'All I have is my voice'

Updated: 2011-08-22 09:34

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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'All I have is my voice'

Na Ying promotes her upcoming concert and new album after retreating from spotlight for nine years. Photos by Zou Hong / China Daily

Four-plus decades sit lightly on the mainland's queen of pop Na Ying who will release her new album after nine years. Chen Nan reports.

Na Ying's new concert, like her new album released after nine years, is appropriately titled, Na You Zen Yang, or So What. The mainland's queen of pop says that title captures her daring and optimistic outlook on life. The 44-year-old singer, who has sold more than 10 million albums, says she is in total control of her life and her astonishing 25-year career. For more than two decades, she has stayed in the spotlight by retreating every once in a while to recharge herself.

Na's influence on the mainland pop music scene is a continuous one, from the 1980s to the present. From the folk-pop music of northwest China, the inspiration for her wildly popular 1980 song Xibeifeng, to Cantonese pop and Western music, Na has constantly sought to reinvent herself.

In Beijing recently to promote her upcoming concert and new album, she is a picture of confidence and fitness and cuts a slim figure in a white silk dress.

"I spend at least three hours a day in the gym. My husband loves going to the gym, and this has influenced me," she smiles. "I used to hate the gym even though I had to battle my weight for years. But now I enjoy sweating."

When her fans call her a legend, she laughs loudly. "I always know you are there, no matter what I do, whether I sing or not," she says to her screaming fans. "Now I am ready for my comeback.

"I just follow my feelings to make decisions," she says explaining the reason for her long break from the pop music scene. For the decade that she's been away, she got married, gave birth to two children, and played full-time mother and wife.

"Now I feel like singing again," she says, smoothing her clean short hair.

Na and her record company started preparing for the new album in 2010. She cooperated with Golden Melody Award-winning Singaporean singer-songwriter Tanya Chua for its songs.

While the concert she held on the last day of 2009, to mark the 20th anniversary of her singing career, featured a number of her signature songs, the upcoming concert will represent a fresh start. However, she is confident her silky, sometimes haunting, voice will continue to tug at her fans' heartstrings.

"The concert will happen before the release of the new album. Some people worry about the market response saying 'it's been a while since you released new songs'. But I say 'so what'. I want to take the risk."

Na, who is not afraid of hard work and is known for her wide vocal range, grew up in Shenyang, Liaoning province. She was drawn to music early and made it to the Shenyang Singing and Dancing Troupe, after failing thrice.

Her biggest success came in 1988 when she won a national contest singing the songs of Julie Su, one of Taiwan's most famous pop singers. The break enabled her to pursue her career in Beijing.

Her partnership with Faye Wong, one of Na's best friends, at 1998's CCTV Spring Festival Gala, helped her expand her career in Hong Kong and Taiwan. She became the first singer from the mainland to sign a contract with a Taiwan record company and was the first mainland singer to win the best female singer award at the Golden Melody Awards, an annual Taiwanese music award. Her 1998 album, Conquered, sold more than 2 million copies, with all subsequent albums topping the charts not only on the mainland, but Taiwan and Hong Kong as well.

Her marriage to Chinese football player Gao Feng in 2001 was the constant subject of tabloid gossip. They divorced in 2005 but their son, Gao Xing, became Na's biggest source of comfort. She stopped singing to devote herself to her son until she married Meng Tong, a club owner in Beijing.

As a mother of two, the 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, Na took a long break after releasing her last album in 2001. Though she sang at the closing ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, she didn't announce her comeback.

"Motherhood helped me slow down and also mellowed me.

"My family is my top priority. I am now a happy mother and wife," she says. "No matter how glamorous I look on stage, I am an ordinary mother who reads bedtime stories to her children and cooks for them."

As to the new singers, she says that she is not afraid of or worried about the competition, but concedes the music market has changed dramatically.

"When I turn on the TV and watch singing programs, I am shocked by today's young singers, who are not just good singers, but can also dance and play various instruments. But so what?" she says.

"I am getting old and I can't carry off dazzling costumes or dance fiercely. All I have is my voice. I don't worry about my career because it's already there. All I want to do now is enjoy life, be myself and follow my feelings."


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