Beijing-born Chinese-American singer-songwriter Shunza. Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily
FOR FANS AND CHARITY
Shunza took a good look at her life in 2010 and this led to her decision to hold a charity concert that aims to help students who want to study abroad but can't afford it. The Chinese-American singer-songwriter moved from Beijing to San Francisco at the age of 6, along with her mother and older sister, when her parents divorced. After graduating from high school, she pursued her studies at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Lausanne, Switzerland. She sang in clubs for eight years, until she was discovered by Taiwan's Rock Records and became a professional singer-songwriter in 1994. "I was alone and poor when I lived in Switzerland, but my passion for music finally fulfilled my dream of being a singer-songwriter," she recalls. "Whenever I look back at those days, I feel grateful to those who helped me."
The singer-songwriter, who is known for her wide vocal range and velvet voice, has sold millions of albums and won Best Female Singer and Best Composer awards at Taiwan's prestigious Golden Melody Awards. Now, she feels the need to do something in return for others.
"If I wanted to make money, then I would perform at commercial concerts. I would sing Going Home (one of her biggest hits, released in 1997) for the rest of my life," she says. "I can have my own house or car and just keep it. But I don't want to live my life in vain. I want to do something meaningful."
She originally thought a small scale concert would work well. But with her friends' support, the project snowballed into Booyi Lehoo (or Bu Yi Le Hu), to be held on Dec 17, 2011, at Beijing's National Indoor Stadium, featuring will.i.am, of the Black Eyed Peas, Grammy award-winning musician John Legend, mainland crossover singer Sa Dingding and Chinese-American singer Coco Lee.
Shunza hopes the concert will see Chinese and American artists perform together, while she will likely perform a duet with John Legend and Coco Lee.
"This is real communication among artists from the two countries," she says. "Yes, Beyonce came to Beijing but she left after the concert. If she had sung with Na Ying (mainland pop diva), then it would be much more interesting."
This idea of cross-cultural communication also applies to students studying abroad.
"It's really unfair for a student to give up studying abroad and learning another culture due to a lack of money," she says.
Shunza adds all the artists have agreed to perform without payment and guarantees her US team will ensure all the money is used to help financially strapped students in the United States. Her charity concert has received support from the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation and the government of Los Angeles.
For the concert's recent press conference in Beijing, Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, announced a partnership between his city and charitable foundations dedicated to promoting educational exchanges between China and the US.
With the joint efforts of the Mayor's Office, Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) and the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation, Beijing will provide opportunities for poor high school students from the US city.
The concert will also support the 100,000 Strong Initiative, an effort launched in November 2009 by US President Barack Obama. The project intends to dramatically increase the number and diversity of American students studying in China.
"I really didn't expect it could go that far and big. My sister is a Los Angeles Times reporter and she called to say that she is proud of me," says Shunza. "You know, recognition from your family really matters. The sense of achievement cannot be measured by how much money I make."
To expand the concert's influence and increase the financial benefits to poor students, Shunza says that a 90-minute video of the concert will be sold to Los Angeles TV stations. Further, in 2012, she will take Chinese singer-songwriters to the US for another round of charity concerts.
"I believe what I am doing is meaningful and I will do the best I can. I don't want to compromise or just pretend to be a charity person. I want to make it last," she says.