Dungiven folk singer Cara Dillon attracts a crowd no matter where she goes, and has a loyal following of fans.
However, when the County Derry singer found out just how popular she is in China, and how her music is used to help students learn English, to say she was surprised is an understatement.
“I won’t lie,” Cara told the Journal. “The discovery in late 2013 that my songs have this huge loyal following in China completely blew my mind. We’ve been there twice now to tour and each time we’ve left the country feeling like superstars.”
About eight years ago Chinese students began sharing Cara’s songs, mainly her eponymous debut and her second album ‘Sweet Liberty’, with each other over the internet.
They became extremely popular very quickly and led to fans asking their teachers to help them translate her songs.
The teachers loved the music so much and realised how good they were for teaching English language that they themselves started unofficially using the music within the schools to aid the standard curriculum.
“We’ve found out this then spread throughout the entire country, and in every single province from Inner Mongolia to Sichuan Province,” said husband Sam Lakeman.
“Cara’s music lends itself very well to the task as they contain very fascinating stories and have a wide and varied use of language. We’ve even met students who have included Cara’s songs as part of their Masters degrees in English Language. In addition the traditional Folk melodies are not dissimilar to Chinese traditional music so there’s a musical ‘common ground’.”
Cara said fans are in their early twenties, and know the lyric to every song.
“My biggest track over there is a traditional song from my first album called ‘Cragie Hill’. It’s the weirdest thing in the world to hear 1,000 kids singing every word and screaming when they hear the intro to each song,” she said.
“Someone even told me that in Hunan Province their entire school did their morning exercises in the playground to ‘Lark In The Clear Air’.”
Cara said the country is so big, “touring over there is the most gruelling I have ever done”.
“I can only be away for just over a week at a time before we burn out. We plan to go back two or three times in 2016,” she added.