Singing for Singapore

Olinda Cho came in third in the inaugural season of Singapore Idol in 2004, while Ng Chee Yang was the champion for Campus Superstar in 2006.
Olinda Cho came in third in the inaugural season of Singapore Idol in 2004, while Ng Chee Yang was the champion for Campus Superstar in 2006.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Home-grown singers Olinda Cho and Ng Chee Yang will perform in a concert tomorrow for a shot at appearing on China Super Vocal

Former Singapore Idol contestant Olinda Cho and Campus Superstar champion Ng Chee Yang are among 12 singers here competing for three spots to appear on a popular Chinese TV show.

They will perform tomorrow for a chance at being selected to go to China for China Super Vocal, which is judged by Mandopop king Jay Chou and other established singers. Formerly called The Voice Of China, the television contest is being branded as a new show due to a legal dispute with the Dutch format owner.

At a press event yesterday, Cho tells The Straits Times she responded to the audition calls out of nationalistic pride.

"I want to give singers in China a run for their money. I want to show that we may be small, but we are strong," she says.

This will be her first singing contest in 12 years since she placed third in the inaugural season of Singapore Idol in 2004.

Since then, she has been giving vocal lessons and running talent agency Nu Management with model-actress Sheila Sim.

Besides the stiff competition she is likely to face if she makes it there for the show, Cho, who is more comfortable conversing in English, will also have to overcome the language barrier.

But she is undaunted. "It's not like I have to write an essay. I may not know the 'cheem' Chinese, but I can communicate and joke in Mandarin," she says, using the Hokkien term for "complex".

She will perform Wu Bai's Wanderer's Love Song tomorrow.

While Ng declines to reveal what song he has chosen, he says he hopes to be mentored by Chinese singer Na Ying - a judge on the show - if he gets to represent Singapore in China Super Vocal.

"She's nurturing, yet she's critical at the same time. I believe she will be able to help me improve my singing. She's supportive of her team, which I like," says Ng, 26, who won Campus Superstar, a home-grown student singing contest, in 2006.

He is based in New York because he wants to carve out a singing career in the United States, and will tour with American a cappella group Vocalosity over the next few years. He was in Singapore for his singing projects last month and decided to take part in the China Super Vocal auditions, in which 1,700 hopefuls took part.

In the show, contestants show off their singing prowess in the hope of getting picked by celebrity mentors, including veteran Taiwanese singer Harlem Yu and rocker Wang Feng, who is actress Zhang Ziyi's husband.

Last year, when the show was called The Voice Of China, husband-and-wife singers Alfred Sim and Tay Kewei performed in China, but they were not picked by the mentors.

The 12 finalists here will battle it out tomorrow at a concert held at The Coliseum in Hard Rock Hotel Singapore. All 2,000 tickets to the concert have been given out.

Judging the show are producer- songwriter Billy Koh, singer-songwriters Paul Lee Wei Song and Dick Lee, and veteran radio deejay Eeva Chang Mei Hsiang, whose company Eeva Productions organised the auditions here.

Largely based in China, Koh, 52, says he is back here to "update" himself on the scene and find out if the younger generation of Singaporeans has what it takes to replicate the success of JJ Lin and Stefanie Sun.

Sun's mentor Paul Lee, 47, says: "I'm not looking for someone who is just out to show off his vocal techniques and hit high notes. It has to be someone with a human touch."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'Singing for Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe