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The popular Chinese singer Sa Dingding has a new album out, The Coming Ones, inspired by a trip across China, from Chengdu to Kunming and capturing the music of communities isolated geographically from modern Chinese history.

She was born in 1983 in Mongolia, later moving to Beijing and studying at the Academy of Arts there.  She retained her love of the country and nature from her childhood in Mongolia.

There’s a picture of Sa Dingding on the cover kissing the wrinkled face of an old woman, an image portraying both the hope of youth and longevity of Chinese culture.  Her songs celebrate the beauty of the natural world she grew up in, and also display strong Buddhist overtones, and songs in Tibetan, Mandarin, and Sanskrit.  In this new 2 disc set, there ‘s a DVD film documenting her travels throughout China and the people she met.  There are many images of nature, the vast grasslands of Mongolia, Buddhist monks in prayer and going about their daily lives.

Sa Dingding was the first Chinese singer nominated for a grammy, has done film soundtracks, and has worked with house music icon Paul Oakenfold.  Her albums sell millions in China, and is winning new converts here in the U.S., Europe, and throughout Asia.  Click to listen when she visited us in the studios in 2008 after her 2nd album, Harmony, was released.

There are cuts like The Chosen Ones called “Ru Ying Sui Xing”, or “Like a Shadow is Following You” (track #2) and features the Miao people from the village of Xiaoshuijing on the outskirts of Kunming.  The villagers there have been Christians for over 100 years, untouched by the cataclysms of Mao Tse Tung.  The imagery here is that of flower petals, breezes, and joy.  This cut also features Beethoven’s immortal “Ode to Joy” from his final symphony, an iconic work often associated with historical events (think of the Berlin Wall coming down, concerts played to mark the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks).  Part of the lyrics the Mio villagers sing go like this:

“Goddess of Joy, holy and beautiful….your strength can eliminate all differences between people….take my hand and sing for joy with me…”  Again, music that is an affirmation of humanity and the desire for peace and harmony.

On this cut you hear them singing Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th.  Another cut, “Zhi Shang Ai” (“Dedicated with Love”, track #6) ), Sa Dingding uses a metaphor of one flower among a sea of flowers to represent idealized love.  I think it’s the loveliest cut on the new album.

Some of the other cuts, such as “The Holy Sound of Love” feature synth-heavy production values I don’t really care for.  Remember, however, that Sa has worked with electronica icon Paul Oakenfold, so there is a modernist connection she embraces there.

Here’s a 15′  album sampler of the new album:

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Featured in the second half of this Rhythm Planet edition is the music of rising Korean star, Youn Sun Nah.  She is a young Korean singer who divides her time between Paris and Seoul.  Her new album Lento has shot to the top of Europe’s music charts, hitting #1 in both France and Germany.  You can read more about Youn Sun Nah in a post published earlier in the week on 5/20/13.

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Rhythm Planet Playlist: 5/24/13

  1. Sa Dingding | Ha Ha Li Li Remixed by Paul Oakenfold | Harmony | Universal Music China
  2. Sa Dingding | Dedicated With Love | The Coming Ones | Universal Music China
  3. Sa Dingding | Something Like A Shadow Is Following You | The Coming Ones | Universal Music China
  4. Sa Dingding | Capricorn | The Coming Ones | Universal Music China
  5. Sa Dingding | The Fragrance Of The Moon | The Coming Ones | Universal Music China
  6. Youn Sun Nah | Lento | Lento | Act Music
  7. Youn Sun Nah | HurtLento | Act Music
  8. Youn Sun Nah | Ghost Riders In The Sky | Lento | Act Music
  9. Youn Sun Nah | Arirang | Lento | Act Music

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