Shenzhen’s expat community is loaded with talent, even if it’s often just passing through. That’s the case with 18-year-old singer-songwriter Dinorah Zamora, who’s been adding her smoky vocals to Shenzhen’s scene for nearly a decade now.
With a musical father and an encouraging mom, this daughter of Mexico started young and has since played with Sanam in India, Lonestar’s Steve Jones and a slew of local bands. She recently also recorded her own EP, Cosmic Vision, in the A8 recording studio right here in Shenzhen.
After moving away for a stint in California, Dinorah’s back.
She's aleady played the Hard Rock Cafe stage at Midi Fest and she's about to headline two shows this weekend: Friday night at The Brew and Sunday at Xichong beach's Secret Spot. [UPDATE: The Xichong event has been canceled due to rain.]
We chatted with Dinorah about her big return concerts and living her passion at the top of her lungs.
Congratulations on performing at the Secret Spot beach party this weekend. Is this your first time playing Shenzhen’s beaches?
Thank you! I’m so excited and thankful to be performing there! I've actually played there once when I was 14 for an event called 'Pac United.'
Even though you’re 18, you have a long history with Shenzhen, right? What are your earliest or happiest memories of life in the city?
Shenzhen is my home since I’ve moved here when I was 10. Shekou is the place I know most about getting around. My earliest memory of living here was the first day we got here, my dad had been living here a few months already and we arrived at the building to drop off our luggage. First, I remember the humidity of leaving the ferry terminal – haha, I really miss that here today.
I remember us going shopping at this supermarket called 'A Best' and buying groceries and new things we needed. It was a rad experience because we were in a completely different country and everything was different. Just seeing the Chinese characters on everything was the dopest for me.
The happiest memories that always pop into my head are performing here for the first time at 12 and the music community in its entirety, the friends I’ve made from different cultures that have taught me so much, and the Chinese culture in general which is now a part of me.
You were born into a musical family. Did you ever think you wanted to pursue another career?
My dad was always playing music around the house, it was normal to wake up to it. I’ve always been a dreamer and music has been a part of me since I can remember, even if it was subconsciously. I just thought it was a part of life, singing and writing.
I would write songs in crayons when I first learned to write, I’d daydream in school about being taken by bodyguards and escorted to my concerts. [laughs]
Even though a lot of people laughed, my answer to "what do you wanna be when you grow up" was always "singer." But I will always be open to learning more outside of music, and I have been.
What inspires you when you write your songs?
Everything inspires me. From the sound of cars, especially in the city, to the way the clouds flow, the outline of someone’s hand, the way waves still crash in an empty beach. I love details and observing.
If there’s something to write about and if it makes me feel something, I’ll flow into it.
When you left Shenzhen for San Diego in 2015, what was the biggest culture shock you encountered?
When I moved back to the US I was 16 years old. The biggest shock I wasn’t used to was just in moving around. In China we didn’t own a car and still don’t. Cabs are cheap, there’s bikes, buses, motorbikes (which are very fun) and walking. A lot of stuff in Shekou is close and if not you take the metro.
In the US, you need a car. If you don’t have one yet or don’t have your license, your elder or friend needs to drive you around like a baby, and who wants that?! Also if you’re under 18 years old, there is a law of curfew to be home at 10.30pm. That means 17 year-olds can’t even be in the park at 10.45pm.
What brings you back to Shenzhen?
My dad still works with Shenzhen Airlines as a pilot, so I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve kept visiting even though we live across the world now. I also get invited to perform at shows here and sometimes they align with my plans!