Date with a diva
True divas are hard to come by nowadays. Most women entertainers associated with the term are of the foot-stamping, tantrum throwing variety as opposed to ones who take the form of a beloved songstress whose vocals can light up any dance floor.
England's Tara McDonald is a member of the latter camp and her vocal talents will be the highlight of the latest Hed Kandi party this weekend. Although she's considered a bona fide diva of the house music world, she's quick to play down this description.
'I'm just doing the job that I love and sharing that with people. I try not to think of myself as being any different from anyone else. I think that's a better way to stay grounded,' she says.
At the age of nine McDonald (right) got her first break. Her mother had enrolled her in a children's performance workshop and this proved a prescient move.
'I got up and sang at the end of one of the classes and the man that ran the group thought I had a good voice and suggested I audition for a musical in London called Les Miserables. I ended up getting a part and started working ... [and] I've never stopped [since],' says McDonald.
Being in the spotlight felt natural to McDonald and it was only a couple of years before she won an international singing competition and was subsequently chosen to be a child ambassador for Unicef.
This led to McDonald recording her first solo album and her first music video in Africa to promote the children's charity.
'I think working at a young age made me a survivor. This is a hard industry and it's difficult to know who to trust and who has your best interests at heart,' she says.
'It's all ups and downs, but I can't help myself. I love it, I could never give it up.'
In the dog-eat-dog world of commercial dance music, McDonald stands out as a self-made woman. Holding her own among the bigwigs of house, she's been patiently carving out a niche for herself as a singer and a top songwriter.
Through persistent work as a dancer in clubs such as London's hallowed Ministry of Sound, and as a lead and back-up singer with jazz, soul and rock bands, McDonald eventually attracted the notice of a label in 2005.
'Eventually, it just happened. I was singing with my soul band and was spotted by a scout for Universal publishing. I had a meeting and played them a demo of another house track I had made. As they were looking for a top line for Axwell's Feel the Vibe, they gave me the instrumental to write to and the rest is history,' she says.
Ministry of Sound re-released Feel The Vibe (Til the Morning Comes) with McDonald's vocals and this upbeat summer anthem cracked Britain's top 20 chart and was played by DJs at venues across the globe.
Further success followed closely with the next summer's My My My, an uplifting track by top US house DJ Armand van Helden. McDonald's soulful vocal style and feel-good lyrics secured the tune international popularity. 'After making this record I started getting lots more bookings in Europe as [My My My] had been such a big hit,' she recalls. 'This song has definitely opened a lot of doors for me.'
Following a further chart topping hit in 2008 with French superstar DJ David Guetta's Delirious, McDonald has cemented her reputation as a much sought-after writer and singer. McDonald is only 26 and has got a bright career ahead of her.
'I have a new record out on Hed Kandi called Love Crazy with Warren Clarke, which is a real summer tune, and [I've] also [released] Play On with the Todd Terry All Stars. I've got something new with Michael Gray, too, and a few [other] surprises up my sleeve ...'
Hed Kandi Nu Disco Tour, feat. DJ Andy Warburton and Tara McDonald, Sat, 10pm, Club JJ's, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai, HK$280 (advance), HK$350. Inquiries: 8201 1027