Turned to the side, Joanna Dong cuts a confident figure, donning her signature quirky asymmetrical aesthetic. Facing the camera, the jazz singer moves like a seasoned pro, filling the studio with her honeyed vocals in between takes. But Dong, whose debut EP Lullaby Nomad launched in 2008, insists she’s anything but. “I think people see my confidence, but they can’t see me shaking underneath.”
The charismatic crooner, who finished third in the Sing! China contest in 2017, recently headlined her first major concert So Here I Am at the Esplanade. “Some people grew up listening to jazz at home, but not me,” says Dong, who fell in love with jazz only when she was at university. She regales how she was first drawn to the Lindy Hop dance, which she chanced upon while passing by Chijmes.
“I was besotted,” she recalls. “And because it is a dance to swing jazz, it made sense for me to get to know this music.”
Soon, Dong joined the NUS Jazz Band and as they say, the rest is history. “I like many music styles, but jazz really spoke to me. The whole point of it is to be in the moment and come up with different ways of singing. That, and the dancing. It helped me grow and become more confident and spontaneous.”
These days, Dong divides her time between singing, hosting and, sometimes, acting. But, as she explains, “Singing is my first love.”