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Heard around the world

December 19, 2008

(China Daily)
From Yellow Children, her first album, to United Nations goodwill ambassador, Zhu Zheqin has come a long way.
The singer, also known as Dadawa, made a two-year journey of Tibet autonomous region, then made her voice heard around the world when she released the Tibetan-inspired album Sister Drum in 1995.
Singer Dadawa has a new role working to advance the cultural legacy of minority groups as a goodwill ambassador for the UN. Guo Yingguang
She then delved further into the world's minority groups and told her story in the 2006 documentary The Journey of Sound. It revolves around South Asian music, and includes street, gypsy and religious music.
Now she has a new role, working to advance the cultural legacy of minority groups as a goodwill ambassador for the UN.
The singer will work with the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) to help save and develop the cultural legacy of China's minority groups, from 2009 to 2010.
"I hope that I can act as a conduit, that I can be the person who tells some of these (people's) stories," Dadawa says. "My travel experiences to see these minority groups and the things I've seen in my life have led me toward this."
Dadawa is always on the road. She has visited almost all of the Chinese ethnic groups during the past decade. In addition she has traveled from Kashmir to Delhi and Varanasi in India, to Nepal, then across the Himalayas and back to Tibet.
Because of the Tibetan style of her music, many people think she is Tibetan. In fact, she was born in Guangzhou and was discovered by He Xuntian, a Shanghai music professor who had been collecting Tibetan music for 20 years.
Her first album Yellow Children (1992), recorded in China, was well received. She is also popular in the West.
Her love of Tibet led to her taking the stage name Dadawa, which means moon in Tibetan. When she returned to the region last year she made her album Seven Days, in which she expressed a whole new type of Tibetan music, a music that is related to Tibet in a spiritual way.
She met with Khalid Malik, UN resident coordinator in China, when she visited Shangri-La, Yunnan province, back in 2006.
"Dadawa's contribution to the development of ethnic groups' music and her passion for those areas attracted us," Malik says. "She will not only help with the music part but also promote cultural diversity and local economies."
The project will combine two parts: One is saving and developing local music, and the other is supporting the trade in local handicrafts.
"Ethnic minority groups have the most original music. >From their way of singing to their musical instruments, I am fascinated by it," Dadawa says. "While protecting these treasures from extinction is important, we need to consider how to reinvent and develop this music today."
Together with 10 other musicians worldwide, Dadawa will visit Xinjiang, Qinghai, Tibet, Yunnan and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to collect music samples and re-make them. "Good music should be heard by today's listeners rather than just be put in museums."
As for promoting local handicrafts, Dadawa is in love with the clothes of ethnic groups and will, for instance, wear a long skirt with a pair of boots from Inner Mongolia.
She says that during her travels she has collected many exquisite hand-made products, from accessories to home decoration.
"I have bought lots of local hand-made clothes and cushions. In my eyes, they are fashionable and comfortable. Why not let more people know about them and buy them? Then local people can have more income to solve their poverty problems," she says.
For today's celebrities, charity work is almost as much a part of the job as walking the red carpet. They have become linked with preventing domestic violence, curing breast cancer, gender issues and saving farms from development.
For Dadawa, her new title is an honor and she now wants to raise public awareness of her various causes. "It (the title) has an impact on the people who see it," she declares. "The more people, the bigger the impact."
"We believe in working with people directly. She's a very profound singer and I was touched by her commitment to make sure she used her gifts for Chinese minority groups," Malik says.
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