One for the Books Reflection: Chengdu International Sister Cities Youth Music Festival 2018

Guess who's back in the #YEG?! I have returned an extremely grateful individual and with more clarity and conviction than I ever had that will foresee changes that have been long overdue. This blog will recap and give those of you who missed my stories about my most recent once in a lifetime opportunity where I shared "Natalia Chai Music" to audiences and new fans across the world. There are so many people to be thankful for and an experience that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Although the itinerary was stressful, I will never forget the sights, sounds, smells and tastes from this trip! Let's break it down for you all!

July 26/2018

Location 1: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

This was our first tourist stop and probably one of the hottest days with an 80% humidity index. We walked through the lushious, green bamboo forest that immediately cooled us down. There were so many people that we were only allowed a couple minutes to fawn over the cuteness and take a couple of pictures. It was so hot that the pandas were kept indoors and lounged on blocks of ice cubes. The two panda cubs were the first new borns of this year!

                                      Suspension bridge - we're getting closer to the pandas!

                                      Just chillin' on ice cube

                                      The most delicious meal I had there! - on the roadside!

Location 2: China Sichuan Opera

As a child I was already exposed to Chinese Opera including Sichuan Opera. I remember being mesmerized by the costumes and the martial arts acrobatics however the stories were very difficult for me to understand because they use their own dialect that is quite different from Mandarin. Sichuan Opera is the essence of Chinese culture and art with "Face Changing Art" being the most notable feature. During this tour, the delegates had the opportunity to watch a few clips that demonstrated the characteristics of Sichuan Opera. We then got the opportunity to try on the traditional costumes and two delegates were selected to get their make up done. We were also taught the "sign languages" commonly used during performances. Although you, like me, may not understand the performance very well you will be affected by the performers, their acrobatic skills, their expressions, their costumes, and songs.

FIRST REHEARSAL - Opening Ceremony

There were 41 countries with a total of 500 musicians and artists who participated this year - wow! 7 acts were chosen for the opening ceremonies and I was humbly one of them. An absolutely nerve racking yet extremely fulfilling experience. This would be one of the biggest audience I would perform in front of, there were VIPs who I've grown up watching on television sitting right in front of me, the ceremony and my performance was going to be live streamed and televised - my heart was beating uncontrollably! I had just arrived from 2 & 1/2 days of traveling (my flight was delayed and didn't sleep for 32-35 hours) so I was fighting jet lag and fatigue that affected my voice. Regardless, the experience and stage was absolutely surreal!


July 27/2018

Opening Ceremony

The whole day was dedicated to getting ready for the opening ceremony. 10am was my 2nd rehearsal and sound check, followed by backstage organization and then waiting for the hour to start!  7pm marked the official arrival of the festivities!

                                      Dad, Aunt, Friends Ronnie, Chen, Kathy - my support group!

                                       Liza Wang (Wong Ming Chuen) - well known Hong Kong actress, singer and MC

                                      Introducing this year's festival delegates! Can you find me?

Click on the link below to watch my media coverage and interview that aired on CCTV! SO COOL!

July 28/2018

Dujiangyan 都江堰 - Venue #2!

Dujiangyan is an ancient irrigation system built around 256 BC used for irrigation and flood control. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 and known as one of the "three great hydraulic engineering projects of the [State of] Qin." It was absolutely beautiful - the equivalent to our Banff and Lake Louise but had an authentic and unique "Chinese" serenity and style. A diversion of river flow resulted after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake but thankfully there was not a lot of damage. The temples demonstrated the intricate Chinese architecture and the suspension bridge was definitely a must try experience!

The stage was probably one of the most extravagant platform that I've ever performed on. There was easily thousands of spectators who received my music very well. I learned 3 Chinese songs for this festival to connect with the audience and I cannot tell you just how excited the crowd went when I sang only the first 3 words of the song, 说散就散 - JC (陈咏桐 Chen Yong Tong) which is actually one of the biggest songs in China right now!

                                      My dad is apparently the tour guide?

                                      One of two suspension bridges - jam packed!

                                      Crowd already gathering - this isn't even FULL!

                                       MC's for the evening!

                                      Just look at this stage!!!

July 29/2018

Bailu Town (白鹿镇), Pengzhou (彭州), Sichuan - Venue #3!

Pengzhou is a county-level city made up of 20 towns. Bailu Town is known for its European influence and buildlings, with French-style cobblestone streets that exudes a fairytale, relaxing and musical atmosphere. It has a rich European, notably French culture as seen by the catholic church that was built about 100 years ago.

                                      One of the most amazing festival organizers at Bailu Town, Pengzhou! - she is apparently a huge fan of my music & voice! :)

                                     Very quaint Europeon style restuarant we ate at in Bailu Town!

                                       Me with my fam jam!

                                      Now that's a wrap! Team Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!

Before this stop my team, family and I had the fortunate opportunity to go to visit another town in Pengzhou. The 2008 Sichuan earthquake devastated the whole province causing 69,000 deaths, 68,636 in Sichuan province. 374,176 were reported injured, with 18,222 listed as missing as of July 2008 and left millions of people homeless. Edmonton, as did the whole world started to raise donations to help the victims of the earthquake. Edmonton in particular raised money to help build schools and as the delegate from Edmonton, we were invited through an important connection to the very school that Edmonton helped raise funds for rebuilding. We did not get a chance to meet any of the students as it is the summer holiday for them but we met the principals, a couple teachers and librarian. The money raised went towards the construction of the library and school yard. The amount of gratitude, appreciation, and love could not have radiated more. It was extremely heart warming to see and feel the amount of greatness when humanity acts collectively for the greater good and I am inspired to continue to help this school and other schools in the area in the very near future!

