Skip to main content

'The Lang Lang Effect:' Piano megastar's global impact

By Olivia Sterns for CNN
  • Performing at Beijing Olympics opening ceremony rocketed Lang Lang's career
  • Lang Lang has inspired millions of children worldwide to learn the piano
  • Fans mob megastar Lang Lang as he walks the streets of his native China
  • His jet set lifestyle includes sponsorships from Versace, Audi, Sony
  • Classical Music
  • China
  • Music

London, England (CNN) -- After starring in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, classical pianist Lang Lang rocketed to international stardom.

In China though, the 27-year-old artist -- known for his rock star-style and virtuoso talent -- had long been a megastar.

Ever since catching a lucky break at 17, playing with the Chicago Symphony, Lang Lang's national celebrity has been increasing, with an ever-growing fan base.

When he walks the streets in his native country, fans go wild, swarming him in mobs, feverishly taking pictures. Even outside Asia, where he's less well-known, he is recognized as a sensation --"the hottest artist on the classical music planet," according to a The New York Times.

Lang Lang's spiky hair, eccentric fashion sense and modern interpretation of classical works have helped attract a younger generation of fans to the music.

In fact, since Lang Lang burst onto the scene, he has inspired millions of children in China to take up the piano -- a phenomenon known as "The Lang Lang Effect."

The lifestyle is cool ... but the more important thing is what I feel [like] inside myself.
--Lang Lang

His status is so well-known that iconic piano-maker Steinway specially commissioned a Lang Lang-branded piano. He is the only person the company has ever named an instrument after.

His popularity is such that a laundry list of companies from Sony to Audi have lined up to sponsor the young musician.

Versace provides his clothes, Adidas has made him limited-edition gold-trimmed sneakers and Shanghai Tang have come out with a special Lang Lang scarf.

"The lifestyle is quite cool," admits Lang Lang. "Sometimes I fly [by] private jet ... everything that I wear is sponsored and I get a good lifestyle.

"But the more important thing is what I feel inside myself," he told CNN.

In 2008, Lang Lang released his second biography, "Journey of a Thousand Miles." It was published in eight languages. This year, he started the Lang Lang International Music Foundation to foster music education for children, endowing it with a $5 million grant.

Currently, the young prodigy is collaborating with American jazz legend, Herbie Hancock, with whom he performed at the 2008 Grammy Awards. They tour together in addition to Lang Lang's individual concerts and appearances.

He travels so much that he jokes he should be a flight attendant. On each trip comes an entourage of mom, dad, managers and media, all promoting "The Lang Lang Effect" to the maximum extent possible.