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Singer Wanting Bridges Gap Between Asian, Western Cultures

  • David Byrd

She has just released her second CD, "Say the Words," and already Chinese-Canadian singer Wanting is No. 1 in China and several Asian countries. She is bridging the gap between Asian and Western cultures through her music.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Wanting (full name Wanting Qu) didn’t start out to be an international pop star. The thin, delicately-featured Harbin, China native first touched a piano when she was five.

“I actually played the first piano that I touched when I was five and that’s when I played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” she said. “We were at my mom’s friend’s house and my mom was like ‘did you just play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” without any training or anything?’ And so she saw that I had some sort of musical talent and so she gave me a piano as a birthday gift on my sixth birthday.”

She studied classical piano for three years, but then stopped playing for more than a decade. Wanting moved to Canada when she was 16, learned English, and then studied business for four years.

But she was miserable.

“I was studying economics,” she said. “Eventually I graduated in business management. But I spent four years not loving my life. I hated it. So I know, it was a lesson for me - it took four years to know that I don’t want to do business.”

Music returns

By 21, she had revived her music, and began writing and composing her own songs. She participated in a workshop conducted by Terry McBride, the founder of Vancouver’s Nettwerk Records, which handled artists such as Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne.

After four years of putting together demo CDs, Wanting sent one to McBride, who signed her to Nettwerk. She also returned to China where a friend Xiao Kui of the punk band Noodle Killers helped her establish valuable connections in her homeland.

Commercial success

Wanting’s first CD "Everything in the World" was released in 2012 and was a huge success in China, reaching multi-platinum status thanks to her single "Drenched," which director Pang Ho-cheung used in his film "Love in the Buff."

Wanting’s single “You Exist in My Song” had more than 100 million combined video views and was the #1 radio single in China for eight weeks.

She also raked in several awards, including three Global Chinese Music Awards and four Chinese music awards. She also performed on the China Central Television New Year’s Gala, seen by an estimated 700 million people.

Across Cultures

The Chinese-Canadian singer says that writing in English and Mandarin is a challenge, but she wants to stay true to what’s in her heart.

“I think the Chinese songs that I wrote are the way they are right now is because I am Chinese, I lived in China for 16 years, I have that in me,” she said. “But I am also like, half Canadian. I have lived over a decade in Canada. So whatever you hear or see with my music, that’s just who I am, that’s the way I am.”

From the Heart

For all her success, Wanting says that she doesn’t cater her songs to her audience. Instead, she writes from the heart and her music finds an audience.

“I write songs for myself,” she said emphatically. “But then afterwards, when the song becomes this piece of art and it goes to the society and it goes to the world and people love my songs, that’s rewarding to me. I do feel happy about that. But that’s not the … I don’t write the song initially for the people.”

Asked if she has a favorite song on "Say the Words," Wanting picked “Life is a Struggle,” which had a unique genesis.

“I didn’t write it in real life; I dreamt the melody in my dream,” she said. “And then I woke up I put down the melody and I finished the song that day. And it’s like, basically just how I felt, purely how I felt in those days. Life is a struggle.”

Some could say her musical dreams are coming true. "Say the Words" debuted at No. 1 in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau and Malaysia.

One of her songs from the CD, “When It’s Lonely,” was featured on the Chinese soundtrack for the movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

"Say the Words" also features Far East Movement on the cut “Time, My Friend.” Grammy award-winning producer Ron Aniello - who has worked with Bruce Springsteen and Bare Naked Ladies - produced the CD for Nettwerk.

Wanting is currently wrapping up a North American tour which has taken her across Canada and the United States.
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