April 11. Sa Dingding, Chinese music's next big thing, has won the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for best Asia/Pacific act. She carried off the trophy – known as a Planet – in the face of fierce competition that included Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the legendary Ravi Shankar.
Sa, an entrancing songstress whose exotic costumes are matched by romantic roots was raised by her grandmother on the steppes of Inner Mongolia, where, she says "first we learned to sing then we learned to speak".
Her million selling album Alive mixes Tibetan chant with electronic beats. Possibly aiming at atmosphere rather than understanding, she sings in one dead language, Sanskrit, and another language she invented herself.
Chinese music has a tiny overseas fan-base, but Sa's creative energy plus clever marketing has seen her touted as China's best hope of a breakthrough onto the world stage that has so far eluded even superstar Jay Chou.
To her fans Sa Dingding is a true original but music critics, ever keen to pigeon-hole newcomers, have compared her to Bjork and Kate Bush.
The BBC World Music prizes have been awarded every year since 2002. There are five regional awards, crossover and global prizes, plus awards for best album, best newcomer, and an audience favorite chosen by web poll.
This year's big winner was Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate who triumphed in the African category and won the Best Album award for his 2007 release Segu Blue.
(China.org.cn by John Sexton, April 12, 2008)