Once banned in China, A-Mei rebuilding popularity

By Ralph Jennings  /  REUTERS , TAIPEI

Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 4

Pop star Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹), once banned from performing in China, is using her new album to rebuild her reputation in Asia's biggest market, while Beijing officials use her name to improve political ties.

Right after her album A-Mei Star came out last month, she appeared on Chinese state TV, performed in front of 80,000 people at Shanghai's largest music hall and met with Chinese fans.

More China concerts are set for November as Chang, better known as A-Mei, brushes off her one-time ban and vies with an exploding number of other musicians for popularity in China.

Chang stands out because of her strong voice on light rock tracks covering matters such as love and race relations.

"I felt great, because I was made very welcome," Chang said in an interview. "In China, people's music sophistication has made a lot of progress. They've become pretty sharp."

In 2000, after Chang sang the national anthem at President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration, China stopped her from performing in China until the summer of 2001.

Chinese authorities later wrote off the anthem incident as a "misunderstanding," said Li Peng, assistant director of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute in China.

Chang said the incident was "media exaggeration" and declined to discuss it further.

But the 35-year-old celebrity, who grew up singing for fun in her Aboriginal village, also talks up Taiwan when on the road.

"I wouldn't dare to say I can do a lot, but at least when I perform or when I go abroad to do promotions, I introduce Taiwan," she said.