Dual track

Updated: 2012-06-22 15:52

By Sun Yuanqing (China Daily)

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Dual track 

Kelly Cha says music is the best way to express what she wants to say. Provided to China Daily

Multi-talented singer is enjoying the best of two worlds

Kelly Cha wears more hats than most of her peers.

The popular radio deejay, singer and songwriter is also a published author of three books. She even ventured into theater last year, debuting in Lucky Apartment, a horror play.

Born in China before going to the United States when she was 8 years old, Cha does all her work with a burning desire to express herself as someone growing up in the East and the West.

She feels she has a mission to bridge the gap between the two countries, especially by reaching out to young people.

"Whether it's writing a book, lecturing on campuses or singing a rock song ... I feel like I have a calling, I have a mission. I want to help young people learn about people from other countries, learn about themselves, give them some references," Cha says.

She is certainly well placed to carry out that mission - Cha is also the youngest member of the Committee of 100, a non-profit organization of 159 prominent Chinese-Americans promoting mutual understanding and communication between China and the US. Other members of C-100 include Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, figure skating legend Michelle Kwan and veteran Chinese actress Joan Chen.

Cha, a Tianjin native, returned to China for high school and college after completing her elementary school education in the US.

She started radio DJ-ing in the first year of college. Her first book Looking at America: Memoirs of a Chinese Girl, a bilingual account of her days in the US, was published when she was 18.

Going back to the US at 20, Cha earned a master's degree in international business studies. She began song writing and continued working in the entertainment industry after graduation.

In 2002, she moved to Beijing to pursue her music and writing careers. She launched the Zhazha Club show, a national bilingual radio program in 2006. Many listeners were soon drawn to Cha for her "natural style of broadcasting and exquisite selection of music".

Her other published works include novella Happiness followed by Simple American Dream and The Premonition, which won acclaim for her literary talent. Cha also released her first music album, The Last Radio Show, in 2010 and has since become a frequent performer at live music festivals.

She also became one of the first Chinese singer-songwriters to work with Western bands when she co-sang Jet Lag with the band Simple Plan from Canada.

Cha says her stellar achievements are just part of a need to express herself so that she can "stay sane".

"Growing up the way that I did, I actually have a lot of things that I need to express that I can't do through words. That's why I write, I write music, I sing. I do different things.

"It's not necessarily the best career path because it's not focused. And I know it. But there's no way ... I'm not writing music so that I can become a pop star. It's because I have something to say. And music is the best way to say it. Sometimes I can say it through painting, sometimes I can say it through a radio show. I need to find the medium to best express what I feel. These are the feelings that I can't really express through talking to people."

Music, Cha says, has a huge impact on her and is currently her main focus, along with her radio show. She is now working on a new "guitar-centric" album that is expected to be out around October.

Being fluent in both Chinese and English, Cha continues to break into many areas that many of her peers can only dream of. While she feels blessed that she can understand both cultures at a fundamental level, Cha is also constantly confronted with cultural and identity confusion.

"It's a double-edge sword. I think the most important thing is to find out who you are and be comfortable in your own skin," she says.

"It's definitely a good thing on the outside. But there is so much that went into the process. Maybe I didn't spend that much time studying the language, but culturally I was very confused. I, still, am confused sometimes. But I know that this is who I am, I am a blend and mixture."

As someone who knows well of "the pain of growing up", Cha has also given lectures to students and hosted events all around China. In 2004, she was invited as special performer and lecturer at Groep T University in Belgium.

While she shares her experience and gives advice to students, the students in return have been inspiring her, she says.

"It's like you have a second chance at life yourself by looking at them. Everybody has so much potential, everybody is so eager to learn. In five or 10 years, I would like to spend more time with education. This is what I have been doing for a while. But through my involvement in Committee of 100, college students are people who I can share my experience with," Cha says.

Asked what advice she would give to young students, she says: "Try different things but then learn to say 'no'. And always prepare yourself. It's OK if you don't know what you want to do.

"But try to find out what you don't want to do through a process of elimination."


(China Daily 06/22/2012 page20)