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Dantès Dailiang: a French songwriter in China

The 37-year-old, Dantès Dailiang, who has lived in Shanghai for 12 years, has established a music career in his native and adopted homes.

Take a first look at this artist through an TV interview:

No matter where he appears on stage, singer-songwriter Christophe Hisquin hopes to bring his audience a little closer to China.

The Frenchman, who performs under the name Dai Liang, writes and sings in Mandarin and says his music is a bridge between China and France.

Since November, he has been on a 12-date tour of France, and on May 27 performed before 300 people in Paris.

"When the audience is mostly French I tell them many stories about China, about the similarities between French and Chinese people, such as the passion for gourmet food and culture," he says. "I tell them about my experiences in China, so they will feel China is not so far away."

He explains that his stage name comes from Liang being the Chinese homophonic translation of Lyon, the city of his birth.

Hisquin's fascination with China began when he studied Mandarin at age 11. Much later, in 2000, he traveled to Shanghai for a yearlong language program. During his stay, he was invited onto a Chinese TV show, where he sang in Chinese a song he had originally written in French. He says his performance received positive comments from the show's director.

When he returned home to France, he decided to record an album in Chinese. But it was not until he completed a master's degree at the University of Lyon and then a PhD in Shanghai – his thesis was on the Chinese music industry in the 21st century – that he was able to realize that dream.

The turning point came in 2005, when Hisquin came third in a talent contest for foreigners organized by China Central Television, the state broadcaster. It was his first appearance on national TV, and his unique style won him many fans.

A year later, he released his debut double album, Wo Jide Ni, or I Remember You, recorded entirely in Mandarin.

He has since appeared on various TV shows as a guest and a host. However, music has remained his first love, and he has gone on to release three more albums: Xia You Dai Liang, Shanghai, and Zhongguo De Faguoren, also known as A Frenchman in China.

He says the title of his second album was inspired by the Chinese expression shang you tian tang, xia you suhang, which translates as: Up above is heaven, below is Suzhou and Hangzhou. The phrase is used to describe the beauty of these two eastern cities.

"I'm quite satisfied with A Frenchman in China," he says, referring to the title track of his fourth album. "Chinese is a foreign language to me, so I usually write simple lyrics, but my style is special, very rhythmic."

Hisquin says his life in China has provided endless inspiration for his songs, in which he talks about his love for the country, the struggles faced by young people, and the times he has felt homesick for Lyon.

"My hometown is at the foot of the Alps, I wrote a song about it, and I want to make a music video to introduce my beautiful hometown to Chinese friends this year."

He has performed in more than 100 Chinese cities.

"At one performance in Bretagne (in northwest France), where I sang A Frenchman in China, a 90-year-old French woman came up to me after the show and said that her husband would've loved my song if he were still alive, because he was born in Beijing. Just like my song, he was a Frenchman in China."

Here is a brief interview about Christophe Hisquin:

Host: Why did you choose to learn Chinese?

Christophe Hisquin: I started to learn Chinese because I wanted to do something different.

Host: And then, you just started to sing Chinese songs? 

Christophe Hisquin: I started to sing Chinese songs when I was around 16. It was fun for me to sing some Chinese songs at that time, but later on, I really started to sing Chinese songs when I first came to Shanghai in 2000. 

Host: Are the songs you sing other composer’s songs or your own songs? 

Christophe Hisquin: I always compose my songs; I don’t like to sing the others’ songs. And I also don’t like other writing songs for me because I just don’t feel it. I have many own songs that I can sing, so I don’t see why I need to sing the others’ songs. 

Host: So, you are always composing songs. 

Christophe Hisquin: Yes, all the time, I always compose Chinese songs and French songs. 

Host: What has been the inspiration for you to compose Chinese songs? 

Christophe Hisquin: I want to write stories, such as stories happening in my life, or the fact I came to China encountering some difficulties and embracing something fun here, and I write songs about the cultural difference between China and France. I think those are the good source for my inspiration. 

Host: Can I say your musical style is quite different from those Chinese singers? 

Christophe Hisquin: I think it’s very different because what I am doing is French Mandopop which means the way of thinking and the way of writing are different. I use Chinese but my process and the ideas are very different from Chinese songwriters because first I am French, and my brain is French. And also the melody is different, what I like is the melody of pop songs or rock songs. So the melody is different and the way I write the stories is different. 

Host: So I suppose you are trying to create your own style, can I say it is “Dai Liang Style”? 

Christophe Hisquin: It’s French Mandopop, and French interpretation of Chinese culture. 

Host: French interpretation of Chinese culture…and I notice you also have a book called “下有戴亮”, what is it all about? 

Christophe Hisquin: This book has all my stories from when I was 11 to my first album “我记得你” when I was 27 here in China. 

Host: In your book, one point that really strikes me is that you always want to do something different. Could you tell us what it really means for you? 

Christophe Hisquin: I wrote songs, I produced my CD in France. But then I said “no”, I wanted to do something different and how I can do something different, so I started to sing in Chinese. That is something different for me to do in France and in China, though some people may think I am doing something pointless but some people may think it’s really great. Even now I am trying to find new ways and new things to do. To find something different is not easy as it needs imagination but it’s what I like. 

Host: How do you see your future, is that in France or in China? 

Christophe Hisquin: For me, I am never in China or in France, instead I am everywhere. My future would be the place where I have creation to do, where I can perform, and where I can express myself; maybe it’s in China, France or some other countries. So now when I go back to France, I also sing in Chinese as nowadays more and more Chinese people go to France and more and more people are becoming interested in Chinese culture, so there are a lot of things to do not only in China or France but everywhere in the world.

Finally, take your time to enjoy Christophe's Chinese song:


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