Taiwanese singer Chyi Yu to perform Olive Tree as tribute song

Chyi Yu. -- PHOTO: ROCK RECORDS
Chyi Yu. -- PHOTO: ROCK RECORDS

Taiwanese singer Chyi Yu will perform her signature song here, in memory of composer Li Tai-hsiang

Taiwanese singer Chyi Yu, 57, swore off singing her breakout song Olive Tree last year as the result of a spiritual epiphany.

However, she changed her mind after her mentor Li Tai-hsiang, composer of the classic ballad, died in January.

She says over the telephone from Taipei: "I've sung Olive Tree many times but there's an even greater significance when I sing it now because my mentor has left us. It's my way of remembering him and keeping him in our hearts forever."

The folk-pop singer will be performing this Mandopop hit from her 1979 debut album at her first solo concert in Singapore next Saturday.

She is also known for tracks such as Boat Song and covers of English ballads such as Whoever Finds This, I Love You. Her last Mandopop album Camel. Flying Bird. Fish was released in 1997 and she has recently been releasing Buddhist music compilations.

Chyi has a 21-year-old daughter with her ex- husband Li Tai-ming, the younger brother of her mentor.

She has fond memories of composer Li, who died at the age of 72 from multiple organ failure. He also suffered from Parkinson's disease.

She says: "I will miss his sensitivity to music and his insistence on making good music. He never compromised on the standard of his compositions.

"He was very kind when I was recording songs with him. He understood that I had no formal music background and was forgiving of things such as pitch. What was important to him was expressing the emotions of the song."

The evergreen masterpiece has also found new life in the form of covers by Singapore songbird Stefanie Sun and Chinese-American heart-throb Fei Xiang.

Chyi Yu, the older sister of rock balladeer Chyi Chin, names Sun's version of Olive Tree as one of her favourites.

She says: "Sun's version is like a lullaby with its simple guitar accompaniment. I really like the way the song is done. It's like how I used to sing while my mentor played the piano. I always felt a guitar accompaniment would go well with the song."

Though Chyi may have sung her signature tune countless times, she feels that it never gets old.

She says: "The melody of Olive Tree has a timeless quality. When you listen to the song, you won't feel it's an oldie. Still, it's good to jazz up the song from time to time."

In fact, she was receptive to a suggestion offered by a journalist during the group media interview.

She perked up at the idea of singing an English version of the song, just as Taiwan-born, Hong Kong-based singer Sally Yeh did in 1980.

Chyi says: "That's a good idea. I haven't thought about it before. I always give a fresh twist to Olive Tree when I perform it, like how I did an a cappella version at my Hong Kong performance. I'll definitely consider your suggestion."

nggwen@sph.com.sg