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Shunza: I‘m Not a Star

王烨昇 Johnny Wang 2016-07-24 15:52

Shoulder-length black hair, sun-kissed skin, and joyous laughter that comes from the heart… these lingering impressions stayed with us after meeting Shunza. This year, after leaving her old record company EMI, Shunza signed with Shanghai JZ Music, and says it will certainly be a new beginning for her. 


"This time when I return to JZ Music, it is just like going back home, this is the beginning to become a real artist, and a kind of returning - to the original state - at the same time it is also a kind of continuity. When I take off the aura of a star, it means that I can finally do the things I really want." Indeed, now Shunza looks extremely relaxed, "Maybe people did not know much about me as a person, but more about my songs: 'Go Home' and 'Writing A Song'. Unfortunately, my Chinese is not very good, and that is why I sing instead. I think singing is the best way, because in the music world, no superfluous words or words that can't be understood. In music we can forget about the time, and even age is nothing but a number, because on the stage, nobody need to think about these things!" 

Her eyes lit up on talking about her beloved stage. “Standing on the stage, I feel extremely close to my fans. I don't like distance, you know what? I don’t even like being called a star. Just like the lyrics in the song 'I'm Not A Star' that brought me The Golden Melody Awards says: ‘I'm not a star, I'm just me.’ That is how I feel from the beginning.” 

Rational Carving 

Maybe it's a musical gene that makes Shunza able to play Bach’s songs when she was just four years old - Shunza was born in a musical family to music teachers. “A few hours before I was born, my mother was still playing 'Yellow River Concerto',” she laughs, “so I could say that I was born in the music.” 


When she was six and a half, Shunza moved to the United States with her family and met the American style music for the first time. “While Chinese families never want their children to watch too much TV, so there was only a small old tape recorder back then. I kept listening to music on tapes and learning English.” But life wasn't easy in the beginning, Shunza was bullied by other children for being "fresh off the boat". “At that time I was just a typical Beijing kid. It was very difficult for 'yellow-skin' minority children to integrate in the States. We always needed to fight for ourselves.” Perhaps, facing adversity early on was partly responsible for Shunza’s strong character today. 

In her opinion, even for a naturally talented singer like herself, strict music training is very nessary. “I am proud of my efforts, I hope that my efforts can tell you there is a need to work hard for popular music,” Shunza says. “I suggest music learners to start from classical music, to build up a solid foundation. Because even pop music isn’t something you can just sing without effort - of course I'm not saying you can't just sing other kinds of music. You see, music is like wine, the longer you spend, the mellower it will be. As long as you keep working hard, it is impossible that you will retrograde, and your voice will be more and more charming. For example, my current voice finally have the 'bass' I want now. My efforts, my age, and my accumulated experience makes me have this kind of maturity to finally understand music." 

Finding Your Cultural Identity

What is “home”? Shunza hesitates when asked this. She says she has experienced the process of change in cultural identity after coming back to China. When she first arrived in Taipei, it was the first time that she ever saw traditional Chinese characters. When she went to a restaurant, she could only order by the pictures on the menu. “I have a Chinese face, but when I come back to China, I become a minority. I have been to too many countries and lived in Europe, the United States, and China. My experience make my principle more open and Western-style.” So, Shunza says, she would often be asked where her home really is. She has never thought about this question. Now she also gradually starts to think where she belongs. “This is why I want to express these ideas through my song. Then I found that my home is the stage.” 


Shunza mentions that she has noticed Chinese culture becoming more and more open in recent years. “For instance, in other countries, when the husband introduces his wife to people, if others praise her, he will say ‘That's why I married her’ and then kiss her. But for Chinese people in the past, her husband usually says ‘She is old’ modestly. It doesn't mean good or bad. This is just the cultural difference. While in the recent years, the Chinese in Taipei are finally brave enough to talk about their better half in public.” 

The Birth of Go Home 

The song "Go Home", as she recalls, was created in a hotel when she travelled first time to Taipei. “It only took me 45 minutes to finish this song and then I gave it to the producer.” Despite it going on to becomes a hugely popular hit, there was plenty of doubt about it at first. “It wasn’t easy for me to write a Chinese song which everyone can understand,” Shunza recalls, “I just left the jazz environment and really didn't know how to write a pop song. I was 22 years old. All in my mind was very complex jazz. But because I didn’t want to be famous for writing complex jazz music in the Chinese circle. Instead, I hoped that Chinese people could understand my songs, so they sing my song even when they go to KTV.” 


But "Go Home" was not an easy song to sing, and therefore, even Shunza herself had doubts using it as her title song: “This song is really hard. Because I didn’t know about the market and haven't listened to Chinese pop songs very carefully. Although I respect it a lot, I don't know what to do. It's hard to sell your record to the people who don't understand your music. So I was really worried about it. Finally the producer managed to convince me to make it my title song but it was very hard for me to accept it because I didn't know whether I want to start from 'Go Home'.” 

When it's difficult to find a direction in the way of art, the artists will often follow their instinct. So that’s what Shunza did: “I don’t have a ‘tag’, I am just a person who loves singing. I sing anything. I’m not saying I can sing everything, but my passion makes me feel like that I can sing everything. Nowadays, I have to thank 'Go Home', which helped me to open all the doors. You will not know me without it, and I would still just be a newcomer.” 

About Shunza

Born in Beijing before moving to the United States, Shunza (Ni Lianchun) is a Chinese musician on three continents: Europe, Asia, and America. In 1997, she launched her debut personal music album Shunza, which spawned the megahit "Go Home". In 2003, with the album Dear Shunza, she entered the 14th Golden Melody Awards finalist for Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Mandarin Female Singer, and Album Producer. People laud her as "an Eastern face with the soul of the West". 

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