Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Taiwanese Connection

Cindera Che with Michael Jackson in "Smooth Criminal" music video

We all know that Michael Jackson was the first black artist to break down racial barriers with his iconic "Billie Jean" on MTV's playlist. It was a huge break through in the early 80's, his influence in music videos changed the way people listen to music, it also helped popularise the newly established and relatively unknown MTV channel that ironically had perviously ignored the work of black artists.

After his unforeseen success for his "Thriller" album, Michael became an international super star, despite his often misunderstood image troubled by vitiligo, he very much took pride in his background. In his own words "I'm a black American, I am proud of my race, I am proud of who I am, I have a lot of pride and dignity." And his love for all people, "I love the people of all races from my heart, with true affection." He once said during an interview with Oprah in 1992. In fact, he had long ago conveyed his belief in racial diversity and equality in many of his music videos involving people from different ethnic background.

Also not to forget one good example is his 1991 music video "Black or White", which he displays and celebrated cultural and racial diversity. Another that stands out for me is his 1987 piece "Smooth Criminal", with his famous iconic anti gravity lean, as part of the short film "Moonwalker". Michael indicated it as one of his favourite, and the most talked about piece than any others that he's done ( in MJ's Private Home Movie). It featured an Oriental female dancer, in an underground 1930's nightclub sep up.


This mysterious Oriental dancer is Cindera Che, original from Taipei, Taiwan. She is a professional dancer and choreographer, "Smooth Criminal" was her best know appearance as a lead dancer. To me this shows Michael's vision of bringing people from different background to the main stream, especially after his own struggle to break into the music business.


Cindera was born in Taiwan and started dancing at the age of 6, she moved to the US when she was 14 to carry on her dream of dancing. Working with Michael Jackson was undoubtedly a dream came true for her. In a recent interview, she commented about working with Michael: "Michael was a perfectionist, one thing that I always remember about Michael was he was always on, and how hard he worked, and rehearsed, if he missed something, he never get frustrated and never complain, he just does it again and again...". She probably never thought at the time that the music video she took part in would go down in history as one of Michael's most memorable and iconic pieces, certainly Michael's hard work had paid off. Apart form working with Michael, she also worked with other legends in the music world, including Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and all the Jackson brothers.

After Michael passed away in June 2009, the Rev.Al Sharpton payed his tribute: "Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of colour way before Tiger Wood, way before Oprah Winfrey, way before Barack Obama. Michael did with music what they later did in sports, in politics and in television. And no controversy will erase the historic impact."

Michael Jackson was truly an innovator, apart form his great musical talent, he indeed inpacted a new era of pop culture which influenced a new generation of artists from Justin Timberlake ot Usher and Chris Brown (see article). All these came from just one person in a 50 years of life span. Certainly without his legacy and influences, the world could be very different today.

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