dingding is kind of a big deal. Half Han, half Mongol, this songstress has wowed audiences around the globe with her unique blend of pop and Chinese folk music—and her costumes are something else entirely. She sings in Mandarin, Sanskrit and Tibetan, and also makes up music in an imaginary language.

The Coming Ones

Sa Dingding’s third album, The Coming Ones, is elemental.

It is inspired by the natural world, a world we all share, yet one that is infused with the essence of the native cultures of her own country – a simple yet powerful message for the world. To produce this very special album Sa Dingding undertook a trip to record the music of local people in the mountains, hills and plains of southwest China. The result is magical and mystical, simple yet complex. . . modern beats fused with ancient ethnic music. Sa Dingding weaves soundscapes – every one with the broad sweep of cinemascope.

Accompanied by Hans Nielson, a field-recording expert from Denmark, Sa Dingding set off on an epic journey across China, to capture the music and sounds of her country’s past, before they are lost forever. She began in Chengdu on the edge of the fertile plains in Sichuan Province, finishing her trip in Kunming – the ‘City of Eternal Spring’, capturing the sounds that became the inspirational elements for The Coming Ones.

It is spiritual music, simple yet full of complexity, imbued with Sa Dingding’s China, conjuring up images of wondrous places and peoples. “I want the listeners to find their own peace and happiness from it. Every person is  ‘a coming one’ – by that, I mean we are all coming and going, to and from this earth, in the ways of karma”.

“Lai Zhe Mo Jie” (The Coming Ones) features the Gu Qin – the oldest musical instrument of the Han people. According to Sa Dingding “I think these ancient instruments create something harder, male, compared to the softer female qualities of modern melodies and arrangements. This sort of combining yin and yang makes a very interesting music sound.” What we hear on the title track, as well as throughout the album, is the sound of an ancient world fused with Sa Dingding’s 21st century modernist vision.

“Ru Ying Sui Xing” (Like a Shadow is Following You), features the Miao people from the village of Xiaoshuijing, on the outskirts of Kunming. The villagers have been Christians for over 100 years and it has remained untouched by outside influence for a century. Sa Dingding recorded the 40 strong village choir for their captivating take of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.

“Zhuan Shan” (Walking Around the Mountain) was written and produced in collaboration with British DJ Paul Oakenfold, who has been a fan of Sa Dingding for many years.

Biography

Sa Dingding is a singer, composer, producer, and choreographer, who performs in Mandarin, Tibetan and Sanskrit, and sometimes in her own self-created language. It all adds to the mystery. Initially raised by her grandmother in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, from an early age all she heard was the music of rural China.

Born in 1983, with a Mongolian mother and Han father, Sa Dingding spent her childhood as a  nomad, dividing her time between her grandmother’s house in the grasslands, where they kept sheep, and the town during winter.

Later, after studying at the Academy of Arts in Beijing, the 18 year old released her first album ‘Dong Ba La’ (under the name of Zhou Peng), for which she won the title of China’s Best Dance Music Singer.

Moving away from pure pop to embrace the values and influences that were natural to her, Sa Dingding re-emerged in mid-2007 with new album ‘Alive’ that was a combination of Western style electronica and Chinese ethnic influences. As the world focused on Beijing in 2008, she became the voice from the heart of contemporary China – a 21st-century future combined with China’s ancient, rural past.

In 2008 she won the BBC World Music Awards for Asia Pacific regions, and has since performed extensively throughout the world – her unique visual style and amazing voice attracting an international audience, fascinated by Sa Dingding and her sense of China’s rich cultural heritage. In 2008 she also became the first Chinese singer to be nominated for a Grammy Award

Sa Dingding participated in Kofi Annan’s Climate Change Campaign, recording its theme song “Beds are Burning” with other international artists. In 2010 Sa Dingding’s second album ‘Harmony’ was released and she undertook a world tour. She has also sung the themes to three major movies, “Qi Chuan Xu Xu” , “14 Blades” and “Reign of Assassins”

Sa Dingding has become a diva in her homeland, with 4 x platinum album sales, millions of digital sales units, 1.5 million followers on Weibo (Chinese Twitter) and continues to win fans with her stunning live performances. According to Sa Dingding, “I always thought I had more things to say, more things I wanted to express.” ‘The Coming Ones‘ delivers on that promise.

