LIZ was born and bred in the suburbs of North London to Singaporean parents. She learnt the piano and violin from an early age, studied a Bachelor of Science in music at City University and gained her Licentiate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama (LGSM) with honours.
She started gigging at Uni and this led to her performing, touring and recording with a wide range of artists including Moby, Gnarls Barkley, Goldfrapp, Nelly Furtado, Lamb, Asian Dub Foundation, KLF/Orb, Barry Adamson and Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA Orchestra. Says Liz, “I feel honoured to have worked with some amazing artists and musicians. I love playing different styles of music and I’ve learnt a lot from everyone I’ve played with.”
In the late 1990s she formed a band with her sister Sarah called Chi2, a charismatic blend of ‘east meets west’ rhythms and melodies, blending Chinese instruments (erhu, jinghu, liuqin) with electric violins and beats. performing at festivals and gigs up and down the UK. Inspired by their tour of South East Asia (including China, Singapore and Thailand) they wrote Monkey King – A Modern Beijing Opera – a brand new spin on the classic Chinese tale with producer Tom E Morrison which they toured in the UK in 2008 and 2009 with the support of the Arts Council. They released a CD to accompany the show which features special guest Kuljit Bhamra on tabla and Indian percussion.
Her unique style blending Chinese instruments with electronics has led to commissions including ‘Time is Like Water Flowing’ a soundtrack to multi-disciplinary spectacle commissioned by Greenwich and Docklands Festival, which she co-wrote with Tom E Morrison in 2008, culminating in seven shows at London’s O2 Arena. This poetic evocation of the four seasons combined aerial acrobatics (by French group Les Passengers), with innovative multi-media effects (visuals duo 8gg) and epic Chinese landscape painting (Beijing visual artist Yan Huang). She and Tom released an album featuring music from this show under LT Chi Sound System.
In April 2008 she co-wrote and performed a live soundtrack to classic Chinese film Song of the Fisherman to packed audiences at the Royal Opera House (Linbury Theatre) as Chi2 with Jiang Li and Kimho Ip, in a commission by Chinatown Arts Space.
As one of PRS for Music Foundation’s selected composers for New Music 20×12 (2012 Cultural Olympiad) her piece XX/XY premiered to 12,000 people at Trafalgar Square, was featured on BBC2’s Review Show and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Her live music and dance piece Snapshots previewed at The Place in London (Resolution!), showcased at Bedford Fringe Festival, with the album released on Stella Polaris Recordings.
Other writing credits include co-writing Learn on Lamb‘s album Between Darkness and Wonder, Birthday Girl (Channel 4), Chinese in Britain (BBC Radio 4), short films Where Are They From? (Mok, 2014) and Belonging (Mok, Aamli 2017) and theatre show Forgotten by Daniel York-Loh (Arcola Theatre 2018).
One of her stand-out highlights was being invited to attend the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace (October 2014) with the Queen and 170 guests, in honour of the first state visit of the Singaporean President as a UK arts representative. She described the evening as “a surreal, magical and enthralling evening”.
She is passionate about enriching the lives of children through music by singing, playing, improvising and songwriting. She teaches part-time both privately and in a music school, she’s involved in several local community music projects and has been the Chair of Governors in a primary school in Tottenham since September 2016.
Liz Chi Yen Liew