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Australian singer approved by China's censors
Australian singer Sophie Koh speaks with China correspondent Huey Fern Tay about being accepted by the censors.

Some of the world's biggest pop stars, including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, have fallen foul of China's censors, which have banned songs deemed vulgar or in poor taste.

And it's no different for artists with a much more modest profile.

Australian singer Sophie Koh is just one who was asked to submit her lyrics before beginning her tour of China.

Sophie Koh spoke with China correspondent Huey Fern Tay.
(Footage of Sophie Koh performing plays)

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: Sophie Koh welcome to the program.

SOPHIE KOH: Thank You.

HUEY FERN TAY: Australian pop bands rarely perform in China, why are you here?

SOPHIE KOH: My grandmother actually, my only surviving grandmother is turning 100 this year and she lives in a retirement home in Melbourne. She came from the Fujian Province in China, and was given to me grandfather as a bride in Malaysia. So that's how my family left China nearly 100 years ago.

So I'm intrigued about her life and I wanted to trace back a little bit where she was from and understand my father a bit more through that too.

HUEY FERN TAY: What feedback have you received so far?

SOPHIE KOH: I've had some amazing feedback. It seems like indie pop is rare, and the kids in China have actually craved it but never seen it live as much as metal, for example, or rock. And the audience has been amazingly receptive and just stunned that we are in China coming from Australia.

They've asked me many times 'why are you here?' and 'thank you for coming', and 'we're so glad that you're here, we're so relieved that you're here.' And I'm getting that from not just the locals but also the ex-pats in the audience as well.

(Footage of Sophie Koh performing plays)

HUEY FERN TAY: So you had to submit your lyrics before. What's their concern you think?

SOPHIE KOH: I think, I was asked to submit lyrics, it's a standard procedure for foreign bands playing in China. It's for the venue owners to peruse before they book a band, just to make sure that there's no defamatory things about the government or excessive swearing I guess.

I guess I just follow protocol. And there's also particular shows where we've had to give a certain amount of income to the Chinese government. Don't ask me why, I've just kind of kept my mouth shut and just bowed and smiled.

But those things do deter foreign bands from coming here I'm sure.

HUEY FERN TAY: How much are we talking?

SOPHIE KOH: Half the revenue for some of the gigs, some of the bigger shows.

HUEY FERN TAY: Big names in the music business make a lot of money from performances, what about independent artists like yourself?

SOPHIE KOH: In Australia, being independent is… I like being independent because there's freedom of what songs you write, and I like the hands on approach to things. However it is hard financially. I do self-fund everything. And I do have another job; I work part-time as an optometrist and perhaps that's my record label as such. My day job, my part-time job is giving me money to do what I really love, which is music, and that's why I'm still standing here. Without that I don't think I'll be putting out my third album.

I'm writing songs better and better now, and even though I'm not on mainstream radio in Australia I feel like I'm a better musician because I've stuck it out and played in other bands and created my own stuff and kept going.

HUEY FERN TAY: Sophie Koh, thank you very much for joining us?

SOPHIE KOH: Thank you.

(Footage of Sophie Koh performing plays)
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