Voice in a mask

Voice in a mask

A Chinese teacher has shot to fame with her unique act as a singer. And she is not afraid to speak her mind

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The mystery of masked singer Lung Siu-kwan's true identity has deepened interest in her.
The mystery of masked singer Lung Siu-kwan's true identity has deepened interest in her.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

The Chinese teacher penned the words for a song and set them to the music of Bitter Melon (苦瓜) by Eason Chan Yik-shun. She wanted to raise her students' interest in their native tongue.

But her own interest in singing was also aroused. She sang her song and posted it in a video on YouTube.

Her name is Lung Siu-kwan and you know her as the masked singer. The teacher turned internet star has been performing ever since behind a pale anime-character-like mask.

Lung's true identity is a secret, but her artistic name - which means a dragon with germs - reveals something about her. Dragons are powerful mystical creatures, while germs are tiny but can survive in the most adverse conditions on Earth.

The singer wears her mask for several reasons. One is to prove that it is the voice of the singer that matters, not her looks.

A few years ago, Lung attended a singing competition while she was severely overweight. The judges liked her singing but made harsh comments about her body shape.

She also wants to protect her identity to avoid a clash between her soaring stardom and teaching career.

But her coyness about her identity doesn't mean she is coy about other issues, too. On her Facebook page, Lung talks openly about political and social issues. She has been calling for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down following his illegal structures scandal. During the anti-national education protests, she was also a regular performer on stage.

She has received anonymous threatening calls in return.

Some people might argue that hiding her face is not a good career move for a singer. By concealing herself, a singer risks losing her unique charisma. In Lung's case, however, the result has been just the opposite. The mystery of her true identity has deepened interest in her. She has more than 40,000 fans on Facebook, and more than 5,000 subscribers on You Tube.

Lung is probably the first singer in Hong Kong to ask her fans to pay a deposit before they get her CDs.

"I wanted to release an album. But Dean [Lung's adviser] told me it costs HK$40,000 to record one song," she recalls.

An album with 10 songs would cost up to HK$400,000, and as a young teacher, she had only HK$80,000 in savings. "I asked Dean if he would buy my CD. He said he'd buy two so I asked him to give me HK$1,000 as a deposit," she says.

This spur-of-the-moment idea soon took off. She and her team started raising funds for her CDs every time they played a gig on the streets.

"We ended up raising HK$200,000," she says. "After that, I signed up with a record company that chipped in with the rest."

Lung released her debut album, Who Can Listen To Me Sing? (誰可聽我唱歌), in November. She has tracked down fans who had given her money so she could deliver a copy of her CD to them personally.

"Some people lived really far," she adds. "One time, we drove somewhere very far. After I gave the fan the CD, he gave me a dragon fruit which he had grown in his garden."

The singer admits that covering her face for so long with a mask has affected her lungs. But she will carry on with her act.

"I have written three songs already since the start of the year," she says.

One new song will be about staying positive when facing harsh comments from bullies.

Lung urges young people to try hard to find their true interests and follow their dreams no matter what.

The singer should know it works: not even her mask can hide who she really is.

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