 

‘The Coming Ones’ – track list:

1.      Tian Lai Zhi Ai – The Holy Sound of Love

2.      Ru Ying Sui Xing – Something Like a Shadow is Following You

3.      Lai Zhe Mo Jie – The Coming Ones

4.      Que Shen – Peacock

5.      Qiu Xiang Yue – The Fragrance of the Autumn Moon

6.      Zhi Shang Ai – Dedicated with Love

7.      Ai Zai 2012 – The Love in 2012

8.      Huang Ru Ge Shi – The Mystery of Time

9.      Chen Ai Zai Ge Chang – The Fragments are

Press Quotes

Now, I've mentioned this around, but I don't really think I've spoken how important this release actually is to me. To me, this is no doubt going to be a tough one to top this year. Hell, I don't even think Ringo could top it. This album is one of those that is highly enjoyable on first listens, but each listen reveals more and more. I dare even say that it is the next KZK. http://forums.electricmole.net

Hers is a blend of modern sounds with traditional folk music – resulting in a unique ethnic electronica. thestar.com

Interview

July 26th, 2013. By Daniel Robson for http://www.mtviggy.com

It’s not enough for Inner Mongolia-born pop-folk musician Sa Dingding that she can sing in Mandarin, Tibetan, Sanskrit and English. When she struggles to find a word in the vast pooled vocabulary of those languages to express herself in her lyrics, she starts making up her own.

“My self-created language is one of my most natural ways to express myself,” says Sa, who was born in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region within the People’s Republic Of China, to a Mongolian mother and Han Chinese father. “I think it gives more space for the listener to use their imagination to understand my music; everyone hears something different.

“They have my songs at karaoke that are in the self-created language and a lot of people go to karaoke to sing them, and when I ask them ‘How were you able to sing that song?’ they reply, ‘We just made up our own language too’!”

You can hear this linguistic mishmash on her new album, The Coming Ones, which is itself a clash of old and new, traditional rural Chinese folk and modern electronic production, recorded in the depths of China and the mountains of Tibet, then finished in state-of-the-art studios in Beijing and London.

And the good news is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak a lick of Mandarin or your Sanskrit is rusty, because every syllable of her music is permeated with love. It’s as if the lyrics are only there as something for Sa to wrap her otherworldly voice around, and her message comes through perfectly clearly without them.

Now 29, Sa was raised largely by her grandmother in the Inner Mongolian grasslands while her parents traveled around for work. She would immerse herself in the traditional music of her elders, who played instruments such as the horse-hair fiddle while keeping rhythm with pairs of chopsticks. She joined in with their songs and watched them react with pleasure to her voice, which was developing into something mysterious and quite bewitching.

She and her grandmother would winter in a small nearby city. And that’s where she discovered Michael Jackson. She found a common thread between the folk music of the grasslands and Jackson’s soulful grooves: She sensed the passion in both.

“It was a shock when I first went to the city; the modern urban music was a big surprise. It was a totally new thing to my ears,” she says. “Music like Michael Jackson; there was some Chinese pop music as well, but it wasn’t as good as Michael Jackson.”

Sa’s first foray into the public consciousness was at age 18 as Zhou Peng, performing cheesy Europop songs over which her voice, old beyond her years, sounded so deliciously mismatched as to be intriguing. She won a TV music contest and was voted China’s number one dance-pop singer, but for Sa the heavily manufactured songs she’d been given to sing lacked soul.

She used her newfound influence to start again a few years later as Sa Dingding, with a set of spiritually conscious music for her new alter-ego’s 2007 debut album, Alive. This was followed in 2010 by the silken Harmony, her breathtaking breakthrough record in the West, and a tour of Europe, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. She says in the documentary movie included with The Coming Ones that spirituality is now at the epicenter of every song she makes.

For The Coming Ones, Sa made several journeys through China and Tibet, passing through Aba and Qiang prefectures, Chengdu, Kunming and Dege County to meet the locals and then returning there to record and film with them. For the song “Something Like A Shadow Is Following You (Ru Ying Sui Xing),” she visited the remote village of Xiaoshuijing, 1,767 meters above sea level, a Miao community that converted to Christianity over one hundred years ago and has remained unchanged since then.

