Published on May 8th, 2012 | by Aeris0
SINGING FOR ASIA, TOPPING THE CHARTS IN AMERICA…
AERIS Talks to Blush, the world’s first pan-Asian band to top the US Billboard with their hit single ‘Undivided’ while performing with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber and the Black-Eyed Peas. Grace Brown talks to Angeli, Alisha, Ji-Hae, Natsuko and Victoria about their challenging road to success – and what Asian musicians can give America.
From starting out on Project Lotus, to travelling the states in a van with five bunks and performing with such acclaimed artists as the Black Eyed-Peas, the careers of Angeli, Alisha, Ji-Hae, Natsuko and Victoria have soared.
But convincing their more traditional Asian parents to let them pursue a career in one of the most unstable industries in the world was possibly their greatest challenge.
Asian Family Standards – and Support
Natsuko (from Japan) had her parent’s support. “Mum has a dance studio. She does every possible kind of dance. She is really strict about it and takes the entertainment industry seriously. She’d say ‘I know you’re gonna be good, so focus, Nacho!’ (‘Nacho’ is Natsuko’s nickname).
Filipina member, Angeli, also had family support from the start. “Dancing and singing is a big part of Philippine culture,” she said. “I always copied my sister, who always sang at birthdays… When I was 16, I was in two bands.”
“My Dad is my superhero,” she added. “We fought everyday before rehearsals, but he’d be at the bar to hear me sing every night. He walked me home.”
Alisha had to make a formal proposal to her parents, to get them on side. “Like many Indian families, my parents were concerned if I didn’t go straight to uni and be an accountant,” she said. “I had to make a 1-year plan, to show I would take this seriously.”
Strict expectations not only motivated her to succeed, but also stay grounded. “Our families expect us to stay modest, and not be too flashy… they keep us humble,” she added.
Victoria from China sang from an early age, but did a teaching degree and masters. “Three months in, I realized it wasn’t my passion and my dad said, ‘come home, figure it out.’ I signed as an artist for 2 years on cable (for Zi Lin Cai, Beijing)… then there was this!”
“I think as long as you succeed, Chinese parents are ok with your choices, in the end,” she added.
Ji-Hae, the band’s Korean member, rebelled against her family to get to the stage – but ultimately, they were proud:
“back and said ‘that’s not my dream.’” Ji-Hae auditioned for Project Lotus. “When I was chosen to come to Hong Kong, I think they saw it could have potential so they said: ‘ok, do your best, do well…’”
“Now I see my photos all over the house when I go home” she laughs.
How did the first pan-Asian band top the U.S. Billboard?
Already the group have had two hit singles, ‘Undivided’ and ‘Dance On,’ attributing their success to having a uniquely ‘spicy’ offering in international pop culture…
“Asian culture is more colourful and spicy,” says Alisha. “There’s more to explore… from subtle movements in Balinese dance, to bolder Bollywood steps, Asia can give incredible diversity to America’s music industry.”
While American bands tend to get many chances to practice and perform at school, where extra-curricular activities are encouraged, Victoria acknowledged:
“performour school , then, so I could sing solo.” The experience gave her confidence on stage over the years to come.
“Y,” she concludes.
From reality TV, to real success
Blush was brought together on the reality TV show and competition (to air this summer in an 8-part TV series), Project Lotus – but their success was not without passion and perseverance.
“I think a lot of young people don’t realize how hard you work all your life, before appearing on a show like that…” said Victoria. “I’m 29 now. Success only comes from working hard, day in and day out… It’s not born on television.”
“For me, music is my life,” adds Angeli. “Never in my life did I dream that I’d be a star. As a Filipina, most people thought I’d sing in small bars forever, because I come from a poor country…But whether you are poor or rich, all that matters is passion.”
What is Snoop Dogg like as a colleague?
“He’s incredibly professional to work with, but also very funny and chilled out,” said Alisha.
“He loves Rosco’s chicken, corn bread and waffles… soul food!” Victoria grins.
How do five Asian girls sing (and speak) like native English speakers?
Blush admit that performing in English as a second language was another big challenge, but one that they have overcome, and believe anyone can.
“I have diction classes,” said Ji-hae. “They make me record again and again… it’s so frustrating. When we sing, I have to remember the words, express the emotion and memorise the correct English pronunciation… It’s really hard.”
“The first time I met her, it was like “hi I’m Ji-Hae, no English, bye,” recalls Angeli. “Now she’s my roommate, she never shuts up!”
“To speak better English, you need the confidence to make mistakes, which we don’t get the opportunity to do much in Asia,” adds Victoria.
And on recording in Putonghua…
“We have lots of chances to make mistakes and learn, now we are recording in Mandarin too,” jokes Angeli.
“I recorded a few Mandarin songs in China, without knowing what every word means…” smiles Victoria. “It’s still possible.”
“We recorded in Sim-lish too, with feelings!” adds Alisha. “If we can sing expressively in a virtual language, then anyone can speak English.”
Undivided: http://youtu.be/Osp6P2M9SqE (#3 on the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart – August 2011)
Dance On: http://youtu.be/ITDIwWsgjKg ( #1 on the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart in Feb 2012)
Stay tuned for ‘Project Lotus: The Search for Blush’ which was recently launched on Star World.’