Silver Flower is The Hmong Idol USA 2006By Nancy Xiong
***Published in Asian Wisconzine, May 2006 issue.
Standing at 5 feet 3. Almost 21. Will always have some kind of lip moisturizer with her. Attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in Elementary Education. Born and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Has four sisters and two brothers. Her friends would tell you that she is outgoing and modest. Her mother would tell you that she is the one who makes her laugh. Her sisters would tell you that she is the star of the family. Her cousins would tell you that she is an amazing and inspirational personto be able to devote and balance her passion for music, academics, family which sometimes is a challenge to do. Her name is Pagnia Xiong and she is the first Hmong Idol whereas Kelly Clarkson is the first American Idol.
Hmong Idol is based on the television show American Idol. Last Fall, Charming Records from Minnesota announced the launching of Hmong Idol, open to all singers who want to step up to the plate. After numerous auditions and eliminations, the top 15 were determined. On December 17, 2005, the Hmong Idol Final Competition was held in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The competition was held in two rounds and judged by a panel assembled by Charming Records including, John De Haan, a voice professor at the University of MN, Karen Lyu, the Executive Director of West Bank Music and singer and voice instructor, Cara Tmytrey. (www.hmongtoday.com)
The final round challenged each performer to sing their own rendition of a Hmong song titled, "Txog Koj Ib Leeg" by Xanakee, a Hmong band from France. When asked about why this song was chosen, event organizer and founder of Charming Records, Kace Vang explained, "It's a good song with a nice melody, but it can be boring and it's a good song where you can add your own creativity to it and it will still sound good."
The winner of Hmong Idol USA received an expense paid trip to Nashville, Tennessee, the music capital of America. There, the winner will study under celebrity voice coach Brett Manning for a week's session. This individual will win professional voice lessons, recording time in a professional music studio, and a record deal from Charming Records that includes the guidance of a nationally recognized producer. (www.hmongtoday.com)
To best bring out Pagnia Xiong I present her and her thoughts on being the first Hmong Idol and Hmong music through an interview with her.
Current location: Madison, Wisconsin
AW: What kind of music do you listen to?
SF: I enjoy a whole variety of music. You can see me listening to Lifehouse, Celine Dion, Chamee Xiong, Faye Wong, Kelly Clarkson, Shania Twain, Switchfoot, Martina McBride, Black-Eyed Peas, Shattered Echo'z, Nickelback, Destiny's Child, Avril Lavigne, Alicia Keys, and many more artists.
AW: What kind of music do you sing?
SF: In the past, I performed with slow ballads from artists like Celine Dion, Martina McBride, Kelly Clarkson, and Shania Twain.
AW: You are the Hmong Idol. Who is your idol?
SF: Celine Dion is my all-time idol. Her musical talent is by far, the most impressive and most beautiful that I've seen. Celine has a way of connecting and touching her audience. I have never seen her live, but when I saw her on DVD, I cried my eyes out. Her performances move you to a whole new dimension of life and music. She inspires me to do the same to my audience. I want to touch lives and move people in ways they never thought they could be moved. Celine Dion did that for me and I want to share that emotion, expression with the rest of the world also.
AW: Growing up in the US, in your eyes how has the Hmong music genre changed?
SF: Music is a universal language, as you may or may not know. Although it changes throughout all parts of the world, it still touches us all in a special way. For me, I feel that in the Hmong community, there are several music genres for all ages to choose from. There is the Lao/Thai version of music for many Hmong elders, kwv txhiaj (traditional Hmong folk song) for the old and young, American pop for the young, Hmong rock/alternative bands, and many more. Personally, I see that the Hmong music industry is really moving towards the direction of mainstream. We are starting to be more professional, more serious in what we want out of our music, creating our own songs, and ultimately, we are starting to expose ourselves to those not in the Hmong community. The Hmong music industry is being taken to a new level of music.
AW: Any projects or ideas that you want to pursue with music?
SF: Right now, I am working on a debut album. I want to continue making music, but I also want to expose myself to the mainstream music industry. I want the experience so that I can bring it all back to the Hmong community and discover more talents. Seeing other Hmong community members perform and share their talents is AMAZING. There are so much undiscovered talent in our community that needs to be revealed to the world.
AW:Will we see you try out for American Idol in the near future?
SF: That is certainly one goal of mine. Honestly, it is also my biggest fear. However, I don't want this fear to stop me from my goals and dreams. So, yes, you will see me try out for American Idol in the near future. Just keep watching the show.
AW: A goal of Hmong Idol is to bring out music talents of Hmong people to the mainstream, how do you see that happening? What needs to be done?
SF: As the first Hmong Idol, we are all learning from one another in the Hmong Idol team. As of now, we're working hard on a debut album (with a phenomenal music producer by the name of Chaochi Ly of Micon Studio). I believe he is a mainstream Hmong music producer ? incredible talent is displayed each time we record. I never know what to expect from Chaochi. Just when I think I've practiced enough, there are new changes, new ideas, new ways of making a song sound great from Chaochi. This is definitely the mainstream experience that I've been envisioning. The songs that we've been working on are not your typical Hmong songs. Hopefully, my audience will see this once they hear the new album.
AW:How has winning the title changed your life?
AF: It's definitely given me a whole new perspective on singing and the creation of music. It's not easy, let me just put that out now. As a singer, you don't just come into the studio, record the song, and then leave. There are technicalities such as word enunciation, harmonization, synchronization, and so on. I've learned so much about myself -- what I can do, what I can't do, what I can do better, what I can use less of. In addition, before I ever entered Hmong Idol, I've thought of just making my own album on my own time. However, I think that without the support from the Hmong Idol team, I don't think I would be as successful as I am right now. Creating music is not simple and there is a LOT of hard work that goes into creating one song. In a typical recording, it takes me about seven hours to record the song. That doesn't even mean the song is finished yet. We still need musical instruments, harmonization just to name a few. It's hard work, indeed, but it's been a great experience thus far.
AW:Where can we find your music? Do you have a list of places that we can come see you perform at?
SF: To find the latest news on what's happening with me, visit my in-progress website: www.pagniaxiong.com. There will certainly be updates, music clips, photos, and other fun stuff on there. In addition, the approximate release date of my debut album is July 2006 at the annual July 4th Summer Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. Look for updates on www.pagniaxiong.com! AW:Any words of encouragement for your fans and ambitious singers who wants to make it one day?
SF: Perform at as many functions as possible. Expose yourself. That is the MOST IMPORTANT thing about those who want to sing professionally one day. You learn so much about yourself and your music through performing ? you'll learn the ups and downs of it. However, the learning is what will make you stand out from others. Lastly, when you perform, you're building a network system of fans, supporters, and HAPPY people. Just keep performing.
AW: What does your name mean in Hmong?
SF: Silver Flower.
For latest news of Pagnia Xiong,
Pagnia Xiong Official Website
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