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Xiao Ma

"Absolutely incredible voice. Anyone who hears it won't have heard anything like it," says New Zealand composer Jack Body.

Such is the praise that accompanies Xiao Ma, the young Chinese singer visiting the country as artist-in-residence at Victoria University's Confucius Institute.

The reason for the hype is plain Xiao, 30, is a countertenor, which means he has a vocal range that extends upwards from his natural tenor into mezzo-soprano, spanning an extraordinary three octaves.

"Professional singers who have heard him here have been astonished, absolutely astonished because it's a very rare voice," says Body."