Xinyao hits a crescendo

(Clockwise from top left) Singer Juno Lin, Ocean Butterflies managing director Colin Goh, composer Lee Wei Song, xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook, actress Ann Kok, MediaCorp's head of family segment (Chinese) Irene Lim, WaWa Pictures chief creative dir
(Clockwise from top left) Singer Juno Lin, Ocean Butterflies managing director Colin Goh, composer Lee Wei Song, xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook, actress Ann Kok, MediaCorp's head of family segment (Chinese) Irene Lim, WaWa Pictures chief creative director Molby Low, actors Christopher Lee and Darren Lim, and xinyao pioneer Wong Hong Mok.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Singapore Chinese folk-pop music to get a boost with a concert and new drama

Xinyao, or the Singapore Chinese folk-pop music that emerged in the 1980s, should not be just about nostalgia, says singer-songwriter Liang Wern Fook, a pioneer in the genre.

It should also innovate and be featured on new platforms to engage new audiences, he adds.

For that reason, a real-life concert in November featuring xinyao pioneers Liang and Wong Hong Mok as well as composer Lee Wei Song will be making it to reel life.

The concert will be filmed and snippets will be aired as part of a new xinyao-themed drama, Crescendo, that debuts on Channel 8 in October.

Liang, 50, a Cultural Medallion recipient, says: "People always say that xinyao concerts attract middle-aged audiences. Xinyao shouldn't just be about nostalgia. "

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He cites the movie That Girl In Pinafore (2013), which had a xinyao soundtrack. It appealed to young students and new immigrants, who have no memory of xinyao. He was speaking at a press event for the concert on Tuesday.

He, Wong (who is better known as Huang Hongmo) and Lee will be appearing as themselves in the drama, whereas the cast, such as Christopher Lee, Ann Kok and Darren Lim, will be in character.

The concert set list is still in the works, says Liang, who is behind xinyao classics Xi Shui Chang Liu (Friendship Forever) and Singapore Pie. But one thing is for sure, he wants to give a fresh spin on the classics.

For instance, it could be a duet with "old friends" Wong and Lee, or with new talents such as local singers Ling Kai and Bonnie Loo.

Wong, who made a splash with his self-penned title track from his 1990 debut album A Wild Man's Dreams and has turned Chinese poems penned by local poets into songs, will be singing his new compositions.

He is not discouraged, even though tunes from Taiwan and South Korea are all the rage in the Asian music scene.

Wong, who is in his 50s, says: "We shouldn't stop composing just because the attention isn't on us. We should reflect on why listeners are tuning in to other songs and not xinyao.

"We can start over and find new material. If you have good songs, it will naturally gain traction. Back then, we didn't know that xinyao would gain so much attention."

Lee, 47, says he would like to do his part for the local music scene by grooming new talent. He and his twin brother Si Song had mentored Singapore's Mandopop diva Stefanie Sun. Their new protege, singer-songwriter Ling Kai, appeared on China's CCTV reality television singing show Sing My Song last year.

The Lee brothers are also established hit-makers, having penned popular songs for Asian pop heavyweights such as Jam Hsiao and Jacky Cheung.

Lee says: "Even local behindthe-scenes talents, music arrangers and musicians are sought after by overseas singers. We need to believe that Singapore has a lot of talent."

• Crescendo premieres on Oct 22 at 9pm on Channel 8.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Xinyao hits a crescendo'. Print Edition | Subscribe