High Notes

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Source: Shutterstock

PSY (Park Jae-sang) (b.1977), singer
South Korea

“King of YouTube”: Psy’s “Gangnam Style” became the first music video to cross 1 billion views on YouTube in 2012 (3.2 billion views in Aug 2018), propelling the singer from relative obscurity to global fame. On New Year’s Eve in 2012, Psy performed with American rapper MC Hammer in front of a live audience in Times Square, New York City, an event that was globally televised. He is credited for bridging K-Pop to the international stage.

Source: Shutterstock

Namie Amuro (b.1977), singer
Japan

Constantly compared with leading Western artists like Janet Jackson and Madonna,  her album sales in Japan alone exceeded that of American pop idols. Throughout her two-decade long music career, Amuro popularised mixing foreign sounds with traditional Japanese pop. Amuro officially retired in September 2018 with a final concert Namie Amuro Final Tour 2018: Finally.

Source: Shutterstock

Lang Lang (b.1982), singer 
China

The renowned Chinese concert pianist has performed with leading orchestras in China, the United States, Europe and Canada. He was the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by top American orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. Often said to successfully the two worlds of classical prodigy and rock-like “superstar”, and has performed for many international dignitaries such as the former US president Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Hu Jintao. On 28 October 2013, Lang was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who said he “used his art and ability to inspire audiences  to improve the lives of children everywhere”.

Source: Faces of Classical Music

Chloe Chua (b.2007), violinist
Singapore

The child prodigy who has competed in numerous local and international competitions, made waves when she won first prize in the under-16 division of the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists in 2018, in a tie with Australian violinist Christian Li. Her dream is to be a world-class violinist when she grows up.

Source: Shutterstock

Jay Chou (b. 1979), singer & actor
Taiwan

Since he released his debut album, Jay, in 2000, the “new king of Asian pop” became famous throughout Asia as well as in Asian communities in of Western countries. Also a prolific actor, Jay has starred in several films including Curse of the Golden Flower, The Green Hornet and Now You See Me 2.

Source: Shutterstock

Yuna (b.1986), singer-songwriter
Malaysia

Known for her collaboration with the US artist Usher for her single, Crush, which reached no. 3 on the US Billboard Adult R&B chart, Yuna (Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai) made her initial breakthrough via Myspace, an online platform to which she uploaded her music.

Source: Michael Coghlan

Margaret Leng Tan(b.1945), toy pianist
Singapore

The classical music artist performs around the world on toy pianos. The first woman to earn a doctorate from the Julliard School in New York City in 1971, Tan also plays on unconventional items, including cat-food tins and teapots. Her CD album, The Art of the Toy Piano, raised the toy piano to a “real” instrument.

Source: Shutterstock

Rain (Jung Ji-hoon) (b.1982), singer-songwriter
South Korea

Rain achieved breakthrough success with his third Korean album, It’s Raining (2004), which sold 1 million copies in Asia. Also an actor, he starred in Ninja Assassin (2009), which made him the first Korean to win an MTV award. His popularity extends throughout Asia, Europe and the USA.

Source: Mccarter.org

Joey Alexander (b.2003), jazz pianist
Indonesia

The self-taught child prodigy was the first Indonesian to chart on Billboard 200 with his debut album, My Favourite Things, in 2015, when he was 11 years old. At age 9, he won the Grand Prix in the 2013 Master-Jam Fest, an open-to-all-ages jazz competition in Ukraine. He has played for luminaries like Herbie Hancock and Barack Obama.

Source: China Broadway Entertainment

Jonathan Lee (b.1958), musician & producer
Taiwan

A very influential record producer in Mandopop music, Lee wrote and produced hugely popular classic hits during the 1990s and 2000s, including Jackie Chan’s “The Sincere Hero” and Wakin Chau’s “You Make Me Happy and Sad”. Lee also collaborates with famous movie directors, designs and produces his own brand of hand-made guitars, and is currently working on writing music for an original Chinese musical, Road to Heaven: The Jonathan Lee Musical.

Source: Iluv2write

Tan Dun (b.1957), composer & conductor
China

Tan is best known for his scores for movies including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won an Academy Award for best original score, a Grammy Award for best soundtrack and a BAFTA award for best film music. Many of his works use instruments made of natural materials such as water and paper. In 2013, he was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

To read the full story, see issue 132 of Asian Geographic Magazine.

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