“I am still young and I still have so much to learn” (Dimash)
Relationship with the other competitors
Although it was a competition, the other singers were very supportive of Dimash and he soaked up their expertise and experience. He repeatedly acknowledged and showed his appreciation for all that he was learning from them and showed them deep respect:
‘It’s an honour for me to just walk alongside such famous singers, to say hello to them and talk with them and singing on the same stage is a dream’
‘Since I came to China, I have had the extraordinary support of conoisseurs of art, they lifted me to the sky and did not let my feet touch the ground. I say thank you’.
Dimash is fun to be around and despite the language difficulties, there were jokes and humour among them. He was seen hugging them, given his 6’3” height, often lifting them off their feet! He was relaxed, spontaneous and there is footage of him playing piano for a sing-a-long, pushing a contestant on a trolley, receiving gifts, teasing and having a good time with them.
When he lost his voice (just prior to episode 8, ‘Daybreak’) and had to have hospital treatment, one of the other contestants bought him ‘liquid gold’ (very expensive) medicine to help his throat! There was genuine concern for him clearly written on the faces of the other contestants when he was performing that night. After singing, he said to them:
‘When I am nervous, I talk with friends, share with those in my inner circle, talk about what makes me nervous. Your encouragement and applause help me forget any worries or unpleasantries’
During the series, he formed really positive relationships and even gained several adopted relatives, much to everyone’s amusement – ‘Papa’ Terry Lin, ‘Uncle’ Li Jian and ‘Godmother’ Han Hong (all veteran singers).
Musicians and Orchestra
The ‘Singer’ has an amazing orchestra which showcased Dimash’s singing talents beautifully but even they were surprised by his ‘hands on’ approach to each song’s arrangement.
‘It’s surprising that such a young singer has such great mastery over music arrangement’. (Musical Director – ‘The Singer’)
Dimash works incredibly hard and this was his most challenging competition. He selected cover songs that are known to be difficult, in different languages (including some, like Mandarin, where he was learning from scratch) and in different genres but due to the commercial commitments of the show plus having to deal with his increasing popularity (everyone wanted a ‘little piece of him’), his workload became extremely heavy giving him little preparation time for each episode. It was not surprising that he developed a severe throat infection and lost his voice mid-way through the series. However, he continued to do everything that he could to please his audience and ‘put his best works on stage’. No one has ever heard him complain about the work schedule but it was noticed that he and his team were seen wearing shirts with the slogan ‘I need a sleep’! It is concerning to hear of someone singing in three different cities, at three differing venues, with three interconnecting flights in one day!
Dimash struggled with this, which is not surprising given that this was his first time away from home and his homeland for a prolonged period. Of course, his family were missing him too so his father, Kanat, taught ‘Mama’ how to use ‘WhatsApp’ so that she could keep in regular contact!
Dimash, if he can’t find words for how he is feeling, sings. It was noted that whenever he was homesick he was heard singing ‘Daybreak’. This Han Hong song is one of his favourites and he recalls that when he first heard it at the age of 10 his whole body ‘shook’. It reminds him of the importance of family.
No one will forget that during Episode 2 ‘Opera 2’, unbeknown to Dimash, his father, Kanat had flown to China and was in the audience. Kanat didn’t want Dimash to know that he was there until after his performance as he didn’t want him to be distracted although he had discreetly looked at his room and checked things out (what parent doesn’t understand that!). Everyone witnessed his father’s salute at the end of the song and the pride on his face and then the joy on Dimash’s when he looked over towards his team and saw him. Their mutual love shone and the hugs were huge!
‘I miss you. I want to come home’ (Dimash)
‘We miss you too. You belong here. We will support you’ (Kanat)
When things got to him:
Dimash clearly became upset following the pop classic ‘Uptown Funk’ (Episode 5). He was the first to sing, had both the audience and his fellow contestants on their feet singing along, dancing and clapping and he was full of energy and youthful fun. However, when it was noticed that he was down and was asked ‘what’s up?’ following this performance, unusually he asked for the cameras to be turned off. He later said:
‘I was really distressed two days ago’
‘This is not the type of song that I would usually sing’
‘I must work harder. I must be responsible to my fans. Furthermore, keep their concentration and passion’
It is difficult to know what was going on for him or what he was thinking or feeling. Was he disappointed with being placed 6th (his lowest ranking) – possibly. Had he chosen a song with words/meaning that he was uncomfortable with – again, possibly as all his other songs have a huge emotional content that he ‘feels/lives’ when he is singing. Had the impact of the past few weeks, his sudden rise to fame and all that goes with it ‘hit him’? Personally, I believe that he was disappointed with his ranking and with the song but this only brought home to him all that was happening to him. His life was now changing radically and he suddenly felt the heavy weight of responsibility for this and for those supporting him.
Dimash tells how much he loved all of his time on ‘The Singer’ and how these experiences are embedded in his heart. However, there are clearly three highlights during his time on the show:
1. Together with Alpamys, he had the opportunity to be the 1st Celebrity Explorer for the ‘I’m in China’ programme. This initiative is set up to enable people from around the world to go to Sichuan to experience first hand the people, rich culture, cuisine and natural beauty of the area. Dimash dreamt of being able to see the giant pandas whilst he was in China and this dream was fulfilled during this experience and he was allowed to feed one of the babies! He and Alpamys clearly enjoyed their visit in Sichuan.
2. His mother, Sveta, talks of receiving a phone call from a stunned Dimash and Alpamys one day. They had received a call to say that they had been invited to meet their favourite film star, Jackie Chan. They were due to meet him the following morning and they were both at a loss as to what to take as a gift for him as Kazakhs’ who are known for their hospitality. The family made a phone call to Kazakh friends in China and a beautiful ‘Shapan’ (traditional coat) and Dombra were flown overnight for them to take! Dimash acted like an excited child at meeting his hero and they got on well together (singing, dancing, talking) and promised many more meetings.
3. In Episode 7 of ‘The Singer’, Dimash probably fulfilled his biggest dream by singing the Kazakh folk song ‘Daididau’ bringing his beloved Kazakhstan and it’s culture to the show and to it’s viewers.
Dimash walked onto the stage and joined seven of his colleagues who had flown in from the Kazakh National University of Arts, all of them dressed in national costume with traditional instruments. He picked up his Dombra and quietly knelt and played ‘Aday’ as a prelude before singing a beautifully accompanied folk song. It touched the hearts of everyone even though they did not understand the lyrics and it was a joy to see the look of pride on his teacher’s faces in the audience that night.
Dimash was nervous but also very excited before the performance and wanted to do his absolute best. When he saw how everyone loved the song, he was happy and became overwhelmed.
‘Dimash first shed tears of joy when he sang the song Daididau. He cried because he could sing a Kazakh song to a multi-million audience’. (Alpamys)
‘When we got there for our performance, Dimash did worry a lot because it was going to be the first time a Kazakh folk song was performed in China. However he trusted in us, we were going to make it together. We also collaborated together with the song, to demonstrate Kazakh musical instruments. I consider it as a breakthrough that people had the opportunity to see and enjoy the sounds of our national instruments, it was definitely a historic event for us’. (Sadzhana Murzaliyeva – Teacher, Kazakhstan University of Arts)
‘It should be noted that to choose songs for your repetoire is a decision of great responsibility. One cannot select any song. It largely depends on a singer’s voice, range, mood and whether the singer likes the song or not. Dimash took a great responsibility to choose and sing ‘Daididau’ and through this the world has the opportunity to be acquainted with our beautiful songs. I’m glad he has the good taste in selecting the best’. (Yeskendir Khasangaliyev – National Artist of Kazakhstan)