Thursday, August 19, 2010

My BBC China Article on Sophie Yau

You can read my article for BBC China on singer songwriter Sophie Yau here:

Here is my text in English:

A Melodic and Spiritual Debut EP from British Singer Songwriter Sophie Yau
By Zoë Baxter

Singer songwriter Sophie Yau launches her debut EP this month - Some Great Union in the Sky. The EP is a culmination of many years of musicianship and is heavily influenced by American folk music.

Sophie Yau was born in London’s Camden – an area famous for it’s vibrant market and live music scene. Sophie’s parents then decided to move to East Anglia, where, like many British Chinese, they opened a takeaway food business. Whilst growing up Sophie also spent some time in her parent’s birthplace – Hong Kong. Her early musical influences were mainly pop – both Cantopop and 1980s British pop music. Later on she was introduced to Christian pop and hymns (both traditional and modern).

Sophie began to play the guitar age 17 and has not looked back. Whilst at university in Bristol Sophie began singing to accompany her guitar strumming and gradually started to write her own songs. It was during this time that she began to listen to American folk music, which would influence her singing and guitar playing style.

Moving back to London after graduating, Sophie has been fine-tuning her music – touring the open mic circuit and playing in many bars and clubs. In 2009 Sophie debuted at the City Showcase festival in London’s Chinatown.

The EP Some Great Union in the Sky is a collection of songs which are all quite paired down – the focus is on Sophie’s sweet lilting vocals and the guitar led melodies. The song with the strongest hook is Even If I Try, co-written with guitar player Jean Guy Sylvestre. Sophie explains the lyrics: “Me and my mate Phil had just watched ‘Independence Day’ at the cinema and decided to walk the hour and a half walk it took to get back to our village. On the way we talked about aliens, and gods and the compulsion to believe in something bigger than ourselves. It’s like a reflex.”

Other songs on the EP are also contemplative and there is definitely a spiritual theme. For example Brothers on a Hill is about a week that Sophie spent at a monastery in France: "They prayed 3 times a day in this massive hall with candles and songs sung in every language. I spent a lot of time sitting in the back with my feet up. It was weird and it was wonderful and I found a kind of peace there that surprised me because I wasn’t aware that I was at war with myself.”

I asked Sophie if we could expect an album to follow on from the EP: “It was kind of interesting with the EP - by the time we finished recording we were playing a fairly different live set to the songs as recorded on the disc. The album will feature the 5 songs on the EP, plus 5 news ones.”

The Sophie Yau UK tour will hit the roads soon. There are also plans afoot for collaborations with beats producers for remixing some of the EP songs. It will be
interesting to see what effect the remixes have on Sophie’s style – adding more layers and textures will hopefully enhance the musical direction and let her dreamy singing style shine through.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Picture Show Annual 1959

This beauty is from my vintage film annual collection. I have quite a few as I used to buy them for pocket money when I was a teen (and infatuated with Clark Gable and the glamour of old Hollywood). I was flicking through this British film annual recently and although I have always loved the cover I didn't realise it had some hidden gems inside. The cover features Dirk Bogarde and Yoko Tani from their film The Wind Cannot Read. There is more on Japanese actress Yoko Tani inside in a feature rather snootily titled:

Here are some of the pages from the article that feature East Asian film stars:

The page below shows Chinese film star Li Lihua (credited as Lili Hua here) on the set of Hollywood movie China Doll with director Frank Borzage and co-star Victor Mature (also a teenage crush of mine!).

And an Italian film star going 'yellowface' for The Quiet American. This was common practice in Hollywood films - using a non US star to play many different races (e.g. Yul Bryner's career), just adding extra eyeliner! This has been well documented in the excellent film Hollywood Chinese which also looks at Chinese Americans in the movie industry.

The Picture Show Annual has another article titled New Faces in Films which does feature some East Asian American actresses:

Marie Tsien is at the top of the page in a strange ruffle shirt and floral shorts combo: "Hailing from Hong Kong Marie Tsien went to the United States to study interior decoration in San Francisco. Modelling jobs, however, eventually led to television. One of her film roles has been in 'The 27th Days'
Amercian born Miiko Taka is pictured to the right: Taka has her first engagement as an actress playing opposite Marlon Brando in 'Sayonara'. Black-haired brown eyed Miiko is 5 feet 6 inches tall.
Bottom left is France Nyuen who played Liat in South Pacific.

Well that's all folks. I hope you enjoyed my scanning efforts.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

White Rabbit Gallery Sydney

(Faces of KonKong by artist Xiong Wenyun)

A friend told me about this contemporary Chinese art gallery in Sydney:

It looks wonderful, brilliant web site too. Bit far for me to pop into the teahouse for an Oolong or two though.

Hero Q&A this Weds 11th Aug @ Prince Charles Cinema

I am delighted to have been asked to do a Q&A after the screening of Zhang Yimou's Hero this Wednesday 11th August @ The Prince Charles Cinema.
This is part of the Electric Sheep Film Magazine cinema club; they hold monthly film nights at the Prince Charles with guest speakers.
Please come down and enjoy the film on the big screen (and ask me some nice and easy questions like "which shampoo does Donnie Yen use for his glossy locks?").

Show starts at 8.30pm. Tickets on the door, usual Prince Charles value price!

Facebook Event Page

(Team Green: Maggie Cheung Man Yuk and Tony Leung Chiu Wai pictured)