She’s not one to do things half-baked.
KZ Tandingan didn’t speak a lick of Mandarin prior to joining the Chinese show “Singer 2018.” But when she was told that she would have to perform songs in the language for the contest’s sixth episode last month, she buckled down to work.
“I was worried because I knew that Mandarin is tough. If you screw up the intonation or pronunciation, the meaning of the words will change, and the audience can get distracted. So, I sought help. I have a coach in China and here in our country. I wanted to show them that, being a foreigner, I had to put in a lot of effort,” KZ told reporters at a recent media night hosted by her management, Cornerstone Entertainment.
KZ, who’s up against other professional recording artists from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan—as well as British pop star Jessie J—sang “The Hurts You Never Knew,” a medley of the Mandarin songs, “All the Things You Never Knew,” “What Else Do You Want From Me” and “Still Aching.”
Despite the language barrier, she was still able to deliver an emotive rendition that moved some studio viewers to tears. She placed sixth out of eight that week. “My pronunciation may have been far from perfect, but I believe that if the feeling is there, you can still give an effective performance,” she said.
One thing she has learned so far from being part of the competition, which is taped in the city of Changsha in the province of Hunan, is that music transcends language.
“We may speak different languages and have different cultures. But through music, we get to meet halfway. Music is a language in itself,” pointed out KZ, who was hounded by Chinese fans for selfies at a recent visit to a local mall. “I was surprised when people began approaching me. While I’m not consistently topping the rankings, they appreciate what I do—and that’s heartening.”
KZ, who has a proclivity for R&B, soul and hip-hop music, has also gotten positive comments from users of Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. “Some actually did praise my Mandarin,” she said, adding that she’s certain there were not-so-good remarks, too.
Because she and Jessie J are the only contestants in the group who speak English, they’re more inclined to talk to each other—something that KZ still finds “unbelievable.”
“Our hotel rooms are next to each other! And we have been singing after one another the past few episodes, so we sit beside each other in the holding room. She always has a tray of food that she gives to everyone in between taping and chats,” she related. “She’s a very warm person.”
Jessie J, who’s behind the hits “Price Tag,” “Domino” and “Flashlight,” also gave KZ valuable advice and served as an inspiration for the latter’s debut performance, “Rolling In the Deep,” which topped episode 5.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was in a foreign country, scared and full of doubt,” she recalled. “Jessie told me to just sing my heart out and not let the ranking define me. I was chosen to be a part of the competition out of so many others, and that in itself is already encouraging.”
She would be lying, she admitted, if she said she had no desire to win. “But if I constantly remind myself that I’m in a battle with these artists, it would be hard for me. I will focus on my craft and try to equal—if not—
surpass my previous performances,” said KZ, who’s set to hold her first major solo concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum this June.
In her own little way, KZ hopes to let other countries know about the caliber of Filipino talents. “I hope we continue supporting our artists who represent the country overseas,” she said.
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