“Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand” (Stevie Wonder)
China’s Hunan TV has an extremely popular programme called ‘I am a Singer’ which has been running since 2013. It is a successful singing programme and the ratings for this show are among the highest in China. Re-branded this year to ‘Singer 2017’, this is unlike the familiar shows of ‘X Factor’ or ‘The Voice’ that search for new singers to give them their ‘break’ in the music industry.
‘Singer 2017’ is for established, successful recording artists to compete against each other. It runs from January – April, has 13 episodes with 7 famous singers from differing genres singing against each other. The judges are the audience of 500 and the other competitors and each week the singer with the lowest score is replaced by a fresh artist.
Dimash was invited as the youngest singer in the show’s history to be a ‘wildcard’/’dark horse’ and participate alongside these famous singers. He took on the challenge and looked on this learning experience as a ‘placement’ or ‘internship’ from university and set off to Changsha with his best friend Alpamys Sharimov. Alpamys is a TV producer, PR Manager and managed Dimash’s “Unforgettable Day Tour’ in 2016 and he prioritised supporting Dimash on this venture. As two young men entering a country where they didn’t understand the language, the culture, the cuisine or what was expected of them, this proved to be a very wise decision. Alpamys obviously understands Dimash and what music means to him when he says:
‘Music inspires the whole world, equips souls with wings, and encourages the flow of imagination: music makes every part of existence fun and lively … it can be called an incarnation of everything that is most beautiful and exalted in life’
Clearly both Dimash and Alpamys had worked hard in preparation for their time on ‘The Singer’. Dimash expresses it this way:
‘The way to success requires persistence and effort. I must be rigorous with myself. I must put well-prepared works on stage. I will do my best and make an all out effort’
Alpamys when asked what their toughest moment on the ‘Singer’ was, says:
‘The very first day when we entered the competition. We were very thrilled. Everything to us was for the first time and I even shed a tear … I was extremely happy that for the most part the hard work was over’.
There were nerves and tension in the team around Dimash as he prepared to go on stage but this was eased by Dimash himself, ‘Do not worry, yes? Don’t worry, relax!’ As the ‘wildcard’, Dimash was the first artist to perform as he was not expected to do well against such established artists. The audience, however, were encouraged to make him feel welcome and people were excited for the show to begin so he went on stage to a great reception. At the time the audience and other performers had barely heard of Dimash and had yet to hear him sing.
Alpamys says: ‘In China, we were alone: only me and Dimash and no-one else…unfortunately under the law of China we could not use instagram and facebook so we did not know what was happening in the country…we were very worried before the first performance as we did not know how the first day would work out, how the process would go but all of this was very interesting for Dimash…as you know he sang in French – ‘SOS’ and before he sang he was nervous and prayed a lot…’
He chose to sing the French song, ‘SOS d’un Terrien en Detresse’ (A Soul’s Plea for Help) that was originally from the rock opera ‘Starmania’. To say that both the audience and the other contestants were stunned by his performance would be an understatement!
‘Few had anticipated the jaw-dropping performance as he took a bow, his eyes sweeping over the audience as the lights dimmed. His voice was pure and incredible. It soared and descended with amazing ease and fluidity. It was majestic yet filled with pathos that touched an emotional cord even though most listeners couldn’t understand the lyrics’. (Sakuranotaki)
‘Wow, his voice is amazing. The most exquisite, powerful voice that transcends gender, language and nationalities. That’s the nature of music. Everything else fades at the outset of his singing. This dark horse is very dark’. (Song Ke, CEO of Alibaba Planet)
Meanwhile the news of Dimash’s performance was going viral via all social media sites in China … he literally was becoming an overnight sensation!
Alpamys talks about what they were doing after the performance was broadcast:
‘… we sat in the hotel and did not go out anywhere and went to bed … the next day we wanted to take a walk but Hunan TV were notified: ‘Guys, you better stay in your room, you are very recognisable right now’ but we exclaimed: ‘because of one programme’. We wanted to go anyway, (just how long can you stay in a room) and we needed to at least buy water! As a result, they provided us with four bodyguards. Dimash and I were shocked saying ‘It’s so embarrassing! We are Kazakhs! It’s too pathetic!’ We left and it was only then that we understood as we saw a crowd of people, all shouting: ‘Di-ma-xi, Di-ma-xi! (Dimashi, Dimashi)’
Dimash handled all of this with what has now become his familiar way – with a smile, patience, grace and poise as he walked among the crowd, smiling endlessly for cameras, taking ‘selfies’, shaking hands, holding babies … etc.
China has a huge population (1.4 billion) and it is said that Dimash’s performance was talked about throughout the country over the next few days. There were multi millions of views via the social media networks and he quickly became known as ‘Imported Little Big Brother’! Everyone was anticipating the next performance and they were wondering just what his vocal range was and how high he could sing.
Dimash’s thoughts at this time:
‘I think Episode 2 may be more difficult because I seem to be a guest on Episode 1. After a week, I won’t be a guest any longer’
‘I don’t think I am particularly outstanding. Everyone has unique abilities and features. There is always something in my mind: I will keep singing to let you appreciate the music of Kazakhstan. I will perform to the best of my ability in front of the audience to gain their approval and admiration’.
‘I think not only my family but also 17 million Kazakh and Kazakh’s abroad are all focusing on The Singer’.
‘The most important thing for me is to enjoy the process of the contest. As long as I am acknowledged, loved by the audience, I am ready’.
He chose to sing ‘Opera 2’ by Russian singer Vitas in Episode 2 in some ways, answering the question, ‘just how high can this man sing?’ He sings higher than the original version of the song by modulating three times. The audience and fellow contestants were again astonished by his vocals and performance.
Dimash won 1st place in the first round of 2 episodes and is seen hugging Alpamys who was so pleased that he was in tears. He also couldn’t wait to phone ‘Mama and Papa’ who were waiting into the night to hear from him.
‘Mama, I won the most votes by the audience and other competitors. I am the winner of the first round. I dedicate this victory to you. Please don’t cry … the honour belongs to you’.