Last Saturday, May 12, more than 800 local fans of Chinese pop music gathered to hear music at the Neptune Theater in the University District. The event was SingCon, an annual singing contest sponsored by the Hong Kong Student Association (HKSA) at the University of Washington.

Nine contestants competed to become the SingCon 2012 winner. Also, local performing artists Fiona Dawn, Gowe and Lijie Yang made guest appearances. The most anticipated performer of the night, however, was MC Jin, a Chinese-American hip-hop rapper, songwriter and actor.

“We wanted to evolve the event greater than it had ever been,” said SingCon executive director Kenson Lee.  “We tried to involve not just the student community, but the local music scene, and international musical stars as well.”

HKSA is a nonprofit organization at the UW promoting awareness of Hong Kong’s culture, traditions and heritage, as well as a platform for Cantonese students to unite and improve the community. SingCon is HKSA’s largest annual event and has attracted thousands of concert-goers over the years. It went from a karaoke contest back in 2003 to an anticipated concert showcasing local musical talent in the Asian pop-music culture.

“I think there needs to be more positive events such as this and opportunities in general,” said MC Jin. “I’m here to support it and I hope SingCon goes on forever and ever.”

He added, “But maybe I would put less emphasis on the Asian-American thing. It’s very important for us as Asian-Americans to embrace our culture, but at the same time we shouldn’t let that be a factor to enclose ourselves only in our community. We want to be a part of the bigger community too.”

More than 70 candidates tried out this year; the nine finalists were Alice Qiu, Andy Chiang, Antonio Ng, Carina Ping, Jason Gu, Jessica Fan, Jiaxi Li, Joshua Jin and Yuchuan Zhang. The judges were Desmond Cheng, Fiona Dawn and Gowe and Leon Zhao.

Yuchuan Zhang, the only freshman competitor, won the grand prize after three rounds of competition. She impressed the crowd with her last performance, of Beyonce’s hit “Listen.” Jessica Fan, the first runner-up, won the Audience Choice Award. Alice Qiu was second runner-up.

MC Jin was definitely the highlight of the event. His 40-minute performance included such songs as “ABC,” “Brand New,” “Shoot for the Moon” and “Sincerely Yours.” His love for Seattle shone through when he shared memories of visiting Franklin High School and rapping about the “206” — referring to Seattle’s area code. He offered advice to the young people there: to follow their dreams and do what they love.

“One thing that I encourage all of [the contestants] is that you just got to love what you do so much and that applies to singing, rapping. … It even goes right to Jeremy Lin and basketball,” Jin said. “We all can agree that Jeremy loves playing basketball and is passionate for it. For me, it was hip-hop and freestyling.”

Click HERE to see more pictures of the event.  Photo and video credits:  Jessica Yuwanto

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