I run with wolves (and how far I’ve come)

I grew up in a mixed heritage working class family, surrounded by the belief that music was not a realistic career and for years this belief shaped my life and decisions (though not always my spare time). I felt empty but generally accepted it. Then while working in retail, in my 20s, I started a bedroom project with my cousin just for fun and we ended up getting a youth project grant to record an album! But the studio went bust and the funders went out of business. We lost the album we’d nearly finished and I thought that was my dream was over, feeling like it was a sign to give up.

A few years later my nan saw an advert for a community newsletter job and I ended up working at a local community media centre on a youth magazine. Some years later the company started more arts projects and a music project and built a music studio in the back of the centre. I started meeting other artists and musicians and being asked to help on tracks (’cause they heard I used to sing). I started getting dragged to gigs (despite my fears) to sing for rappers and DJs and they encouraged me to get back to making my own music.

I spent 10 years juggling community work by day, writing and recording more and more at evenings and weekends (around having a family) writing and gigging the night scene in Bristol – and sometimes there was overlap like community festivals and creative projects at my local community centre.

Slowly I began getting paid gigs and commissions, local radio play and media/city recognition and even an arts council grant and then recommended for a composing project with schools. I’d also just got a long freelance gig running a network of community creatives, advocating for community-led culture and the idea that an artist can come from anywhere.

I’m now a freelance creative, doing a mix of songwriting commissions and contracts and performances, public speaking on community led action and creativity, and looking forward to more projects that help others be creative both for the joy and the potential careers.

I feel like I’ve reached both a milestone and a point to grow to the next stage in my career and life. So for International Women’s Month I’ve released a new song (today in fact! March 10th 2023). This song signifies for me the moment I felt I had become a woman after ten years of making music. It’s called Run With Wolves and is inspired by the book Woman Who Run With The Wolves and my friend Catherine.

I #runwithwolves because I run free, I follow my heart, I love the night sky, I protect my pack. Do you #runwithwolves ? and why?

Also available on many of the usual music sites – some links here

Art & Culture – who says what’s good and what’s worth funding?

KALA CHNG and fan dancers performing at Knowle West Fest by Tanya Hazell

Recently I went to an online conference about culture (run by The Centre for Cultural Value) and it got me thinking again about who decides what art is and what’s valued. Why is it that streetdance doesn’t get as much funding as ballet? My talented friends at Angels Dance Academy, who started just down the road from me, have a world championship winning crew Dark Angels for example, but have never got any arts funding. ( I checked!)

Maybe the decision-makers have a different background and therefore taste. (I’m drawn to street dance and urban music ’cause I grew up with that around me, so I appreciate it way more.)

If you work in ‘the arts’ you hear this old argument that community art isn’t high quality. Maybe it’s just not financially backed!?

Anyway after some various chats in the conference I was asked to write a reflection blog for the organisers. Please do check it out in full here: Art – who holds the power? It has to change…

A grain of sand

Due to lockdown, I’ve noticed a lot of people being more reflective either about the world or about themselves, often leading to some sort of change. I started being slightly more vocal recently about some situations in my past. My friend was bewildered and confused when she found out what happened; I’m a child abuse and multiple rape survivor.

From a relative to a group of classmates, to a stranger who groomed me and an old boss of a random cash in hand temp job who spiked my drink…and more. Despite this I remain a people lover. I love meeting new people and making friends. I always look at new people as new friends to make.

My friend was curious how I’m still such a positive person. I pondered why I’m still open and trusting. The memories can weigh me down like heavy rocks tied to my heart, but over time I’ve reduced their affect by filling my life with joy and purpose.

It led me to be quite outgoing in terms of taking back my own sexual control in school and beyond, always known for kissing boys (and later girls) in the playground. I had a lot of good and real friends but I know this is something people talked about. A lot of lies were spread by people who tried it on and failed. People who knew me knew the truth and my heart.

I now carry small grains of sand, reduced by the waves I make and now my life is the ocean. And I can be thankful for they have made me the person I am today…I think I’m stronger, more resilient and maybe wouldn’t have achieved everything I have in life up to now; from finishing uni after getting pregnant, to working two jobs while raising a family ( with a man who lovingly stuck around) to my volunteering, my 8 albums/EPs, my events and community work both in my neighbourhood and city and now across the country online with other BESEA (British East & South East Asian) friends.