                                      Sign Captions: "Warm Welcome Friends of City of Edmonton, Canada Visiting Our School!"

                                      The schoolyard!


                                      The Canadian Maple Leaf is here to remind the students as they read their books and do their homework that this

                                      space of learning was supported from the hearts of Canadians, Albertans and Edmontonians!

                                      Edmonton skyline! Their everlasting gratitude to our city!

                                      The principals endlessly expressing their thanks to Edmonton - we are honoured to represent the city and bring

                                      home their words of gratitude and appreciation for Edmonton's help in 2008!

                                      "Thank you to the City of Edmonton, Canada for your concern and helping us at Gexianshan Town 9 year Junior High

                                       School, Pengzhou, Chengdu and Zechuen".

In Bailu Town, I was occupied by sound checks and practice so I did not get the chance to explore the town. However, Kathy and my parents described what they saw and one moment stood out to me when pictures were shared. These were pictures of the schools that were damaged. The new constructed schools were built 3 meters higher than the old infrastructure that you can still see. There were statues outside - statues that replicated the students and the teachers running out from the school as the earthquake was happening. Although I was not personally there, looking at the photos taken I could feel the despair, fear and urgency that took place on May 12, 2008. Sadly a lot of these students and teachers did not make it out. An absolutely wakening moment for us all and awareness that greatness, happiness and humanity can be achieved and how beautiful it is when we all work collectively to help a community rebuild will always no matter the degree of devastation when we all help one another.

                                      The infrastructure remains of the schools that were destroyed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

July 30, 2018

"A Night in Chengdu" - Farewell Dinner Gala

This was a night of celebration. A humbling night where we got to meet and thank all delegates and volunteers under one room to celebrate music, dance and art from all over the world.

                                      I am fourth from the left!

                                       All volunteers, organizers and performers! Thank you Chengdu 2018!                                  


People I Met...

                                      Yes, this is an Instagram screenshot but these are two amazing musicians and artists from Macao!!

                                      Team Malaysia! Voices of angels!

                                      One of the beautiful performers from the Chengdu Opera!

                                      Peru! - Absolutely beautiful person and voice!

                                      Thailand!! So cute!

                                      Austria! - you guys got serious swag!

                                       Team Malaysia's volunteer!

                                      I love her to death - she was so happy to meet me! <3

Special thanks to....

Kathy from Diversus Media Group - it was really difficult to even get you to take a picture with me and this only opportunity I had with you is out of focus but I don't care I am still posting this. Thank you for all your hard work in helping me get to Chengdu and for working on my social media at home and in China. A young yet extremely ambitious and determined soul - you are one of a kind and will go far. Because of your work and Diversus Media Group's global connections, this festival was a personal success and I am eternally grateful!

Jessie!!! OUR AWESOME VOLUNTEER! I have to declare that we were given THE BEST volunteer. Jessie was our advocate, my translator, my emotional rock, my friend and now my sister. I miss this girl so much and she has a heart of pure gold. Thank you so much for an amazing 8 days - please visit me and I will be back to visit you before you know it! Do not forget me Jessie!

My mom, dad and aunt (from Malaysia!). Thank you for coming and witnessing me in my element - I hope that you see, hear and feel what I do when I am on stage, behind the microphone and keyboard - spreading positivity, joy, inspiration and compassion through music!


Thank you AFA for sponsoring me for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I am forever grateful and confident that Edmonton, Alberta is now a location to be recognized for international opportunities for arts of all forms. The 2018 Chengdu International Sister Cities Youth Music Festival was an avenue for all musicians and artists to showcase how art and music can bring the world together in a society where diversity is not always celebrated.

Final words and thoughts...

The 2018 Chengdu International Sister Cities Youth Music Festival was a project that Diversus Media Group and I had been working towards since last summer. There were moments when it looked like this opportunity was not meant to be but hard work and determination of the team coupled with the generosity and AFA's recognition that this was an opportunity that could help grow our art culture internationally, I was able to embark on an experience that I will never forget.

We learned about the culture, experienced history, food, and for me I learned a great deal about myself as a musician, performer and individual. I learned that there will be times when I have to advocate for myself and to not be afraid to speak up. I learned that if I focused on the music and focused on giving the crowd no matter how big the crowd, that my number 1 goal is about the music, to be believe in myself and love of music and everything will fall into place. I found myself not as nervous in front of thousands of people versus 30 people here at some gigs I play at - very peculiar. I found the "rush and high", new found confidence when I am on stage. Most importantly, I found certainty and clarity that this is what I am supposed to be doing for the rest of my life. As scary as it is to me and it will always be scary and fearful, if I stay true to myself, goals and destinations, don't allow anything/anyone compromise my core values and beliefs, I will be ok.

Apart from the performance aspect, the visit to the school was a huge eye opener. I did not expect my music to be received so well in China where R&B is not popular and I was told by so many that they appreciate my songs and voice. This is how I know that music is my way to affect positive change to the masses. This visit has been a humbling experience. Seeing the other artists at such a young age doing what they love have inspired me to continue to do what I love, and I hope to do the same for others here at home and now abroad! Thank you to all of you who were with me on my journey - it is only the beginning and I would love it if you would stay #CONNECTED with me! In the next couple of weeks a video recap will be compiled to give you all another experience of the trip so stay tuned for more developments!


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