COURTESY OF COJODA PRODUCTIONS
Kalani High School grad David Wong, under his other name Huang Dawei, is one of the most well-known pop music artists in China.
Chinese pop star visits his Kalani High roots
China resident David Wong has been back in town to attend his high school reunion. All the way from Kalani High School's class of 1977, Wong said, "It was my first one back. I've been away for 20 years and it was a lot of fun.
"I made it a point to meet as many of my classmates as possible. I didn't recognize anyone and they didn't recognize me," he said with a laugh.
Well, after they read this, they'll better know David Wong who, under his other name Huang Dawei, is one of the most well-known pop music artists in China.
On the Net
To hear Wong's Olympic-nominated song "Wishing Star," go to www.huangdawei.com.
Oh, and a song of his is up for contention as the official theme song of the 2008 Summer Olympics, to be held in Beijing.
While this is the first time Wong has been back for his high school reunion, he said he does travel to Hawaii once in a while, a place he considers home and one where he started his lengthy music career, playing in the Krush and Triad starting in the mid-1980s, before heading west to Asia in '89.
HE USUALLY converses in either Mandarin or Cantonese, and Wong said that this was probably his first English language interview in about a decade.
Known to liberally mix rock and jazz into his music, Wong has just put out his eighth album, "Passion." The award-winning Wong would normally be out on tour to support it, but things are on hold while he waits to see whether his gossamer ballad "Wishing Star" will become the official Olympics theme song.
It's available in both Mandarin and English versions, and Wong said that "if I were to describe my song, it would be one written through the eyes of children. My concept was that, during those two weeks, Beijing will be that star. It will be a time where I wish that my country will win many gold medals and be true to the spirit of the Olympics.
"The best comment I've heard about my song is that it's very Disneyland-like, which is perfect, because all of those classic tunes, while very naive in feeling, are also very sophisticated in structure. They're timeless."
Wong's "Wishing Star" was the 2005 winner of the four-year-long song competition, and is reportedly the No. 1 nominee out of 18,000 entries from around the world. "I've heard from the nominating committee that it's still the most listenable and durable of all of the songs."
Regardless of what happens to "Wishing Star," Wong said, "It'll be just one more credit to my name, but as a Chinese and as a composer, that's pretty tops. Personally, it's good to give back to my country, my motherland (he was born in Hong Kong), although I was raised in Hawaii. Pop music is what I do, and it's an opportunity do a little something for China."
WONG SPLITS his residency between Taipei, Beijing and Hong Kong throughout the year, and his career also includes being a sought-after arranger, composer and producer.
"For a working musician, I'm doing OK," he said with some understatement. "Since I decided to move in '89, I've focused on doing original music and getting my creative voice out there. It's been hard and uphill, but it's paid off.
"When I started off in Japan doing commercial music 18 years ago, it was definitely the wild, wild East. Everything was up for grabs. There was no song publishing, and karaoke was king. It was exciting because I started there knowing a little bit about publishing, and how things in the West worked. Even though certain things didn't end up working there, one thing that was sure was that a good tune is a good tune, regardless of where you are.
"I think there's been a tremendous change in my music over the years. I'm most well-known for my ballads, but I'm a rocker and punker at heart. There's still that underlying energy in my music overall. ... While the usual shelf life for a pop star is two to five years, I've been at it for 18. And while I'll always stick to my brand of ballads, I also do a lot of experimental music.
"I have a new studio that's finishing up building in Beijing. I love working with new artists. I always try to mix things up and stay ahead of the game by listening to new stuff."
Does Wong foresee someone like himself crossing over to a Western audience?
"We've already had movie stars and directors accepted in America, but music is kind of lagging behind. It may take something like 'Wishing Star' to help open up things, but for me, I want to be recognized by my own peers and market first. There's a time for everything."