I think though my friend wanted positivity tips for people? So here’s some in summary:

Love is stronger than hate – show and give love whenever you can and it will come back to you like karma and fill you with joy while you give it and beyond.

Forgiveness and understanding is freedom – there’s always a reason for something and always a conversation opportunity to build bridges.

Sprinkle little joys into your day when/where-ever possible – I like touching velvet (I’m quite sensory) so I got velvet pillows and stroke them all the time, yours could be like a certain treat to eat, touch, smell, see. I love looking at clouds float and thinking about how magical it is that water goes into the sky and forms clouds…which leads me to

Appreciate the miracle that is life, and learn about the science of how things work. It’s so easy to take them for granted. Which leads me to…

Gratitude is the attitude. We all have something to be grateful for. Bodies that live and move, senses that experience life, friendship, family, shelter…I sometimes count my blessings like an endless list when something makes me sad and it soon cheers me up.

Dare to dream, but don’t get consumed by it. It’s great to have dreams and goals and strive for something, but don’t get caught up in the need for them (I know I have!). They are like visions to the future or wishes. Blow them away and let them go into the wind, then live a life following things that bring you bliss and give you purpose and through your actions and feelings they will come back to you in some way or another.

Faith isn’t just for religions – I really appreciate all religions, and I believe they are just formalised teachings from different people and places of the same things (through the lenses of various times and cultures), of how to lead good lives that help others and fulfil our life’s purpose. I used to think I had no faith, but now I know I had no one religion (though the one I most connect to right now is Taoism and then Buddhism). I have faith, just like we know the earth will keep spinning, and the sun will keep rising, I have faith that if I live a good life following joy and helping others when I can, in the best way I can, that the universe will look after me. We are all connected and part of something.

Embrace mistakes and don’t waste a moment– no-ones perfect, if you can forgive others then forgive yourself, and work out what life’s lesson it was there to teach you. As the art I gave my nan says (which now hangs on my wall) ‘ yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, use it well.’

Also I’m not saying we shouldn’t have negative emotions, life is a spectrum of good and bad and we must cry if we feel like crying – work through and live those moments of sadness and frustration or whatever and then when you’ve let them out ( I find a problem shared is truly a problem halved and also dancing and singing to any song that reps how you feel is great way to get physical and vocal without hurting anyone/thing except maybe their ears lol) and then fill your life with the waves of joy, bliss, love, forgiveness and gratitude…Then the rocks that burden our backs will breakdown to grains of sand, still there to remind us of their teachings, but so much lighter to bare.

On a last note, I like to think of these two opposites; how much one person can change the world, and how insignificant we all are – just tiny specs in the universe part of something so much bigger than us. One time I was in a peer support group for community work and someone said to me, “Don’t ask what the world needs, just do what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is for more people to come alive, like you.” It reminded me of a line I wrote in one of my songs the line is ‘we’re living, but what are we living for?’ It’s yet to be recorded but here’s some new music below for now – It’s all about the journey I went through to get to a confident place and I want everyone to have the chance to learn from my experiences.

Love will save the day. Kala

My new album NINE DRAGON was released on Friday. For the full story of the album and each song plus free/pay what u like download go to my bandcamp here. (Plus It’s on usual online stores if you prefer to add it to your Spotify(embed below) / iTunes etc).


My new album is coming later this year. The last few tracks are being finished off. I have some exiting new collaborations but what excites me most is the story behind the whole album.

In East Asia dragons are like the heroes bringing good things to the people, unlike in western culture where they are a monster to be slain (apparently slayed isn’t a word?).

My dad is from Kowloon, next to Hong Kong Island, the literal translation for Kowloon in Chinese is NINE DRAGONS. I think maybe because there is a large wall there with 9 dragons (there are walls and screens with this art on them in many places too by the looks of google).

I looked up these dragons but I didn’t personally connect with the qualities of these specific nine dragons. So I came up with nine qualities that I and (I think) others journey through in order to become their best self and achieve their true potential – both in purpose and talent/skill they have to give to the world.

