French chanson diva returns to China for cultural exchange show
Published: May 12, 2024 09:26 PM
Joyce Jonathan Photo: Courtesy of Mango TV

Joyce Jonathan Photo: Courtesy of Mango TV

Songs are just songs, but only French songs can be called chansons. With her interpretation of the song "Les Champs-Élysées" in both French and Chinese when participating in the show Ride the Wind 2024, French chanteuse Joyce Jonathan helps the audiences from her second home - China to learn about the poetic and romantic genre from France.

"I love the concept of the show Ride the Wind, and feel good to be back to China, my second home as 2024 means a lot for both of us since it was the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China," she told the Global Times on Friday in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province, explaining why she accepted the invitation to become the first French singer-songwriter to take part in the hit Chinese music competition formerly known as "Sisters Who Make Waves."

Love for China 

For her, the year also marked the 24th anniversary of her arrival to China for the first time at the age of 10, and she hoped to challenge herself just as the show's concept reveals. 

The show, produced by Mango TV, challenges female celebrities, mostly above the age of 30, by stage performances that defy their age stereotypes.

"It is really nice to see women fighting and challenging. As we are all at 30 years old or more, with different lives and different experiences, we can show the audiences and ourselves that we can learn more things, like dancing and singing and be together like a team," said Jonathan, who shared the stage with other sisters from countries such as the US, Thailand, and Russia, for various performances. 

Jonathan's parents both cherish  love for the Chinese culture, and her mother runs a travel agency that began promoting tours to China back in the 1990s. 
"I first came to China at the age of 10. I always have the feeling that this is my second home," as she can listen to Chinese language and get along well with Chinese people. 

"Maybe when being pregnant with me, my mum was in China. So, I have a special feeling toward Chinese and Chinese music," she said.  

Jonathan has formed a lasting bond with the country since then. As a child, she received her first scooter and guitar in Beijing. And as she grew up, she gravitated toward Chinese philosophies like Taoism and Confucianism. 

Because of her interest in China, the singer began to learn Chinese. In 2011, she translated four of her songs into Chinese for the first time, the same year as she received the NRJ Music Award for the Francophone Breakthrough of the Year, marking an important milestone in her musical career.

After that, she worked with Chinese rock star Cui Jian and adapted his song Girl in the Flower Room into the French version, Tes Deserts, which means "Your Deserts" in English. 

"The Chinese language is very beautiful with dynamic rhythms, but Chinese is not easy to learn," said Jonathan, who also considered participating in the show as a chance to learn more Chinese songs and experience more Chinese cultural elements like Yueju opera originated from East China's Zhejiang Province, a local Chinese opera style that features male roles played by women.

She felt lucky and interesting at her age to learn and experience new things, which brings her the feeling of "being very young." In the show, she had close relationships with other girls as they shared the stage and had other programs including cooking and rehearsing. 

She worked with her Chinese teammate Han Xue for the song "Behind Me" on the stage of Ride the Wind 2024 and off the stage, she learned and experienced more about Chinese culture in the show. She tried the Baduanjin exercise, referring to how the eight individual movements characterize and impart a silken quality to the movement of the body and its energy, a soothing foot bath and had some snacks. 

"In fact, my hand and my nose are always cold," practicing the Baduanjin helps improve it as it is "close to yoga and nice to stretch the body, and also the mind." Besides, she tried acupuncture and Chinese massage every time in China. 

Claiming herself a big fan of tofu, she had tofu in any style. She doesn't have the Western food when in China, saying that "I only have the Chinese food because it is really tasty and I really love them."

Joyce Jonathan Photo: Courtesy of Mango TV

Joyce Jonathan Photo: Courtesy of Mango TV

 'A lot in common'

Due to her work and tight schedule in China, she couldn't bring her three-year-old daughter with her to China. Two days ago, her daughter called and told her that when she turns four, "I am gonna grow up. Can you bring me to China with you?"

Hearing that, Joyce felt so happy as "she has such a good impression of China, a faraway country." 

That reminded her that she made a similar call to her mother as a young girl when she worked in China back then.

"I gave her my love from China that my mother gave me, like passing down from generation to generation. I'm sure she will come here soon."

In her mind, her love for China and wish to be a bridge between the French and Chinese cultures inspire her to continue to contribute to the friendship between China and France. 

"France and China have a lot in common," she said, remarking on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France. "Both of us love beautiful things like music, and both are really sincere and honest. We share the same glorious history and love for our country."

"The 60-year friendship between China and France is just the beginning for a new wave of mutual learning."  

She is proud to be part of the exchange and glad to see that her music can help people from China to learn about France and translate Chinese songs into French, as she believes that "French people could love Chinese songs because the melodies are so touching and emotional."

She also told the Global Times that she will start her Chinese tour in November this year.