“Singing was my salvation”: Annabella Lwin
"A lot of times I'll go to the clubs and just listen to the music"
“Let me give you a quick snippet of history,” Annabella begins when I ask her about the outlandish Vivienne Westwood outfits that Bow Wow Wow were decked out in back in the day.
“I was born in Burma, now called Myanmar. My mother is English and was a nurse and a single parent with four kids to bring up. I got a day job every Saturday working in a dry cleaners, where a friend of Malcolm McLaren's came in and heard my singing.” This chance encounter ultimately led to Annabella’s fame 35 years ago, but it wasn’t a classic ‘child prodigy’ story, as she explains:
“Singing used to bring me happiness, and it was my salvation, effectively - I was in Burma one minute and in London the next and the horrors of that can really muck up a young child. I actually ended up working with a group of guys who were trying to get me to sing songs that I couldn't relate to, and it used to make me laugh. Malcolm got Vivienne to put the clothes together - I went to Vivienne's house, and I always assumed that was the way designers worked, just in their houses.”
It was Annabella’s Burmese heritage which she credits for allowing her to soak up the stardom at such an early age without going off the rails.
“Because I was born in the Far East, I had the great fortune to be raised a Buddhist. To get myself through that strange, transitionary period, I starting chanting [Buddhist chant] Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and that is what kept me together, body, soul and mind.”
So many years later, Annabella has no problem with recreating the same energy onstage. “I do the songs as I've always done them,” she explains, “and when I get on stage I do what I've always done. I can't even explain it because I don't really know myself - it just happens. Every show for me is different. My whole thing is that wherever I go to perform it's about the audience and making sure the fans get what they want. That's also what kept me together when I was touring extensively as a teenager. I'm just following my heart right now which is why I'm doing a tour of the UK - I'm hoping to see the real Bow Wow Wow fans out in the crowd.”
In terms of what we can we expect from her set at Rewind, Annabella keeps her cards close to her chest, telling us “that's a surprise!”, but she has kept her ear to the ground in terms of modern music, particularly when it comes to dance music:
“I like Lxury, I like KiNK. A lot of times I'll go to the clubs and just listen to the music, which is something that's really nice about not being constantly in the public eye - you have a little more freedom to do that sort of thing. I'm not exactly an aficionado in terms of what's hot at the moment, but I do listen to a lot of modern dance music and listen to a lot of new stuff.”
We can’t wait to hear what she has in store this summer.
Annabella Lwin performs at Rewind Festival South at Temple Island Meadows in Henley-on-Thames on Sunday 21st August.
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