So on the album there will be 9 tracks. Each song brings forth a dragon. The Dragon brings you a quality. Through singing along, playing, watching, etc you will gain the power of that dragon.

I’m just finalising the last few songs and qualities, but at the moment it looks like this:

1. Voices – Self Discovery/Purpose
2. Dark Idea – Ambition/Determination
3. Superhuman – Self Belief / Self Love
4. The Lost Ones – Bravery/Strength
5. Enough – Resilience
6. Break the Rules – Tenacity
7. Anything – Gratitude
8. Gonna Be – Faith
9. Heart of a Dragon – Courage

I’ve self funded/done the writing, recording and production, plus some great collaborations. Now all I have to decide is do is try and crowdfund/preorder to get physical/CDs done? What is the future of the album if you’ve no CD player and nothing to hold? And what dragon do I need to bring forth in order to know the answer!!??

[Cover art Bart Blazejewski]


I hear these voices, I hear these voices

Stumbling through the darkest night, Someone say it’s gonna be alright

Tired of questioning my heart , Knowing who I could be from the start

Do I believe the things they say? Or will I do this anyway?

Since I was young I knew my soul, Shadowed by the doubt of all

I hear these voices in my head, I fear my choices where they’ve led

I question who I am, I watch the falling sand

I hear these voices, I fear my choices where they’ve led

I fear my choices where they’ve led

My reflection is a blur, Clouded by confusion, fear they stir

Sometimes I break down and cry, I see my years go slipping by

But time to stand and show the world, Not scared of what the future holds

No wondering what if I die, I’ve left no star up in the sky

I hear these voices in my head, I fear my choices where they’ve led

I question who I am, I watch the falling sand

I hear these voices, I fear my choices where they’ve led

I fear my choices where they’ve led

Bridging two worlds, Heart split in two, Which one will rule, Tell me what’s true

Look at my life; what do you see? I hear your voice – tell it to me!

I hear these voices in my head, I fear my choices where they’ve led

I question who I am, I watch the falling sand

I hear these voices, I fear my choices where they’ve led

I fear my choices where they’ve led

(These are the lyrics from my new track Voices out Jan 24th 2020. I hope you enjoyed reading this little window into my soul, and took some learning from it – maybe how others might shape you and to explore who you are and what you have to give to the world and how you can find true happiness)

What is your calling?

Today I made a lyric video for my song Calling. I don’t usual make lyric videos but for me this song means a lot and so I wanted people to know the lyrics.

I wrote it about a year ago, when I felt a calling to go help my local community centre. It was a bizarre experience. I mean many days and in general I feel a calling to make music (and it’s also about that) but I used to walk past everyday saying to myself when I’m a rich pop star I will give my money to that community centre to help fix the roof and windows and get events going etc but this was bizarre and new and strange: I felt this really strong sense of purpose, like a pull and suddenly I had all these ideas and I was like on some kind of mission.

I also wanted to write something that let others know to listen to your heart and to trust your calling and go for it. And even if things get really tough, that you should hold tight to your dreams and your calling and not give up on who you are and what you have to give to the world.

I do hope this helps some people to realise that you are the only one who knows your true calling, it’s deep inside you, and to stay strong and true.

Sometimes your calling isn’t clear or it can be more than one thing. I battled for a year between what should I focus on music or community and in the end I’m just going with my heart which is to do both. Sometimes that’s hard because I don’t get as much rest or free time as I’d like, but then if these are my purposes in life then what does it matter if that’s what I spend my life mostly doing?

Some people have seen this commitment to my community to interpret that I am therefore not committed to my music. That makes me sad, as I don’t want to feel like doing one takes away from the other. I hope one day somehow they will all come together. And like instead of spreading my time between the two, maybe I can make millions with music and give it all to the community centre. That thought alone keeps me focussed on making more music, as well as, of course, it is part of who I am – and if I don’t make music I don’t feel whole. Is there something you feel like that about? I hope xxx

How to get confident in front of a crowd of people

I’ve never been that confident about getting on stage or giving a speech. But over the years I’ve done it a lot and get some good feedback and it was suggested I share some tips:

Keep doing it until it’s less scary. Both practicing it at home (including how you’ll move around or hold yourself) and actually doing more performances/speeches. It gets better! I’d say it’s less bad after about 3 times, and you have to keep doing it often or it’s like starting again.

Focus on what you’re giving people (advice, a song, a joke, whatever). They aren’t sat there judging you, they’re waiting in happy anticipation of what you’re about to give.

Don’t worry about or focus on impressing anyone. You’re not there to win anyone over (or even say it’s a big presentation, or important gig just forget that), just have fun with it!! Enjoy it! Smile!

Extra other tips for if it’s a presentation for work or something:

Forget talking slowly, talk your normal pace and be natural and you’ll feel more at ease and remember it’s your heart and feeling more than the words. Just have 3 key points and story to tell and talk around that with maybe a few pictures to illustrate or prompt you!

A quicky today I know but people ask me this a lot and I like to help people know this. If you want any more advice or help feel free to message me!

Just keep swimming

Have you heard Dory from Finding Nemo, she says just keep swimming, right?
And  that’s what I keep telling myself at the moment.

You see I’ve been ‘on the grind’ for 9 years as a solo artist, probably only got decent in recent years and now I am super proud of my album Empress and the event I put on (video below). I’ve had a emotional dip after this festival, but people say that’s normal after all the build up. And after some really supportive chats with various people lately I’m like ready to conquer the world again!

But if you are trying to conquer something, whether it’s big or small I want to tell you not to give up. I need people to tell me that often!

I wrote my first song when I was 7, I can still sing it today and it was about my dolly: “Oh baby Anna how I love you so, and when I see you I rock you to and fro”. I wrote about monsters in a jungle!? in early senior school:”Danger danger, run away, Danger danger, don’t let them get you any day (repeat)” and later in my teens: “Well I’ll love you forever if you stay with me tonight, oh I’ll love you forever if you treat me right.”
The melodies and lyrics got slightly better each year, even better when I learned how to play an instrument, even better when I actual dedicated time and believed in myself and had actually lived a life to talk about.

I went through various bands I tried to start, and was always the last one standing. I stopped music during uni only to sing at our final ball and regretting those 3 years I’d stopped (though I did co-host a radio show). I started writing at home when my daughter was little (I had her at uni). On return home my cousin let on she could sing only for me to drag her into a duo with me. 5 years later,  we had many demo songs, one lost album after three years of recording only for the studio to go bust and us not have our files, and she had a baby and decided to take a break. I’d thought like the world was telling me to just give it up! – But I was dragged back into the studio and on stage by rapper friends and they said why don’t I just be a solo artist?

I went from my family telling me I sounded like a cat when I insisted on performing to the family at various parties as a child, to performing at O2 Academy Bristol and celebrating my 3rd solo album (after 3 solo EPs) this year. From tape recordings to studio recordings. From making people screw up their faces (age 5) to making people smile. I was not born good at writing or singing or anything. I just keep working at it because my heart calls me to do that, and that’s all you have to do if you have a dream deep in your heart, keep going, you can do it! And enjoy the journey, ’cause it’s probably a long one!

There’s so much more I could say, and I’m sure I will later, but for now, my point? I suppose I’m telling myself and I’m sharing this message to you, like my friends and supporters shared with me this month: Don’t give up, or as I like to wiggle and sing to myself impersonating Dory ‘ just keep swimming’

So yeah, I did this, what’s next for me, who knows! (But I better start my next vision plan now!)

To hear my song FIRE all about following your dreams, listen to it on my new album Empress on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon and more.

To keep in touch and get a free song subscribe to my emails (the free song is currently ‘Fire’ btw! – depending on when you read this of course!)

Staying strong

So I’ve been on a mad one the last few months getting my Mini Moon Festival 2017 sorted. It was a blast putting on a show with east asian influenced music, street dance and martial arts, and performing at O2 Academy Bristol was pretty epic to say the least. It was lot of work, and sometimes I felt like I was gonna fall apart. In times like this I’m glad I’ve written songs that keep me going, and I hope that they can keep others going too! (p.s. I feel sorry for all event promoters, it’s a tough job, and I really don’t know how they do it – hats off to you!)

