Winners of National Schools Xinyao Singing And Songwriting Competition want to make the indie folk music relevant again

Joyce Seah and Lim Wei Xiang (both above) won the singing group category, while Isaac Wu won the solo singing category and Alina Liu won for songwriting.
Joyce Seah and Lim Wei Xiang (both above) won the singing group category, while Isaac Wu won the solo singing category and Alina Liu won for songwriting. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Joyce Seah and Lim Wei Xiang won the singing group category, while Isaac Wu (above) won the solo singing category and Alina Liu won for songwriting.
Joyce Seah and Lim Wei Xiang won the singing group category, while Isaac Wu (above) won the solo singing category and Alina Liu won for songwriting. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Joyce Seah and Lim Wei Xiang won the singing group category, while Isaac Wu won the solo singing category and Alina Liu (above) won for songwriting.
Joyce Seah and Lim Wei Xiang won the singing group category, while Isaac Wu won the solo singing category and Alina Liu (above) won for songwriting.PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Winners of National Schools Xinyao Singing And Songwriting Competition want to make the indie folk genre relevant again

Young talents gave their take on xinyao, the Singapore Chinese indie folk music movement popular in the 1980s and 1990s, at the finals of the National Schools Xinyao Singing And Song Writing Competition 2016.

Held last Saturday at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre, the competition aims to promote xinyao while discovering new talent. Open to secondary schools, junior colleges, Institutes of Technical Education and polytechnics, it attracted more than 420 participants from 52 schools in its second edition this year.

The event was organised by Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese- language daily Lianhe Zaobao, music event company TCR Music Station and Jurong Junior College.

The top performers walked away with cash prizes ranging between $200 and $1,500.

Alina Liu, 15, penned the winning tune Will You Think Of Me in the songwriting category. She sang it in front of the 1,200-strong audience and judges singer-songwriter Roy Loi, music producer Wu Jiaming and veteran xinyao singer Hong Shaoxuan.

The love ballad will appear in an album, featuring the top five songs from the songwriting category, to be distributed to schools. The album is slated to be released in two months and the tunes will get airplay on Radio UFM100.3 .

Excited about the chance to have her original composition shared with her peers, Alina says: "I want to change what people think about Singaporean music. I want to make it cool for them to listen to it... make them think there is something new about xinyao."

The American-born student, who also holds a Singapore passport, studies at the United World College of South East Asia. She says that her ballad was partly inspired by Korean TV dramas. "I was summarising what I understood about love at the age of 13 when I wrote the song, from watching Korean dramas and hearing stories about other people's relationships," says Alina, who plays the piano, guzheng and guitar.

Isaac Wu, 13, came out tops in the individual singing category. The St Patrick's School student sang the melancholic tune Walking On The Edge Of Loneliness, which is from the soundtrack of 1980s local TV serial Song Of Youth.

Although he regularly listens to Western singers such as Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, he says he started to listen to more xinyao after his teacher signed him up for the contest. His secondary school teacher felt that he had singing potential after he performed Australian singer Sia Furler's hit Chandelier at a school performance last year.

Isaac, whose mother is from Myanmar and father is Taiwanese, says: "Some of my classmates came to support me at the finale. Now the song is stuck in their heads. When we hang out, they will hum Walking On The Edge Of Loneliness."

Champions of the singing group category Lim Wei Xiang, 18, and Joyce Seah, 17, say that they plan to actively spread awareness about xinyao. The Singapore Polytechnic students intend to upload covers of xinyao songs, such as Starry Sky and When I Think Of You, onto online streaming site YouTube.

Joyce says: "When we were preparing for the competition, we realised there weren't many covers of xinyao songs. We intend to record the songs we sang during the contest and share them online."

Wei Xiang says: "Xinyao deserves more attention. Just because it sounds old doesn't mean it is not nice to listen to. The lyrics are so good. Through our covers, we can modernise it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2016, with the headline 'Young take on xinyao'. Print Edition | Subscribe