“The first time I heard the Chinese song Girl in the Flower Room by Chinese rock star Cui Jian, I got the idea of covering it in French, and it turned out pretty good,” French singer and songwriter Joyce Jonathan said.
Known as the “Pop Queen of Chanson” in France, the 28-year-old singer released her first Chinese album Ca Ira on May 16 and toured China from May 19 to June 5 in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
Rising to internet fame
Born on Nov 3, 1989 in Levallois-Perret, France, Joyce Jonathan has always loved to record life through music.
At the age of seven, she learned to play the piano and began composing her first series of songs.
“Music is about love and stories. People of different countries may have language barriers but they can all understand what I am trying to say in my songs, and it is the power of music,” Jonathan said.
In 2005, she posted her musical tracks on the site MySpace, a social networking website, and was able to earn fame on the internet.
Thanks to that fame, Jonathan began recording her first album Sur mes Gardes in May 2010.
It was certified platinum (130,000 album sales) in under a year.
On Jan 23, 2011, she received the NRJ Music Award for Francophone Breakthrough of the Year, marking an important step in her musical career.
“When I win more and more fans, I truly feel very happy. And I like to communicate with my fans and listen to their ideas whenever I can,” she says.
Special feelings for China
Although a French native, Jonathan grew up in a “Chinese-speaking” family.
Her parents worked in China and could speak a little Chinese and one of her sisters has lived in Beijing so far.
“When I was a little girl, I visited Beijing, a very precious memory in my childhood. Passionate and friendly, Chinese people led me into many interesting places,” she recalls.
“The food dumpling and the old places like hutong are really appealing to me.”
Because of her interest in China, the singer began to learn Chinese, and in 2011, she interpreted four of her songs in Chinese for the first time.
“The Chinese language is very beautiful with dynamic rhythms. But Chinese is not easy to learn and I will keep practicing.”
Ready to enter Chinese market
After several years of work, the Ca Ira album was made, which included 10 Chinese songs.
Some of the songs were adapted from French versions, while others are completely new for Chinese fans.
In the album, Joyce Jonathan co-operated with Chinese singer Cui Jian, known as the “Father of Rock” in China.
In April 1989, Cui released the song Girl in the Flower Room in his album Rock and Roll on the New Long March and the song was widely sung by Chinese people in the 1990s.
Twenty-six years later, Jonathan heard the song by chance.
“The song was amazing, both in meaning and melody, and I decided to cover it in French.”
“When I met Cui Jian and communicated with him, I found that he is an insightful musician and has a spirit of rebellion, which really impressed me. And he also gives me inspiring ideas in covering the song,” Jonathan said.
The French version, Tes Deserts, which mean “The Love Desert” in English, was produced in May this year and was a sensation among many French people.
“I could not believe such a romantic song could come from China,” French Facebook user, Zombie Baby, said online.
According to Jonathan, the song proves music is universal and has no boundaries.
“In comparison with Cui’s version, mine tells a story from a female perspective and sounds a little bit softer,” she said.