From a young age, Claudio Colombo was always interested in music.
Now he has made his mark on Chinese pop culture, writing lyrics for movies and performing in his own musical theatre, which he performs at Chinese audiences.
With a new opera about the life of Chinese composer Wang Yi in the works, the 31-year-old is also creating his own music in Beijing.
Colombo, whose debut as a soloist in 2008 was followed by the success of his second solo album in 2009, said he wanted to create a sound that could bridge the gap between the Chinese public and the music industry.
“Music has always been the most universal language in China,” he said in an interview from Beijing.
“The people are very interested in it, the artists are very passionate about it, but they don’t have much exposure to it.
I was born in China, so I can relate to it from the beginning.”
I’ve always been interested in performing, I said, adding that it’s always been a way of life.
I’ve always wanted to be a part of that, he said.
“I’ve never felt comfortable in performing in front of audiences.”
While he is now an international artist, Colombo has lived in China since 2005, and his musical performances are largely improvised.
His stage persona, which involves him walking through a street and speaking in Mandarin, is one that is popular in Beijing, where his concerts have attracted audiences of as many as 100,000.
While there are few examples of Chinese artists performing internationally, the genre of contemporary music in China is dominated by Western-style pop, and Colombo’s stage persona plays on both sides of the Chinese divide.
Colombian pianist and writer Claudio Colombero performs during the International Piano Concerto in Beijing on May 10, 2017.
Colompo has been in China performing for more than a decade and has had success with his solo work.
He said his Chinese audiences have come to see him as a performer of Chinese folk music.
“I want to bring some elements of traditional Chinese folk and folk music back to the mainland, and show that they are also alive and alive in China today,” he explained.
“It’s not only Chinese people who have this interest.
There are also some people in Europe who are interested in the Chinese culture.”
Colombo said his show in Beijing is about a different type of folk music from traditional Chinese music, and is also about the music of his homeland.
“My main inspiration is the Chinese folk singers, but I also want to do something different, and I want to try and bring something different to the audience,” he added.
Columbo’s performance has been hugely popular, but it has also attracted criticism from some Chinese musicians.
In a recent editorial in The New York Times, pianist Wang Yuqin accused Colombo of exploiting Chinese folk culture for profit.
“China’s folk music is part of its cultural identity,” Wang wrote, calling Colombo a “cultured and expensive fraud.”
“In my opinion, his production of ‘Crazy’ is a cheap ploy to generate money for the Chinese people, who are the ones who have been hurt the most,” he wrote.
Columbo’s production has been a hit in China.
In the past year alone, he has performed at more than 100 shows, including a Beijing concert for Chinese authorities.
He has also appeared in a documentary on China’s culture called “Fashion” and has written a memoir.
Colomero, who is the son of a retired diplomat, said that while he does not feel like he is a native of China, he does understand how much it means to live in the country and its people.
“The idea that I’m a Chinese person in China and that I can write songs and have my music performed is something that I really feel very connected to,” he told The Globe and Mail.
“As an artist, I’m not the only one who is going to be able to do this.”