Interview by ND, based in Hong Kong
Under the galaxy ceiling in a cozy attic, Karmen Cheung, 25, sits cross-legged on the floor singing with her guitar to bid farewell to her artist friend. Women in their flowery beach dresses play African drums and Ukulees while men spin poi, a performing art style originating from the Maori people of New Zealand.
It is dark and quiet outside but the beach house is lit up by beautiful lyrics and melodies. This group of musicians and artists is what Karmen calls her Lantau family.
Having toured around the world including the U.S., Taiwan, Malaysia and Japan while producing her first EP, Karmen says she is excited and determined for her future.
Karmen will also sing, dance and act for the first time on stage where she will play a dancer in the Broadway musical A Chorus Line, produced by Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation (YAF). She is among twenty people selected from about 700 people who auditioned for different roles in this production.
Art Zeen met with Karmen Cheung for a chat after her recent Fukuoka tour, which celebrated Asian artists.
Karmen Cheung: When I was three…the earliest memory I had was watching my favorite singer dancing across the stage, just shining. I remember thinking to myself that I was going to become that person on stage one day.
Art Zeen: Can you tell us a bit more about your character in A Chorus Line?
Karmen Cheung: The show is about some dancers auditioning for a show. I play Sheila who had a really difficult childhood.
Art Zeen: How do you relate to the character?
Karmen Cheung: I have been very afraid to shine. When I was about 17 or 18, I went to an audition with my best friend. He got in but I didn’t. You know, I thought to myself – how could I not get selected? Then I realized that I was holding back. Fear is really a liar. All the lies that your mind tells you that you are not pretty enough or good enough – these were all the thoughts going through my head so I can really relate to Sheila as she describes overcoming her fears and following her dreams in the musical.
Art Zeen: What was busking at LKF like?
Karmen Cheung: It was one of the happiest times in my life. My friends and I usually started late and played till dawn on weekend nights. It was so organic, the audience didn’t need to pay to listen to my music – it was just pure sharing. There were all sorts of people with all sorts of emotions at LKF and we connected through music.
Art Zeen: You performed at Black Rock Desert for a few hundred people in 2012 on your Burning Man Tour, what do you remember the most from that experience?
Karmen Cheung: Jeff Marx, the producer of the Broadway show Avenue Q. came up to me and said that I was a natural leader and that I was floating in my rhythm. It was just that amazing feeling of connecting to another soul.
Art Zeen: Is Hong Kong your dream place to produce music? Or do you see yourself moving somewhere in the future?
Karmen Cheung: I am a global girl and I can see myself living anywhere in the world. But I question the motivation behind some people who travel to show off. They visit lots of places just so they can put up photos on Facebook. What’s the point of that?