Alan Dawa Dolma: Tibet's 'heavenly' pop singer spreads her wings

Alan Dawa Dolma: Tibet's 'heavenly' pop singer spreads her wings

Alan celebrates her 23rd birthday with a symphony and a growing international audience
alan dawa dolma

Tibetan singer Alan Dawa Dolma will fulfill a dream when she steps onto the stage on July 23 at Shibuya Bunkamura Orchard Hall.

Having studied the traditional erhu (a traditional Chinese two-stringed violin) at both the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and the Art Academy in Beijing, the fast-rising singer will this time be backed with a symphonic band as she shows off her distinctive Tibetan wail amongst her repertoire of J-Pop, ballads and traditional songs.

alan dawa dolma

Exceling in her ethnic language

Known simply as Alan in Japan, the 22-year-old has been something of an anomaly on the roster of Japanese pop giant Avex Entertainment.

While her live shows show her competence at J-pop ballads, it's when she sings in her own ethnic language -- Kham Ke -- that she excels.

Speaking to CNNGo at rehearsals at a Tokyo studio, she reveals that remembering what language to sing in is her biggest pre-performance worry.

"I want to make sure the power of each song is conveyed properly so I concentrate on entering the world of that song," she says.

"When I’m nervous so many things are spinning around my head and right before going on stage I am concentrating to make sure I don’t mix languages!" 

Success with Red Cliff

Alan made her debut solo live show in January 2010, following her breakthrough gigs where she sang the theme songs to both of John Woo's Red Cliff films.

In that performance she finally revealed the range of her vocal talent to several thousand fans. 

"I was quite anxious about it all, there were 23 songs and I was concerned if my voice could get through it all. I need to reach exactly the right key for many of them.

I took medicated drops for my throat and ice tea, but where I come from spicy food is common and I wanted to eat it. But spicy food and water is not good for singing."

alan dawa dolmaAlan on stage at her debut live show in JapanAdjusting to life in Japan

Born in Kangding, in a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, China, Alan moved to Tokyo in 2006 following Avex auditions in China.

Initially concerned about the move, she has now picked up Japanese thanks to diligently carrying around a notebook for new words, and despite promotion trips to China and Hong Hong --  she has also released two Chinese albums -- Tokyo is her base. 

"I’ll be staying in Japan for most of this year, but I may go back to China for fun sometimes, and to see my family," she says.

Heavenly maiden

She has begun to notice international interest however. During a recent promotion in Hong Kong many non-Asians came to wish her well at a signing, while audiences at her Japan shows are beginning to show more diversity.

Alan's name, as with most newborns in Tibetan tradition, was bestowed by a lama (Buddhist teacher), and means "a heavenly maiden of the moon."

The demands of her schedule have left her somewhat isolated and alone in Tokyo, but since early 2010 she has been communicating with fans through her new passion, twitter.

"Twitter helps me to keep contact with fans, it brightens up people and makes their day it seems, so I can spread peace and love and I like the direct contact."


Alan Symphony 2010 - July 23rd and 24th, Shibuya Bunkamura Orchard Hall

Address: Tokyu Bunkamura Inc., 24-1, Dogenzaka 2-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.

tel. +81 (0) 3 3477 9111

Robert Michael Poole is a specialist on the Japanese music and entertainment scene.

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