A native Missourian’s videos of singing performances have spread rapidly online through the Chinese-speaking community in recent years. Some of her videos have been watched more than a quarter of a million times.
On Culture Night at the University of Central Missouri this year, sophomore Briana Marsh is singing the Chinese pop song Still Loving You in front of hundreds of people in Warrensburg. This is her first public performance since she started singing Chinese songs in 2008, but, on the internet, she is well known as Malina-- her Chinese name. Marsh says, by posting her singing videos on Chinese social networks, she has gained great attention from the other side of the world.
“Somebody posted a comment on my YouTube videos and said, Oh, this video went viral on Weibo. You should check it out. So I did. And I was like Oh, it’s a Chinese version of Twitter. So I decided to make an account, and try to market myself that way,” Marsh said.
Marsh’s videos gained even more popularity after she appeared in Chinese news reports. Kaitlyn Marsh, Briana’s younger sister, says she often reads through the viewer’s comments under the videos.
“Those people over in China are like: Wow, this is a blond haired and blue eyed American girl singing our songs. People just think it’s outrageous that she could being this American person who’s only been studying Chinese for a couple of years,” Kaitlyn Marsh said.
Marsh started teaching herself Chinese by listening to Chinese music and watching Chinese dramas when she was in high school. Marsh, a Columbia native, says, she fell in love with the Chinese language when she accidentally discovered a Chinese song on the Internet one day.
“I really like the the way Chinese sounds, I was just really drown into the sound of it, it’s so unique, cuz I was used to learn European languages like Spanish and German, and Chinese is just completely different,” Briana Marsh said.
For two years, Marsh has been the only student majoring in Chinese at her college.
Marsh’s Chinese professor, Qiuyun Wang, helped start the Chinese program at UCM five years ago. Sh says she expects Marsh’s voice to attract more attention during her study abroad in Beijing next year.
“If she goes to China, maybe she can participate in some singing contests.10:38 She will have a very bright future,” Qiuyun Wang said.
Since Marsh was already singing at the Culture Night event at UCM, Wang thought it would be a good idea for ten other students in her class to do so, too. Wang says Marsh helps her classmates to bring their Chinese skills up to a higher level - by initiating conversations in Chinese outside of class, and introducing friends to Chinese culture.
This story is part of the China Connection, a multimedia project that explores various economic, educational and cultural links between Missouri and China. Above you can watch audio slideshows about how Marsh’s passion in Chinese music has impacted her family.