Entertainment

Singer has 10m fans - in China

Harry Harding, or Hazza, is a pop sensation in China.
Harry Harding, or Hazza, is a pop sensation in China. Contributed

IMAGINE living a double life; you're an average young Australian in one realm and a superstar with millions of fans in the other.

This may seem like the stuff of rom-coms and hit kids' TV shows, but Harry Harding's life is not dissimilar.

The 22-year-old from Karrabin has shot to fame in China over the past year as pop icon Hazza, recording more than 10 million hits on his online music videos and landing a role as a chat show host.

Harry's music career started in an unlikely way - he began recording covers of popular Chinese songs after discovering a love for the music genre in Brisbane's karaoke bars.

After gaining popularity on video sites such as 56.com, youku.com and ku.6com, he was invited to appear on Chinese television shows.

Late last year, Harry accepted the invitation and swapped the idyllic scenery of his family's picturesque rural property for China's busy cityscape.

Harry's journey to celebrity began last year, while he was studying Mandarin and linguistics at Griffith University.

His mother Deb said Harry took an unexpected interest in karaoke.

"I remember he started going to karaoke bars in Sunnybank, and once he even took his grandmother," she said.

"I think he found it very interesting culturally.

"He's always been interested in languages, and he picked up Mandarin so easily."

Harry said he remained quiet about his love of singing before he discovered karaoke.

"I was never really open about enjoying singing, I think at the time I didn't have enough confidence," Harry said.

"The only time I ever actually sang in front of other people was at karaoke, which is probably why I became interested in Chinese music to begin with."

He then recorded his own covers and posted them on Chinese websites.

It was these videos that attracted millions of views and earned him an invitation to perform in the country.

His online videos, appearances on TV and resulting full-time job as a chat show host have made him a hit with Chinese fans.

Harry said his fast rise to fame was difficult to comprehend.

"The most surreal moment for me was a few months ago when I performed at a concert in Guangdong province," he said.

"After coming off stage I was mobbed by a huge group of people wanting autographs and photos and I was quickly escorted away by some security guards.

"I had no idea that would happen. I was in shock, wondering whether or not they had mistaken me for someone else.

"Sometimes on the street people recognise me and call out my name and my face goes bright red every single time."

While the modest Aussie hasn't quite realised the sheer size of his fan base, he handles his role as a television presenter on chat show FaceTime like an expert.

"I always wished I could work in television - when I was young I would turn the sound down on the television and read the subtitles as though I was a newsreader, so working at GDTV has been a dream come true," he said.

Harry said achieving his childhood dream was very different from his planned career as an interpreter.

"A few weeks go, I was shopping and I thought a girl was trying to push in front of me to pay, but it turns out she was just trying to approach me to ask for a photo," he recalled.

"I guess things have moved pretty fast so far, but I know I still have a long way to go.

"I'm just really grateful for having made great friends here who really support me and who have given me some awesome opportunities."

Harry, or Hazza to his fans, is about to release his first original track, titled Let Go.

He said singing in Mandarin was a real challenge, and writing a song meant he had to be very cautious about any misinterpretations.

Harry said Chinese pop music also had different values from the Western music industry.

"I like the fact that Chinese pop music is still quite innocent in a way," he said.

Let Go suits the romanticism of the Chinese music industry; it's a song about moving on from a relationship. Harry is excited to release the track.

"The guy I worked with to produce my song, WuHuan, has a very strong individual style and has a nice mix of Chinese and Western elements," he said.

"He has written some number one hits in China, so I'm hoping mine will be the next on the list."

Since becoming a celebrity in China, Harry has returned to Australia once to visit his family.

Mum Deb, dad Graeme and sister Bronte have found it hard to explain his success to friends.

"He seems like such a normal guy in Australia, and when I try to tell my friends that he's a pretty famous musician in China it's a bit hard to do," Bronte said.

Harry said that while he loved the business of China, he relished the opportunity to relax at home.

"One afternoon while I was back, I drove up to the water tower and watched the sun set over the Ipswich CBD," he said.

"It was just nice to sit back and enjoy the clear blue sky and also the peace and quiet.

"I know that Ipswich can cop a lot of slack sometimes but, after travelling the world, I can honestly say that Ipswich is not a bad place.

"In China, things are always on the go, Guangzhou - the city that I live in - never seems to sleep.

"Ipswich on the other hand is much more relaxed, and I like the fact that in Ipswich you can still see the stars at night."

Following the release of Let Go in China, Harry will promote the track on Chinese TV, and is looking forward to his track being played on Chinese radio stations.

The track has already been released on Australian iTunes.

Topics:  china, fans, harry harding, music, singer, tv show


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