The expression “the world is her stage” means exactly what it says when it comes to singer, songwriter, musician, award-winner, Olympic torch-bearer, superstar of concerts, films and musicals, the multi-lingual, multi-talented Karen Mok.Eurasian Karen, who has Chinese heritage but also Welsh, Persian and German blood, is from Hong Kong by birth, but in reality she’s from everywhere. In a hugely accomplished career, Karen has repeatedly proved that she’s one of the most distinguished Oriental talents of her generation, but now she’s set to cross the bridge between east and west as never before, on her new album, and first English-language jazz recording, ‘Somewhere I Belong.’
With Karen’s sophisticated approach and with her unique background, this is “jazz, but with a bit of a Chinese approach,” as she describes it. It features an eclectic selection of interpretations plus two Chinese songs (one traditional, one written by Mok herself). The broad palette of ‘Somewhere I Belong’ runs all the way from Cole Porter to Portishead, from Chris Isaak to Sting and from George Gershwin to the Beatles.
“Basically I locked myself in my room and started to imagine what songs I would really want to sing,” explains Karen, whose love of jazz dates from her university days, sparked by such vocal figureheads as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. “It was quite tough just to choose ten songs. It’s a bit like when I do the set list for my own concerts, you want a nice mix. And yes, we even threw in a couple of Chinese songs as well.”The track listing is as varied as the contents of Karen’s iPod. It also embraces pop era classics such s Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ and Sting’s ‘Moon Over Bourbon Street,’ and songs that were already becoming standards long before World War II, such as Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’ and Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love.’
‘Somewhere I Belong’ was recorded in Shanghai, “in an old, very organic studio, all wooden,” as Karen says. It also features her playing the guzheng, the traditional Chinese zither-like instrument she learned many years ago, notably on her imaginative cover of George Harrison’s Beatles classic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’After deciding to interpret the song, Karen decided to go one step further and reinvent Eric Clapton’s famous guitar solo in the Beatles’ original. “I don’t play the guitar, but I do play the guzheng, so I thought, let me do my version of the guzheng gently weeping,” she explains.
“It turns out that when George Harrison wrote that song, he had just read the Chinese Book of Changes, I Ching, so he was suddenly into the balance of the opposites, and the forces that play against each other. Then everything fell into place, because that’s what the I Ching is about: everything happens for a reason, there’s always cause and effect, and nothing just happens for the heck of it. A bit like what’s happened to me in my life.”
And a jazz-tinged album with Portishead’s trip-hop favourite ‘Sour Times’ on it? You bet. “I thought, why not do something really funky and completely unexpected on a jazz album? The melody of ‘Sour Times’ just calls for it to be done in a jazzy way. I love that song, and there’s so much you can do with your vocals, it gives you a lot of scope. It’s a very alternative song, but somehow there’s something oriental about it, it’s eerie at the same time.To reflect her roots and give the album even more Eastern promise, Karen knew she wanted to include two Chinese songs. “Back in the 1930s and ’40s, Shanghai was very happening, it was the Paris of the Orient,” she says. “They did their type of jazz with very typical Chinese melodies, and we had some really big divas from those days. So I redid a famous song called ‘Shanghai Nights,’ and that fits very well with the whole concept of the album.”
Whatever the style, Karen was determined to make each song her own. “There’s no point trying to copy something that’s already great,” she says. “I had a ton of fun, because you’re reinterpreting something in your own way and trying to make it new.””I do feel that jazz is a genre that can cross borders and cultures, and if I try something new, hopefully people who already like my music will be tempted to check it out,” says Karen. It’s yet another exciting challenge for an artist who absolutely thrives on them. 2013 promises to be one of her biggest years yet, with another cinematic landmark on the way, starring in ‘Man Of Tai Chi,’ co-directed by its leading man, none other than Keanu Reeves.
“Maybe because my background was very different to a lot of my school friends, I’ve always felt it’s fun to be different,” she concludes. “I don’t want to be like everyone else.”Malaysia is lucky enough to be one of the stop points for Karen to promote her latest album. It has been 5 years since she last came to Malaysia for MTV Asia Awards in 2008. This time around, it will definitely be a feast to all Karen’s fans and music lovers.
‘Somewhere I Belong’ received an enormous welcome and positive feedback from fellow media and fans. It reaches the #1 spot in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan on the debut release in iTunes. The album launches with the single of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, followed by ‘The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships’. Both singles received good responds despite it is her debut try out on jazz genre. Many was astounded by her vocal ability and versatility. Her latest single of ‘Wicked Game’, she pushes her boundaries bringing more flavors to the already famous hit. Directed by world-acclaimed photographer, Wing Shya, the music video not only showcases Karen’s versatility but a whole new different sensuality to the single.
Karen Mok will be in town from 13th to 16th April to promote ‘Somewhere I Belong’. On this tour, Karen Mok will two activities to engage with her long waited fans. Please find below for the schedule of Karen Mok “Somewhere I Belong” Autograph Session and Fans Gathering (By Invitation Only):
Karen Mok “Somewhere I Belong” Autograph Session
Date : 13/4/2013 ( Saturday)
Time : 8pm
Venue : Upper Atrium, Level UG, Paradigm Mall
Karen Mok “Somewhere I Belong” Fans Gathering (By Invitation Only)
Date : 14/4/2013 (Sunday)
Time : 3pm
Venue : Hibiscus Room, Level 10, Doubletree Hotel by Hilton