Mu Qian is a Chinese music critic and regular columnist for the state-owned China Daily newspaper. You might remember his less-than-generous comments when D-22 shut its doors for good last year. This time however, he is both measured and magnanimous in his praise for Yunggiema (央吉玛), a folk singer from the Menba minority who ruffled certain feathers in the indie scene when she appeared on Chinese Idol, the regionalized version of Pop (and American) Idol.
Yunggiema is a well-respected singer of folk music, many drawing on Menba traditions. When she chose to appear on Chinese Idol, Mu relays, some of her cohorts in the smaller scene worried that the show’s mainstream appeal would harm her image as an independent artist. However, Mu argues that singers like Yunggiema (who is referred to as “Yangjima” in the article; the Pinyin transliteration of her name in Mandarin) are much more interesting to watch than the cookie-cutter wannabe pop stars usually flooding these talent shows.
Appearing or not appearing on a talent show has little or no relationship to Yunggiema’s actual talent, which is needless to say formidable. But Chinese Idol, which regularly pulls in millions on viewers per episode, gives artists like Yunggiema national exposure that playing club gigs or even music festivals cannot hope to match. She is through to the finals and if you think about it, when was the last time you watched American Idol or The X Factor and saw someone as distinctively talented as her make it to the Top 12?
Watch a video of Yunggiema performing on Chinese Idol: