KALA CHNG: I stopped once, but music brought me back

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KALA CHNG | Fire video by Marcus Way
KALA CHNG | Fire video by Marcus Way

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iving up your dream is not an easy decision. Once you have done that, finding the way back is even harder. British musician KALA CHNG knows about this feeling very well.

Since she was a teenager, KALA has always tried to group up with someone who is interested in making their own music, but she was always ‘the last one’ as well. When she and her cousin finally got a grant to produce their music in a studio in Bristol, their dream looked more promising than ever before.

Days went by quickly when they concentrated on songwriting and weekend recording. It took them about 5 years to pull everything together for their album, but only a few days to witness the hope collapsed. The studio ceased to operate, and all that Kala received was an empty folder – they lost everything.

The hit was big enough for her to take a break, however, music guided her way back after the short disconnection.

KALA CHNG on the stage. Picture | KALA CHNG
KALA CHNG on the stage. Picture | Mini Moon Festival by Jo Rousell

HARKII: How do you describe your music?

Kala: I did a bit research on what artists other people think I sound like. Even if I am the artist, I would like to see how they are described. A lot of them are described as ‘art pop’ or ‘experimental pop’, so sometimes I would say I am doing art pop to some audiences. I really care about the art form and how everything works, such as my music videos. In a word, I call my music ‘electronic urban pop with Chinese twist’.

HARKII: As you described, many of your songs have Chinese elements. Do you think your background has affect your music?

Kala: My dad is from Hong Kong, who moved to the UK to study and never went back. However, I did not have a Chinese language environment around me, as my dad was busy with his studying or working when I was young. The only occasion of hearing Chinese for me was family meals when my dad talked with his brother. Besides, my dad was very keen to practice his English, so I did not have much opportunity to pick up Chinese.

Every year we watch the Chinese New Year celebration. When I was a bit older, my parents sent me to a Chinese school. Most of the students there have full Chinese parents and are speak perfect Chinese. I followed them to learn to write but I did not actually understand what they were saying. Still, I picked up a little bit. Unfortunately, the school got burnt down later and did not get rebuilt for a long while due to a huge legal battle.

I am always proud of being half-Chinese. When I was little, I was so proud to show others that I can use chopsticks and talk about Chinese food. I watched a lot of Kungfu movies with my dad and I really love them, especially the traditional instruments used in the battle scenes. To me, it was linked with the coolness of Kungfu.

When I was producing one of my songs in a previous EP, I was talking with my producer about Kungfu and we found some amazing clips on YouTube. Later, I found some materials in the online sound bank, such as Asian drums in the section of ‘World Music’. Erhu, Guzheng and the drums become fundamental elements in my music.

My music is also based on some traditional Chinese keys, so people can hear the oriental touch even without any signature Chinese music instruments.

HARKII: You mentioned that you stopped music activity for a while. What happened then?

Kala: When my cousin and I completed 90% of our work, we were told that the studio went busted. We lost all the work. I thought to myself, ‘That was it. I did not mean to do this. Things just kept going wrong.’

I stopped doing music and it felt like forever, but inside it was killing me. I was just trying to go over it, which took me about two or three years. Later, my employer decided to build a music studio, even though my job had nothing to do with music. I started going in at my lunch break, watching and learning. Then they got something to do with the studio for a project, so some producers came in to do stuff like rap and making beats. They said to me: “Oh, we really need a singer. We heard that you used to sing. Can you sing for us?” I tried a little bit and apparently, they were impressed.

I was asked about why I did not do music anymore and I told them about the short version of what happened. They said that I should not let it stop me. So, I carried on recording vocals for these guys. The longer I did it, the more I realised that I missed it very much. Eventually, I pulled out my keyboard and started to write songs again and the time I went to the studio increased from lunch breaks to Sundays, first with other producers and then by myself. We had co-produced a lot of my work as well. That is how I got back from where I was.

Find more about KALA CHNG and her music here.

 

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