Sunday, November 25, 2007

My brief turn as a recording artist...

The other day I was walking down the street with my new friend Nancy on my way to Nuer Shi Jie (a shopping paradise I've written about before; the English Translation is "Women's World") when someone came running after us frantically. She asked if I was an English teacher. This is a frequent question and my usual response is that I already have too many students and can't accept more right now. (Otherwise people can be very persistent. Who in their right mind doesn't want another job?)

I had just given this response when she began speaking to Nancy too quickly for me to understand and then produced a paper that said something to the effect that she has a recording company for radio and television commercials and that they need English speakers. First you record a demo and after that they pay you $200 RMB for ten minutes of voice work. This is a large sum for China (approximately $25 USD)but of course I wasn't really sure about this lady. My experience has been that people who approach you on the street are usually asking you for money or are selling something you most likely don't want. But my interest was piqued.

The next day during our Mandarin lesson I asked our teacher to look at their website (which is all in Chinese) and to call them to find out whatever she could. She was curious too, so after our lesson, we all piled into a taxi and headed over to the "studio".

The taxi stopped in front of a shabby apartment building. We eyed it warily while our teacher asked the security guard if many foreigners came to this building. He answered "sometimes." We decided to go for it. After all, there were three of us. What could they do?

We waited for the elevators under a flickering neon light and the lady from the previous day arrived behind us carrying a bag of take out noodles. She immediately recognized me and became very excited, escorting us into the office with great showmanship.

The little flat had been converted into an office, with a big conference table, the requisite tank full of giant mutant goldfish (very good feng shui to have a view of water in your office) rows of computers and a little sound room in the rear. We sat round the conference table while she explained a little about her business. She showed us some sample scripts (some of which were horrible translations). She was very excited because she already has nine foreign men working for her, but only one woman.

So after we talked a bit, she ushered me into the sound booth, where I exchanged my shoes for plastic slippers and sat down in front of a big professional looking microphone and computer screen. She gave me a piece of paper went back into the other room where she fiddled with some things. Then I got a big smile and an "Okay!".

I was on. It was an ad for a luxury apartment building in Delhi. (This was definitely a The World is Flat moment; An American in Shenzhen, China reading an ad for a luxury apartment in Delhi, India in English in a studio where the proprietress speaks neither English no Hindi. Thomas Friedman, eat your heart out.)

So, we recorded the demo and if they have customers looking for an American woman's voice and they like mine, they will call me and I'll go back there and record. Who knows if I'll ever hear from them again, but it was just too funny.

Here are some pictures Eric took of me in action. He also decided it would be funny to tell them I could also do British English, so they recorded that too. "Just pretend you're Bridget Jones" he said. And our Mandarin teacher said "Whats the difference?" I'm pretty sure that the average Chinese person can't hear a big difference but imagine if some British person in Hong Kong ever heard me doing a British accent on the radio. I'm sure it would be quite amusing...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This is a blast!! I love the World is Flat stuff.

Good luck on your recording career. Who would have thought that it would consist of recording English voiceovers in China for Indians?

I could eat this with a spoon!


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