Yin: Shanghai Singer and Producer ChaCha’s Bold Reinvention

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12:07 AM HKT, Sun May 6, 2018 4 mins read

Yin (, “music”) is a weekly RADII feature that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip-hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion. Cover photo above by AJ Schokora.

After over a decade plugging away in Shanghai’s underground, singer, songwriter, and producer ChaCha’s star has risen, and she’s ready for a reinvention.

Born Xinge Yehaiyahan in rural Guizhou province, ChaCha moved to Shanghai in 2005, and has since become a well known and respected artist across several vectors. Her solo project ChaCha showcases her vocal chops, often in a more polished, pop-friendly setting. Her long-running electronic duo AM444 channeled her darker, smokier side, drawing on her early experiences throwing parties with Shanghai dub and reggae sound system Uprooted Sunshine.

ChaCha (photo by paulbtrose)

ChaCha spent some time in Madrid in 2011 as the first ever Chinese artist to be selected for the annual Red Bull Music Academy, and this opened more doors for her at home and internationally. Her subsequent world travels were ultimately summarized in her excellent LP Moon Mad, released under the name Faded Ghost, which she describes as her “experimental lab.”

Today, ChaCha is looking to climb bigger stages and hit a wider cross-section of the world. Over the last few weeks she’s dropped several heavy-hitting singles and collaborations, and has a video with Shanghai-based pop singer Akin scheduled to drop next Tuesday. ChaCha will be traveling for a few festivals over the coming months, and in July will participate as one of three Chinese artists selected for Found Sound China, a month-long music residency during which she’ll exchange sounds with an American peer.

After all that, she’ll shed her old name and be reborn as YEHAIYAHAN, “an upgraded and more mature version of ChaCha.” She’s got a lot cooking, in other words. I talked to her to get the details on the creative transformation she’s currently moving through:

RADII: Last time I saw you perform was almost a year ago, when you were releasing your second Faded Ghost album. What have you been working on since then?

ChaCha: The Faded Ghost project is my experimental lab to polish ideas and try out new possibilities, so it’s a purely for-fun project which has no pressure for releases or shows. I’ll release and do shows when I have new stuff.

Since the last Faded Ghost album was released, I’ve worked with some local musicians on some singles and EPs. A new Dabozz single that I’m featured on is online now, and we made a dope music video that people can check online too. A new single with my favorite local singer, Akin (阿克江), will be released with a sick music video on Tuesday [May 8].

ChaCha and Akin

I’m also working on a new five-song EP with OG Shanghai rapper Cee, hopefully it will be done this summer. And the most exciting thing is that I started a new solo project, YEHAIYAHAN, a new version of ChaCha, so this year after these other collaborations, I will more focus on this project. The music video for the new YEHAIYAHAN single that I worked on with CherryGun and her Lofi team will be released soon. So this is a very exciting year for me.

YEHAIYAHAN is your birth name, right? What is the vibe of this project? How is it different from your previous work released under the name ChaCha?

YEHAIYAHAN is my birth name, yes. She is an upgraded and more mature version of ChaCha. Over the past more than 10 years, people have gotten to know me as an underground musician, but I’ve never stoped learning and growing. I feel I’m in a new era now. I always like changes and challenges, and after over a decade in the scene I want to give something fresh to my audience, and also to deliver the message of the philosophy of my life: be curious, be creative, be brave to drop what we have and look for different possibilities, to feel what’s waving deep inside, and be proud as a woman, proud of who we are.

I can see myself on bigger stages and in a much wider area. I want to make that happen.

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As you mentioned, you’ve done some interesting collaborations recently. One you didn’t mention above is a collaboration with an artist called L~N, who is more on the experimental and improvisational end of the electronic music spectrum. What is your project with him like? Are you still doing it?

L~N is my long-term friend, we used to DJ together at my events back in the time of [now closed Shanghai venue] The Shelter. And I’m so happy after many years that we can make music together. He is a very talented musician, and a nerd too, haha. He is my friend and also my teacher. I always learn something from him, that’s so amazing for me. We compose together and improvise on top of it when we do live sets. We had few small shows in Shanghai that went really well, so we have a name for the duo — Fade to Nothing. We might tour soon.

You have a new single with Dabozz, a female rapper from Nanjing. How did you two get in touch and decide to work together? What was working with her like?

I really love the result. We’ve known each other for a while already, since she released her first album. I’m her fan, for me she is not just a rapper, she is a very fine singer and songwriter, too. I more like her singing style and lyric writing. I think we’d previously met in Nanjing when I had a show there, and she came to support. I’m very happy that she asked me to work on a single for her new EP. Please go check our new song and MV!

Your new single with Akin (阿克江) also just came out. His style is far more Pop than most of the artists you work with. What was different about working with him?

Akin is a brilliant singer and songwriter. You know, style is never a problem for me if I really feel it, and I had never worked with a male singer before. I do feel there is something connecting us — we know what we want immediately, so we make music really quickly, and he cares about the details and quality. It was such a fun and smooth experience to make music with him. Once we start we can’t stop, so we are continuing to make new music together — you will hear more after this single.

ChaCha and Akin

After this busy season of new releases is done, what are you working on next?

When the busy season of new releases is over I will dive into my studio to cook up more new music for the YEHAIYAHAN project, I cannot wait. At the end of April I played in Chengdu and Xiamen for a few festivals, and in the middle of May I’ll join the Xi Hu music festival with Cee to showcase our new music. And I’ve been invited to perform at the Iomma Festival in South Africa and Madagascar, that will be a wonderful trip.

Which part of your creative identity is taking up the most time and attention right now?

YEHAIYAHAN, I’m very excited for it. I’m cooking my own beats and making my own live set, very challenging but also so much fun.

Anything else you want to add?

Let’s start from here, don’t get confused by my different creative identities, they are all me, just different sides of me.

All photos courtesy ChaCha.

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