“Their daily life is to farm and do some sewing work, and then sing in the church, for example the music of Beethoven or choruses of ‘Hallelujah!’,” says Sa. “I wanted to make a record of that, because who knows what will happen to their culture in the future.”

Sa had heard them sing “Ode To Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, so she wrote “Something Like A Shadow” around it and wove the 40-strong Miao choir into the fabric of the song. The chant in the song of “Moseisang, moseisang” is so simple and addictive and joyous that you’ll sing along even if you don’t know what it means. After all, no one else does either.

“When I was writing that song I was looking for a traditional word for ‘joy’ and ‘happiness,’ so I asked the Miao people what word they use in their language,” explains Sa. “But when they told me the Miao word, it didn’t fit into the music very well. So I decided to use a word in my self-created language there instead.”

Elsewhere, on the song “Capricorn (Lai Zhe Mo Jie),” she bends and flexes her voice in a series of acrobatic caterwauls that seem to hark back to something centuries old, a wild yet graceful expression of nature at its most primal.

But here’s the important twist: While Sa’s music is imbued with her love for traditional China, everything she does is fed through an artistic filter that keeps it a tantalizing arm’s length from dogmatic authenticity. Her seemingly tribal clothes are in fact made by herself; the same goes for the way she creates her music.

The very fact that the finished product is not 100 percent authentic is what makes it so thrilling. Just as she invents new words in service of the song, so she tempers traditional folk blueprints with modern electronic production, often in collaboration with producers in vast cities on the other side of the planet from the tiny communities by which they were inspired.

When The Coming Ones was originally released in China in July 2012, its songs had a bed of earthy traditional instrumentation blended with electronic production and bass grooves, with “Walking Around The Mountain (Zhuan Shan)” being written and recorded together with renowned British DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold. But the international version, released in June, goes a step further, with nearly all the songs rebuilt from scratch by British producer and all-rounder Ross Cullum, who was Sa’s musical director and trusted confidante on her previous European tour.

She says one reason for releasing a more electronic version of the album overseas is to avoid being pigeonholed as a gimmicky “ethnic” artist. “I think my personality and my melodies themselves are ethnic enough already, so using those very traditional ethnic instruments to reinforce that image is kind of overkill.”

Sa says that the two versions of The Coming Ones “are two different albums, because the musical languages they use to express the same ideas are totally different.” And she’s not kidding. The Chinese version is warm and organic, while the Western version sounds a little tighter and much more brittle. The best advice is to simply listen to both.

Sa says she is a fan of Skrillex, and she is currently working on new songs with Beijing-based British dubstep producer Conrank for what may be an EP or album release further down the line, as well as revamping her live show into a more electronic style that she feels is better suited to touring in the West (no promises, but there may be dates in Europe or the US at the end of 2013).

Even the very keenly observed ethnic elements of the album, recorded on her travels, were engineered by Danish field recordist Hans Nielsen. It’s interesting that Sa has relied on so many Westerners to help her document such an Eastern sound.

She gives two contrary reasons for this. One is that she ascribes to the old adage that music can cross borders; but on the other hand, she also feels that this exploratory approach helps everyone involved to avoid lapsing into familiarity and falling back on their own tried-and-tested strategies.

“When people are doing something familiar, they tend to lose some of their imagination, spirituality and other good qualities,” she observes. “So to have producers and partners from totally different cultures actually helps to bridge the gap.”

She says she would like to try the reverse, too, and travel to countries such as India as well as African, European, and Arab countries to absorb the local folk music and have it fuel her own creative imagination. So while Sa is often referred to by the Western media as the “Chinese Björk,” perhaps she shares more in common with that other great ethnic-music hunter-gatherer, Peter Gabriel.

Sa thinks that the reason Western audiences like her music is precisely because it is impossible for them to fully understand. “This comes back to what I said before about giving the listener more space for their imagination,” she says. “That is an innate function of music. I want people to try to ignore the language itself and instead to pay attention to the music, the melodies and rhythms, and to use their imagination to try to understand the music in a way that is unique to them.”

 


 





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