As we get into the swing of the year of the fire rooster and into lantern festival, we caught up with British born half-Chinese singer, songwriter and Producer, Makala Cheung, who makes western Electronic Pop with a Chinese twist.
Tell us about yourself and why the ‘Chinese twist’ to your music?
I’m from Knowle West in south Bristol, and was always known as ‘the Chinese man’s daughter’ in my area, it was something I was always very proud of. As I’ve developed my music career over the years I’ve become more inspired by my Chinese heritage and love to explore and share that culture wider. I’m also a big lover of Kung Fu and Kung Fu movies. One day in the studio during a break, I was watching Kung Fu You Tube clips – with Chinese instruments in the background – it got me inspired and got me experimenting with Chinese instruments in my productions, the result was a song I called Canton Hop. I loved it so much it stuck. I also love learning Kung Fu and found a brilliant Shaolin school in Easton, though I’ve got a bit rusty after taking a few months off from an injured ankle!
Tell us the story behind your latest single and video?
I released my new single Fire on Chinese New Year’s Eve 2017, as I always like to mark the occasion. I wrote the song while getting hot while drying my hair and it just came to me and I started singing. It’s all about following your dreams, and a bit was about the struggle through that. It fills me full of joy whenever I sing it (when I wrote it, when I put it to music at my piano, then in the studio recording, then in rehearsals ready for live gigs) as it’s all about being ready to reach your biggest dreams.
I wanted the video to have this energy about it, it was a bit inspired by The Last Airbender cartoons and the power of the fire benders, I also turn into an anime style super hero, that bit was inspired by the Sailor Moon cartoons especially Sailor Mars, and my power stick has a heart on it as it represents the power of love and sharing love. There’s also a scene of the sky with me in a flowery dress, and that represents my love and connection to the natural world. I also wanted to have a journey from my last two albums to this next single and the album (also called Fire out later this year). River and Moon (album 1 and 2) had many reasons behind their names but also they represented the water benders from The Last Airbender cartoons, as they controlled the element of water, deriving their power from the moon, so this journey now onto fire connects it all together.
Tell us about the changes to your recent website?
The tag line is ‘The hidden land where the far east meets the west and Empress Cheung rules – sharing love, creativity, and east Asian culture’ and I’ve made it myself, though I am looking to get it properly designed in the future. Currently the landing page is a map like page with a flag and the buildings instead of ‘pages’. Each one has information, some about me and some about stuff in Bristol, elsewhere in UK, and beyond even.
For example, in the cinema you can watch my music videos in screen 1, and watch movie trailers in screen 2 (movies I think are cool, and are of course Chinese or east Asian!). Or in The Market, there’s a link to buy my CDs and merchandise, but also links to other shops and stuff in Bristol. What’s fun about it for me is that I will always be able to grow it, both in terms of design and development – like one day, when you click on the building, the next page will be 3D not flat and the links will be proper embedded content and feeds; and to have more content – like the more things I find and I can tell people about through my site and sharing those pages on social media and telling people I meet!
What’s next for you?
I’ll be going to Hong Kong in April for the first time since I was twelve. I’m so excited! I can’t wait to be back. I’m hoping to organise a small performance while I’m there and I’m sure the trip will give me so much inspiration for future work.
Before I go I’m looking to make the next video for my coming single Brave, and me and my friend Marcus Way (who directs, shoots and edits many of my music videos), want to make a mini movie style one inspired by Stephen Chow films. I’d really like to incorporate all the things I love; dance, Kung Fu, and food! We want to shoot in a Chinese Supermarket and restaurant, and have some ideas about a rescue mission and a random pop up dance (as Stephen Chow does!).
I’m also looking to organise another Mini Moon Festival for October 2017 (like I did 2015 for Mid-Autumn Festival) – bringing to life Cheung Island – sharing Chinese and east Asian arts and culture with stalls and performances, with Bristol and the UK. I’ve already started finding some great DJs and acts, so I’m very excited!
And of course, there’s still those big goals; Eurovision, Disney, Charts toppers, taking Mini Moon Festival on a World tour, you know, that kind of stuff!
Fire by Makala Cheung is out now as digital release on iTunes, Amazon and direct from Bandcamp: https://makalacheung.bandcamp.com/track/fire
You can find out more about Makala Cheung and see Cheung Island at www.makalacheung.com