AAP staff report
KAUA‘I, Hawai‘i — After a successful debut EP, “B-Side” in 2010, Baiyu released “Fanfare” in 2011, just days prior to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. She decided then and to offer all profits from song downloads and sales to support relief efforts.
“It was so immediate,” said Baiyu. “As an artist and as a human being, I wanted to know what could I do to help.”
As a Chinese American and an immigrant since the age of eight, Baiyu said she is sensitive to the cold history between China and Japan. To her it was important to drop pretenses and do what is right in this tragedy. “This is my way to say, ‘here are my open arms’,” she added.
Baiyu interviewed prior to her performance in the Aloha Kaua‘i benefit concert for Japan concert in Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i on August 14. She had lived there for six months in 2010 and wrote and recorded several songs and even used the beauty of the island to film her promotional videos.
She said the Garden Island is a world of difference from the hustle and bustle of New York City, a place she also hold special for the energy and vitality she grabs in handfuls to energize her creative talents.
Baiyu released her second EP, “Fan Fair”, last April, and the video from the single, “Together”, began airing this August on MTV Netowork’s Logo TV. It was exciting for the artist to return to the network she worked at in college as the first permanent video jockey host on MTV’s “The Freshman” which ran from 2002-2008. She held on to the job until she graduated while also pursuing modeling, acting, kickboxing, Chinese dance and ballet.
Born as Sara Baiyu Chen in Xiamen, southeastern China, she recall wonderful memories of a charming city with great food, great shopping and even better scenery. She was living in poverty but it was also a happy childhood with loving parents and a beautiful city.
“I still vividly remember my mom running around the courtyard doing chores, but at the same time, singing the most beautiful melodies as she worked,” said Baiyu. “As soon as I was old enough to join a school choir, I was all for it, and even put on some solo performances as early as preschool. I adore going through old pictures, because it really does remind me of the beginning, and of the genuine love of music that’s been there since the very start of it all.”
At age eight her parents moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland, which was more about her future than their happiness and Baiyu said she is eternally grateful to them for their sacrifices.
“It was culture shock, but in a great way,” she added. “The lifestyle in China was minimalistic, and now I was in an All-American neighborhood with all the amenities, a school bus, a bath tub that always had hot water!”
Baiyu had a traditional upbringing but her music interests were drawn more toward Whitney Houston than to her Chinese folk songs. She said these completely different forms of vocal expression compelled her creativity on a more personal level.
She developed spiritual roots and sang with high school choirs in Maryland and at Princeton University. She studied sociology and described herself as a people-person who defines personal success as being able to channel her energy in a positive way. This pursuit was a gateway to human and societal insights, she said.
“It challenged me to look at life and situations in a way that I may not have previously,” she added. “The tradeoff is seriously pursuing passions and I am extremely determined.”
Baiyu describes her sound as a fusion of introspective “eclectic pop and R&B” with a sense of international perspective. “Every song starts with a concept that is usually true to life,” she said.
With the decline of the major record labels Baiyu has found a niche in using many forms of digital and social media to get her songs out in audio and video. From this exposure she is able to attract live concert performances, independent film work and endorsement contracts She sells her CDs on location and online.
“Being in New York there are more opportunities in the city and to network and you have friends in that space,” she said. “NYU has lot of film student look for people to cast in roles.”