SHANGHAI, July 7 (Reuters Life!) - Partway into the mainly Chinese line-up at the Live Earth concert in muggy Shanghai, a band took their turn on stage and was duly greeted by most of the audience as the evening’s token overseas act.
Until, that is, the band started singing in perfect Mandarin.
Pop-rock group Soler features lead singers Dino and Julio, identical twins of Burmese-Italian descent who were born in Macau in south China and claim the ex-Portuguese colony as their home.
“We’re part of the changing face of China. We want to be able to show that you don’t need to have a Chinese face to come from China,” said Dino in a backstage interview.
As Soler broke into their first song in China’s national dialect, members of the audience — who just minutes ago had made snide remarks about an earlier singer’s “Hong Kong accent” — craned forward in astonishment and then applauded at the striking pair who appeared foreign, but did not sound it.
Dino and Julio, who had greeted the crowd with “We’re from Macau, China,” admit they feel more at home speaking in Cantonese, the southern Chinese dialect they grew up with, besides Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and English.
“We’re pretty much self-taught in the languages that we speak,” said Julio, adding that the two were still working on perfecting their Mandarin but that they “speak it pretty well.”
While China’s only recent opening-up means mixed-race children are still a rare sight on the mainland, ex-colonies such as Macau and Hong Kong have a sizeable Eurasian minority.
Despite massive emigration prior to Hong Kong and Macau’s handover to China, prominent Eurasian figures remain — including Macau gambling mogul Stanley Ho, celebrity Karen Mok and old-money networks such as the Ho Tung and Symons families.
But few emigres return to post-handover China, like Soler.
The band, though founded in Italy where Dino and Julio moved after leaving Macau, will soon be based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, close to Hong Kong.
“The band will be based in Guangzhou because our stronghold is in the south,” said Dino.
“China is the place where we really started to have a following — we want to represent the group of people who are living in China and consider it home.”