Ten things about Zhang Yunlei, the artist making Chinese opera cool again

 

Thousands of fangirls singing along to Chinese opera is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, but here we are with Zhang Yunlei.

From a homeless fourth-grade dropout to surviving a four-story fall to becoming one of the hottest new stars making century-old tunes hip again, singer-xiangsheng comedian Zhang Yunlei is a Republican-era prima donna teleported into the modern era. Here are ten things to know and love about rising star Zhang Yunlei.

  1. Thanks to him, millennial fans are singing along to traditional music like Taiping Lyrics version of Madame Lady Snake , Peking Opera Suolin Pouch, modified Suzhou PingtanDongbei errenzhuan , and the extremely catchy Ping Opera Qiankun Belt.
  2. Zhang Yunlei is most widely known for his modern rendition of Beijing folk song Visiting the Qingshui River. He released his first single, Yuzhen, last year, and has already recorded more songs.
  3. Nails from his left leg.

    In August 2016, over twenty terminally ill notices were released for Zhang Yunlei after he fell from the equivalent of a four-story drop-off at a railroad terminal. He miraculously returned to the stage, but with 108 nails inside his body and one less lung.  For his earlier performances, they would wheel him up to stageside, and then he would walk up with the help of his partner, Yang Jiulang.  There have been times where after he goes backstage, they would find out the nails had poked through his ankles and bled all over.

  4. Zhang Yunlei quit school in 4th grade to train under xiangsheng and opera performer Guo Degang.  Zhang Yunlei’s performances of xiangsheng’s special ballad form, Taiping lyrics 太平歌词, are so good that their company still uses recordings of him for lessons. Zhang Yunlei singing Taiping lyrics here.
  5. At the age of 13, he lost his boy soprano voice and thought he would never return to the stage. While getting by on odd jobs in Beijing, he once slept for a month at McDonald’s since it was open all night. Last year, he became a brand ambassador for McDonald’s.

Zhang Yunlei and fans singing Visiting the Qingshui River.

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Lyric translation: Visiting the Qingshui River

Remember how the post on Chinese names mentioned most people use their ming as their first name? Guo Degang’s students are some of the last exceptions in entertainment.  Everyone who studies under Guo Degang receives a zi when they’re deemed worthy. Zhang Yunlei’s Yunlei and his partner Yang Jiulang’s Jiulang are both zi.

A criticism of opium addiction and the oppressive social order during the late Qing dynasty, Beijing folk ballad  Visiting the Qingshui River 探清水河 tells the tragedy of a pair of star-crossed lovers.

Zhang Yunlei singing his popular abridged guitar version with fans:

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Australia to host Zhang Yunlei, Yang Jiulang’s first overseas headlining events

You might not be able to tell by his talk or gait, but Zhang Yunlei has lived with 108 iron nails inside his body for two years after surviving a 20m (65 ft) fall (he was drunk). The nails were only removed a month ago.

One of last year’s biggest breakout pop idols, xiangsheng comedian, Ping opera, Peking opera , xiaoqu, etc. artist  Zhang Yunlei and his partner Yang Jiulang will finally be headlining their first international event this year.  The pair will be at the Melbourne Convention Centre on September 23, The Star Event Centre in Sydney on September 29, and in Auckland on the 26th. 

Tickets for Sydney are already on sale through Wechat (QR code below), and tickets for Melbourne go on sale at noon local time on April 20th here. Tickets for Auckland go on sale on the 23rd here.

The closest thing xiangsheng has gotten to a concert. 

 

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Latest idol competition looks for performers with a Chinese flair

“Honey” Hanikezi / Hankhiz is the breakout star of episode 1, if mostly for her beauty and the equally  gorgeous music+ costume + set + lighting

With a mix of dance, traditional music,  folk music, opera, xiangsheng, and martial arts,  idol competition Chinese Youth 国风美少年 looks for idols who can combine modern performances with traditional Chinese elements. I no longer have any idea how Chinese competitions work, but the three judges are singer Huo Zun, xiangsheng performer Zhang Yunlei, and singer-actress Ju Jingyi.

The show also has its fair share of idol group members as contestants, such as  7Sense’s Li Muzi, Awaken-F‘s Qin Zimo, and SNH48’s Song Xinran. So far, though,  the breakout star so far is actress Hankhiz, whose performance you can watch below:

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