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Reality stars go to Taiwan to find fame and fortune

Reality stars go to Taiwan to find fame and fortune

Like many Chinese girls her age, Qi Ji enjoys singing and dancing and dreams of becoming a star. But rather than trying to make a start in vast and crowded China, she is pinning her hopes on Taiwan.

Saturday 7 July 2012, 04:55PM

A Taiwanese girl group perform during a talent show in Taipei in May. Photo: AFP

A Taiwanese girl group perform during a talent show in Taipei in May. Photo: AFP

The 18-year-old is the first of many Chinese contestants expected to enter a Taiwanese reality show aimed at creating a girl band that producers hope will rival successful groups such as Japan’s AKB48 or Girls’ Generation from South Korea.

With such televised contests now a major part of the global music industry, in Asia they are spurring a migration of talent between countries as performers and producers look to crack domestic, regional and global markets.

For Qi, who grew up in northeast China and attended a performing arts school in Beijing, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get on the fast track to stardom in China’s market of 1.3 billion people – and perhaps beyond.

“Many young Chinese people like me dream of becoming a star,” Qi said before a recording session for Asian Idol Group Competition, aired in mid-May.

“I hope to start in Taiwan and eventually have a career both here and in China.”

The growing numbers of young Chinese performers coming to Taiwan in search of a big break reverses a trend that saw famous Taiwanese performers such as A-Mei and Jay Chou focus on China.

The show’s producerm Lee Fang-ju, the mastermind behind reality shows both in his native Taiwan and in China, is holding auditions in several major Chinese cities this summer to select more contestants to come to Taipei.

“Taiwan has a special allure, as many young Chinese idolise singers from Taiwan. They think that making a mark here could turn them into pop divas,” Lee said.

“We hope to combine Taiwan’s and China’s strengths to create a pop idol group so that our idols won’t be replaced by the Japanese or South Koreans,” he said.

The most successful case so far is arguably Hu Xia, a 22-year-old from Guangxi in southwestern China, who was signed by Sony Music Taiwan after winning the “One Million Star” singing contest in 2010.

His latest record Flame of Love hit number one on Taiwan’s G-Music chart in March.
“Winning a title in Taiwan is a big boost for a young Chinese performer since it has a leading role in Mandarin pop music,” said Hsieh Tsung-han, a music producer and lecturer at China University of Technology in Taipei.

A-list Entertainment, which is based in Taipei and offers courses for those aspiring to become singers, models and show hosts, is meanwhile getting plenty of interest from China.

Last year, it recruited about 100 Chinese nationals aged between 14 and 35 from as far away as Mongolia to take performing lessons in Taiwan for an eight-day programme at a cost of 15,000 Chinese yuan (B75,000).

While many Chinese acts aim to get noticed in smaller markets first, one English-speaking Asian act have looked to use their ethnicity to do the reverse and crack the United States – despite a history of such attempts falling flat.

Blush is made up of five women from the Philippines, India, China, Japan and South Korea, who beat hundreds of other pop star wannabes during a talent search across Asia in 2010 called “Project Lotus”.

Based in both Hong Kong and the US, Blush opened for Justin Bieber on the Hong Kong leg of his 2011 tour, recorded with US hip hop star Snoop Dogg and are supported by an A-List of Los Angeles-based producers who have worked with the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

“What we’ve tried to do is take artists from the region, but develop them in a very Western style with Western producers, Western songs and a Western way of sound and that’s what is helping give Blush the recognition and some initial success,” said Project Lotus producer and Blush manager Jon Niermann in Los Angeles.

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