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From Tech to Tunes: The Unconventional Journey of Bianca Cheng



Designer. Tech geek.  Entrepreneur.  Musician.  Bianca Cheng has worn many hats, from her roots as a Computer Science student at MIT to now exploring her music career full-time in Barcelona. 

 

She is an innovator who´s textile design studio was born from the most successful kickstarter project in Spain at the time.  


Above all, she is an artist who hopes to inspire others to go on their own journey and write their unique story, just as she has.  


We sat down with this creative powerhouse and inspirational artist on her interesting life path, her vision for her music project THIS IS BOSSA and her lessons from life as an expat and world traveller. 



You have had an unconventional professional trajectory, from working at Apple to being a designer and now a full-time musician.  Tell us about your journey. 

I've had an interesting professional path. For me, it's a big flex to be able to pivot so strongly and to explore so many of my different interests in a wholehearted and committed way.  I joked that my New Year's resolution for this year is 'no more hobbies.' 


But I'm seeing that now, looking back on the rest of my life, I am the sort of person that really commits to something fully.  I'm not learning a skill just to try something.  I always wanted it to turn my love of music into a dream project.  And so, pivoting through these different careers was just a way to explore my interests fully.  Like, to fully realise all of the versions of Bianca. I often ask myself what would be that impossible dream that I would never think to achieve.  And then I try to strive for that. 


When I got my first job at Apple, it was that. It felt like some part of the world had opened to me.   It opened my eyes.  I was 19 years old and I had achieved something that I had previously thought completely inaccessible.  And that was a seed for my imagination.


Growing up in Brazil, to a Chinese mom and Italian dad and spending many years travelling, how have different cultures influenced your life path and in what way?

Growing up among different cultures, different continents, travelling all around is an identity for me. I don't really have a culture of my own or rather I wasn't born with one.  I got to choose, which I see as an advantage. I pick which traditions to base my identity around.  That's a big advantage, and it can be a lot of fun.


You owned a textile design studio at one point, what did you learn through this process and what advice do you have for entrepreneurs? 

I owned a textile design studio and I learned so much from this.  I say I learned because I don't like to say I failed.  There was so much to discover about business development and international logistics. 


I'm the type of person who jumps into things without a lot of background knowledge, assuming I'll learn on the way.  I did learn a lot, and made a lot of mistakes, but here I think the focus was that I did the thing.  Because you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.


So my advice to entrepreneurs is, go for it.  Trying to fail cheaply is something that I definitely learned.  I have a very iterative work process.  And if each of those iterations can be not expensive in terms of literal money cost or my own time -  if I can go through all of those failures quickly, that's the best possible way to start a business as far as I understand.


You are now pursuing your music full-time, what is your advice to artists who are fearful of taking that leap of faith?  

My advice to artists fearful of taking the leap is the same…do the thing! Because when you look back on it, at least for me, when I look back on it, what I would regret was not dedicating myself fully to something. 


It's huge introducing myself as an artist.  For me, it's a complete change of identity. But this identity only applies to this point in time. I've been an engineer, I've been an artist.  I hope one day to be a chef.  They're just phases in life.  So if you do the thing, you will have committed fully to your phase for however long it lasts.


Maybe that is a good way to overcome fear. That as much as you put your heart into this and are vulnerable, being an artist, that state is temporary. The only thing constant in life is change. You'll move forward into this artistic identity, or you won't, and time will tell, and that's ok.


Your music project with Esteban Matuke, THIS IS BOSSA, has been described as Brazilian vibes on Mediterranean beaches.  You've also just released a new single on Spotify.  What inspires your sound and what is your vision for THIS IS BOSSA? 

When Esteban and I met, we didn't realise how much we shared a background in Bossa Nova.

It's been so integrated in both of our lives since childhood that it's almost like a style of communication or like some secret language that goes between us, that isn't shared between everyone else.


I have met other people like this, but I've never formed a duo with them.  So, that's something special.

When we first started performing together, we were playing covers of the 50ish songs that we share in our repertoire and just getting into that rhythm.


Then the next, the second phase of our collaboration was writing original songs, respecting that Brazilian style with some Mediterranean touches.


We have a song lyric where we say that we speak "português misturado," "mixed Portuguese".  I'm a native Portuguese speaker, but just like English, I speak in a dialect that is kind of my own and is informed by different travels in my life and different ways of speaking, different people, perhaps it’s a bit Mediterranean.


The third phase of our collaboration is going to be an electronic one.  So from the base of Brazilian music, from this rhythm that we both share, and the original songs that we’ve written, we are creating our own language, our own style of contemporary music that's informed by that.

So watch this space.


Going back to your educational background, you studied Computer Science at MIT.  What are your thoughts on the rapid progression of AI and is it shaping your art and music in any way? 

As we speak, I am generating an image that I'm then going to turn into an animation. I'm then going to add a glimpse of the electronic music that we've been working on as background music in celebration of Chinese  New Year.


The advancement of tools for creating any kind of visual artwork through AI in the past two years has been really, really inspiring to me.  It's work that I've been interested in for my whole life. 


I've been using Photoshop since 1995, my father used to work in computer graphics. He had a computer that was the size of an oven just processing graphics in our house. That fed my interest in computer science and led me to study that.


For the past two years, I've been really plugged into that world. When stable diffusion first came out, I was renting Linux computers, online servers to be able to run the first programs of that and generate images for what would become the walls of my booth at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan last year.


The accelerating path ofAI has a lot more to give us.  I've also been exploring things like music creation engines where you can train an AI to remix your music into any style.


Using AI is a great opportunity to iterate faster.  An AI can produce 1000 variations and you can choose 10 of them and move on from there.  That's work that, would have taken a human a month in the past.  I'm looking forward to further integrating AI into my creative workflows.


What has travelling extensively and being an expat given you? 

For me, the big takeaway from exploring so many different places is my faith in humanity.  Just people. The vast majority, 99% of humans care and want to help. 


I'm not naive, you know, I'm gonna watch my pockets in the metro even in Barcelona, for example.  And I grew up in Brazil where violence and the value of human life is pretty low. 


But the thing is that, at the core of it,  I really believe in a good intention and good spirit from most humans, I have seen it.


As a resident and lover of the city, please can you give us your Top Picks for Barcelona

  • For foodies, El Forat in Barceloneta is great for Asian fusion incorporating Puerto Rican flavours. Another secret gem, although not glamorous, is Chennai Masala Dosa for incredible South Indian food.

  • For inspiration, the summit of Montserrat is a place of spiritual significance for me. 

  • Must-see  day trips out of the city are Tossa de Mar, and anywhere along Costa Brava.

  • The Sagrada Familia is essential to explore for anyone who visits Barcelona. 



Listen to This Is Bossa´s new single here:




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