FIRE is all about following your dreams and you’ll see the video for that on my artist homepage and at one point I was singing it to my self every morning so that I wouldn’t give up. In all the whirlwind of getting the event ready I didn’t even have a chance to let everyone know that my new video for STRONG is out so here it is!

– And since, as lots of people ask, the line is : ‘The fight made me a strong girl’ – I wrote it to my mum to tell her not to worry about the really tough things that I went through in my childhood and even now it goes to show we can gain from terrible things that happen, they made me stronger – so something like creating a festival – it was much easier to stay Strong.

So I pulled off the biggest event of my life (to date) and I learned a lot for next time. I hope that if you ever need to stay strong, you can listen / watch / sing along and I hope this helps! – though you may wanna replace the word  ‘girl’ with ‘ boy/man/ or if you can think of a gn word like human person that fit’s in one syllable (I couldn’t) etc – and let me know (tweet @makalacheung )

P.S. I really tried this time to take in and watch all the other performances on the day (and not worry too much about my set), and I did and it was amazing. I couldn’t have done it without all the help of the acts on the helpers on the day. Special thanks go to WoE China Bureau, Jelli Records, Life & Soul Communications, Chayster Entertainment, Songsmith, my family, and the team at the venue, plus thanks to Marcus Way for the awesome footage to go on the screen while I performed. I’ll be editing my video (with footage from Yourmusic Productions) very soon and if you couldn’t make it you’ll be able to see it on youtube and facebook – to make sure you get the link you can join me on email conversations and like my page

I’m so excited to have launched my first ever crowd funding campaign – #HelpBringEmpressToLife

It all started before Christmas when I finally got the guts to do my website (DIY as I had no funds for a full build) into my idea of Cheung Island, where I live as Empress, and it’s the hidden land where the Far East meets the West -just like my Mini Moon Festival album launch 2015 (so not just about me, but other related stuff). So now it’s a whole online fantasy world, another way for me to help celebrate and share Chinese and East Asian Culture. (I’m so proud and into my heritage, and I love finding out about new things and sharing it.)

Fast forward a few months and I’d got to the point where I’d recorded, produced and collaborated, got mixed and mastered (pro finish on the sound) a load of songs for my 2017 album, which based on the new website concept I’d decided to call Empress. But I’d ran out of personal funds to get the CDs done. I also know some people do not use CDs but like a physical thing still, so I also worked with KWMC The Factory to design some laser cut digital download keyrings, but again the upfront cost added to what I needed to move forward.

I’d been feeling very excited by this evolving story though, it’s been growing with my music, songs, videos and website. It kind of is a metaphor for my life (can you guess what the metaphor is?) – I’m the Empress who rules Cheung Island, who turns into a manga style super hero at night spreading joy with my love stick…

Sound weird? –  check out my FIRE video and maybe this will help you see what I saw when I wrote the song Fire

It’s all about following my dreams and the burning feeling I had to pursue with my whole heart, no matter how hard it feels sometimes, when I nearly give up but I pick myself back up and keep going, keeping making music, keep putting myself out there.

So, after about a few months of looking into crowdfunding sites on and off, and generally procrastinating, feeling really unsure about this new platform and process that I knew nothing about, I got to the point where if I didn’t literally do it immediately I wouldn’t get my album in time for my launch date to coincide with Chinese Mid-Autumn festival.

So, in a matter of days, with a few last-minute pics from Marcus Way (who makes many of my videos) and Lewis (who plays bass in my live band), and a few back and forth emails with Fundsurfer.com I got my new crowd fund campaign going for my CDs and digital download keyrings. In 2 days I’d reached 24%, which I am so grateful for all the support, and actually very surprised how well it’s gone so far.

I’ve had a quiet day of no pledges since, I start to question myself about if I’m doing the right thing, but then I remember all the wonderful backers who have pledged already, and how their generosity and belief means I should stay strong. (More on staying strong in my next blog I think – about my news single Strong, which is out now at online stores.)

For now, I have one last question – Can you help bring Empress to life?
(A pledge, a social media share, a message to others will all help!)