Feature: Cuban aspires to become top Chinese singing talent in LatAm
by Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Casual, charismatic and boldly talented defines Dennis Ballard.
Ballard was the winner of Cuba's second Chinese singing contest and became the Caribbean island state's representative for the Latin American competition scheduled for November in Chile.
With the song "Conquering", the amateur musician and a passionate Chinese culture lover, caught the attention of the audience at the competition held on Friday at the Confucius Institute in Havana.
"The song is very beautiful and I really like it. The melody is attractive and it's about a couple who separates and gets back together, it is very metaphorical and with great lyrics," the second-year student of the Confucius Institute told Xinhua.
Although still a Chinese language beginner, Ballard managed to convince the jury, accompanied by the piano to offer a stunning rendition of the song.
"The Chinese language is very difficult for us and I sang it with a lot of effort. Singing in Chinese is complicated because in addition to maintaining the pitch I had to pronounce the tones well," he said.
These were among the elements that impressed Jorge Felix Leyva, singer and teacher at the Amadeo Roldan Music Conservatory and the three Chinese teachers who made up the jury. Among them Wang Huan, a professor at the Confucius Institute.
Wang is proud of what Ballard has achieved, since the success compliments the educational work carried out each day at the institute, where there are hundreds of students studying Chinese.
"He has a soft tone, his pronunciation was very good and we noticed that he worked hard to arrange the song. I think that it not only represents what he has done, but the quality of Chinese language teaching at the Confucius Institute of Havana," she said.
Another eight participants in the contest also showed off not only their vocal skills, but their knowledge of the Chinese language.
"It has been a challenge. The preparation process was difficult, I spent a lot of time studying and reviewing the song," said Gabriela Duconger, who won third place.
The third-year student said practicing the song she chose demanded a lot of study time, since the lyrics required strict pronunciation and learning new Chinese characters.
"For me it was an opportunity to learn new things ... From a musical point of view it was a challenge because music has always been my passion and now I have a new language to express what I feel," she said.
The first edition of the Chinese singing contest in Latin America was held in 2017, when Cuban student Isabel Gutierrez won the final held at the University of Santo Tomas in Chile.
With that precedent, Ballard has a great challenge in repeating the achievement.
"I really didn't expect to win, I participated because I really like learning Chinese. Now I am a bit nervous because I will be representing Cuba," he added.
For the competition in Chile, contestants must produce a music video to be evaluated by an international jury. The jury will nominate nine singers for the final round.
Before singing, each contestant has two minutes to brief the jury on their choice of song and decision to learn Chinese.
The Chinese singing contest is organized by the regional center in Latin America for Confucius Institutes and is sponsored by China's Office of the International Council for the Learning of the Chinese Language, or Hanban.