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Mandopop with a South African Twist

Classically trained singer has moved into the world of Mandopop

She looks like the sun. Her personality is warm and beaming and this is most evident when you talk to her. Eli Zaelo grew up as the only daughter in a very close-knit family in Pretoria, South Africa. From the start, Eli gives us the impression of a young woman who is very well educated.

Moreover, she is classically trained and she has an overtly, upbeat disposition. This combination of traits makes her very pleasant to speak with. They also make watching her perform, a very enjoyable experience.

This may have been the easiest interview I have ever done. It was obvious to me that Eli is no stranger to being in front of the camera. Her previous interviews and performances have seasoned her when it comes to engaging with her audience.

The conversation flowed naturally. The pauses and breaks were perfectly timed. Thoughts were expressed completely and with poise. Due to her background, Eli made both of us look extremely professional.

Eli Zaelo spoke to BlackAsiaMagazine about her background. In Pretoria, she grew up in the sight of educated, black professionals. The facts of her origins definitely came across in the interview. As a black woman, living abroad, Eli carries herself with the dignity and a regality that her upbringing instilled in her.

On the flip side, she grew up in a place where most everyone is black and specifically Tswana, her mother’s ethnic group. She suffered something of a shock when she moved to Hong Kong where black people are a minority.

Eli shared with us how this made her feel. Being in HK made her acutely aware of how a black person should present herself on the world stage. She was already doing this but now she knows she is doing it. Being in HK has also brought a closeness to the African community there. Barriers of national, ethnic and cultural origin melt away as the Africans there are compelled to focus on their similarities above all else.

South Africa has 11 official languages. In light of this, I don’t think there are any South Africans who can only speak 1 language. To live in any city in South Africa, you need to pick up the other languages around you, almost by osmosis. Proximity to another languages makes you capable of, at least being able to understand.

Being a natural linguist is one of the factors that has catapulted her onto the scene of Mandopop. Mandopop is short for Mandarin pop music. This is the first time I’d ever heard of this genre. I know K-pop and J-pop but Mandopop is entirely new to me. I had also never seen a traditional South African dance performance. Both can be seen in Eli’s videos which are now on Youtube.

Showcasing art and culture like hers is exactly what BlackAsiaMagazine is all about. We love to analyze the cultural art forms that black bring to Asia from their respective homelands. It is also of great interest to us, to know how these cultures are being infused with the local Asian cultures where these new comers find themselves.

Although some of her songs are in Cantonese, Eli focuses mainly on her Mandarin when she sings. The style Eli brings to Mandopop makes her stand out. She blends English and Mandarin with the styles of rhythm and dance that South Africa taught her.

I am certain that we will be tracking Eli Zaelo’s career as she meets with greater and greater success and becomes a bigger and bigger star in the world of Mandopop.

What do you think?

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