Chinese singer-songwriter Ye Bei releases her new album, In Love While Floating, after a nine-year hiatus. [China Daily]
In 1994, Ye Bei, a freshman from the China Conservatory of Music, planned to work her way through college. The Beijing native, who was born to a pianist mother and an engineer father, then played the piano in hotel lobbies and also sang at pubs.
One day, she was approached at a pub by Gao Xiaosong, the songwriter of the pop hit, My Desk Mate, which was then sweeping the country.
"I was impressed by her voice. Though there was no customers in the pub that day, she still sang seriously," says Gao, a dropout from Tsinghua University, who later went on to become the chairman of the Alibaba Music Group, a music company under China's internet giant, Alibaba.
Ye says she remembers him as having thin, messy hair and pimples.
About a month after the meeting, Gao invited Ye to record some demos, which later became some of the biggest hits in the country. The songs included No Regrets For Our Youth, Flying White Dress and Rain After B Minor.
The life-changing cooperation with Gao also introduced Ye to some of the biggest names of the country's music scene, including Lao Lang, Xiao Ke and Pu Shu.
These people, including Ye, are known as the pioneers of the golden days of China's "campus folk music" in the 1990s.
China's campus folk music is characterized as being driven by acoustic guitar and piano with lyrics about campus romances, university life and youth.
Now, decades later, on a chilly autumn night, these people meet again to celebrate Ye's latest album, In Love While Floating, at Blue Note Beijing.
The show sold out quickly and audiences embarked on a journey through time, not just because of the pop hits she performed that night, but also thanks to the musician friends who share the stage with her.
"It's good to have them with me after 20 years. They've witnessed my growth and I am so lucky that we can still sing together," says Ye, a day after the concert.
In Love While Floating is Ye's fifth full-length album, which sees her return after a nine-year hiatus. This is her first album, where all the songs－10 of them－are written and coproduced by her.
With her story-like lyrics and smooth melodies, the audience detect a transition.
In 2008, after releasing her album, I Want My Freedom, Ye slowed down and withdrew from the limelight.
"When fame came, I was young ... But being a public figure made me feel anxious. I wanted to live a real life, like buying food at supermarkets and going to cinemas. So I opted out," says Ye.
For the past nine years, Ye has lived the life she wanted. However, music has always been a big part of her life. Time did not dull her edge and passion for music. She listens to music and writes music every day.
In 2014, she decided to release an album, viewing life like a movie.
"I have the habit of writing down about events in my life. Music is also a way to document life," she says. "It's a kind of departure for me. Each song contains different colors, like the movies."
Then, instead of turning to friends, Ye invited Zhao Zhao to be the producer.
"He didn't know me. We started from scratch," says Ye.
The title song of the album is performed by Ye and rock singer-songwriter Xu Wei.
In a message Xu sent to Ye after the concert, he says: "Whenever I sing with you, I feel warm and happy like a child."
Xu and Ye go back a long way. It was Xu who produced Ye's second album, Pisces, 15 years ago, and wrote a song for her, called Rainbow.
Speaking about the recent concert, she says: "He (Xu) gave me a big yes when I invited him to sing with me," adding that Pisces is the only album that he produced. "I really feel proud about that, you know."
Meanwhile, the latest album also has songs, such as Growing Old Together, which Ye wrote to remember her past relationships; To My Dearest, which she dedicates to her late grandfather, and Red Dragonfly, which is a birthday gift she gave to her friend.
Speaking about her work, music producer Long Long, who produced Ye's third album, The Source of Happiness, in 2004, says: "She is a versatile singer and she has tried many different music styles besides folk music. But what makes her unique is her pursuit of beauty in music. Instead of following any trend, she knows what she wants to say."
Asked about her plans, Ye says she doesn't want to get too busy as she usually does when releasing a new album.
"I feel relieved after singing the songs at the concert. I don't want to set a goal for myself, like another album or tour, but one thing is for sure. I enjoy music and the process of making it.
(Source: China Daily)