String sensation

The Nation - Monday, April 04, 2005

Vanessa-Mae talks about her music, her stardom and her life off the stage

Violin prodigy Vanessa-Mae performs tomorrow at the Thailand Cultural Centre in the final event of the “Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace” series. The show is organised by the Bangkok Opera Foundation and the International Peace Foundation to assist victims of the tsunami tragedy.

Born to a Chinese mother and Thai father in Singapore, Vanessa-Mae made her debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra when she was just 10 and was the youngest student ever to be admitted to the Royal College of Music the next year. She had three records under her belt by the time she was 14.

“Violin Player”, her first album in 1994, arguably kick-started the notion of fusing classical music with pop, now a popular process called a “crossover”. Her seventh album “Choreography”, which came out last year, supports her credentials as a crossover pioneer. Though looked down upon by traditionalists, the 25-year-old’s pop versions have been very successful and made her very wealthy.

Vanessa-Mae took some time out to answer questions about herself and her career in an e-mail interview:

You have been credited with popularising and nurturing a love of the violin among young people. How do you feel about that?

I feel happy that more people have discovered how wonderful and versatile the violin can be.

What would you suggest to a young person who’s interested in taking up the violin?

Take it up first as one of many hobbies before deciding to make it the top priority in your life.

How do you balance classical and pop music in your repertoire? It’s been said that your pop-classical style is interesting but that it doesn’t do justice to your talent.

Fusing classical and contemporary styles in my own music seems natural to me because I grew up loving both.

You have said earlier that you gave up a bit of childhood and it was worth it. With all your fame, do you manage to do what normal young women do?

It’s not realistic to expect to be able to lead a carefree childhood if you are also hoping to start a career at a young age. Since I became independent in my 20s, I’ve started enjoying more free time and catching up on a few things.

Are you able to do things like going to the park, restaurants or the cinema? Do you have problems with the paparazzi?

Ever since I began 10 years ago, I’ve always maintained a very low profile off the stage. So, unless there’s a sudden flare-up in gossip, I get to enjoy my privacy.

Thais and other Asians still remember you in a television commercial for a car company, in which you looked great. What persuades you to endorse a product?

I have to believe in its potential.

You’ve said you are usually involved in designing what you wear on stage. Do you take the latest trends into account when working with your team or do you have your own ideas?

I don’t spend much time thinking about fashion. I enjoy the unexpected, so I would never dress in something that is obviously the “look” now.

Do you take part in any sporting activities?

I love skiing. I try to ski for a couple of months each year.

When was the last time you visited Thailand?

I last visited Thailand on tour in 2002 and stayed on for a week for a holiday. I love Thailand, Thai people and Thai food, especially since I’m half-Thai!

How many instruments do you have? Which one is your favourite?

I’ve one acoustic violin and several electrics. I’ve only had one full-size acoustic violin since the age of 10 and it’s a Guadagnini made in 1761.

The concert is at 8pm tomorrow at the Thailand Cultural Centre’s Main Hall. Tickets cost Bt4,000, Bt3,000, Bt2,000 and Bt500 and are available at Thaiticketmaster. Call (02) 262 3456 for more information.