Singer Wong Hong Mok to hold concert after 31/2 years

Wong Hong Mok plans to release an album in November.
Wong Hong Mok plans to release an album in November.PHOTO: OCEAN BUTTERFLIES MUSIC

Singaporean singer-songwriter Wong Hong Mok is best known for his seminal album A Wild Man's Dreams (1990), which startled and beguiled with lush imagery of nature.

Even today, he remains untamed. He tells The Straits Times: "When you put me in a city, in a crowded place, my mind starts to wander and it's only in the mountains that I find myself. There's so much to be thankful for with nature."

He is happiest climbing mountains in Malaysia or exploring villages on Indonesian islands.

So-called progress in the form of shopping malls and the temptation to buy more things disturbs him. "Once making money becomes your starting point in life, your thinking becomes skewed. I don't think this material culture is a happy one."

The wild-man philosopher has consistently shunned the limelight and held his first solo show at the Esplanade Concert Hall only in December 2012. Encouraged by the response, Wong, 57, is back with another concert, this time at Kallang Theatre on July 9.

The singer, better known as Huang Hongmo, says happily: "Even thinking about it now has my hair standing on its ends. It wasn't just a relationship between a singer and an audience, it was more of a gathering with familiar friends."

The spark of inspiration has also been ignited by the private music lessons he has been giving. He muses: "As a musician, only if you can move yourself will your songs have life. Otherwise, it's all for show, a product with no feelings."

In the past few years, he has been setting music to local poetry. Wong, who works as a commercial photographer to pay the bills, suggests that poems are flat. "Only by setting it to music does it become three-dimensional, can it be sung and passed on. Otherwise, too many good poems have been neglected."

Wu Wai (Outside The House) was written by local poet Wang Runhua in the 1970s when Nanyang University was about to be closed down, and it laments the fate of its students.

Wong was moved by his memories of the late Sunkist Ng, one-third of the xinyao (Singapore songs) trio The Straws, to write the poem Sui Yue Ru Ge (Time Is Like A Song). He uses the changing of the seasons as a metaphor for one's relationship with people from one's past.

With four to five songs already in the bag, there are plans to release an album in November. "It won't make money, but I definitely want to do it for posterity's sake." His last album was 2009's All This Will Pass.

The bachelor sees it as a passion project to introduce local poems to a wider audience. "Poetry has a soul. And where there is poetry and literature, there is beauty. I think this is meaningful work. It might not benefit me directly, but maybe it can help people appreciate beauty more."

He adds: "Of course, making money is important, but if you're spiritually hollowed out at the end of it, that's a tragedy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Singer Wong Hong Mok to hold concert after 31/2 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe