Computer science student wins big at Mandopop songwriting contest with powerful ballad

Mr James Liu Song Yu (second from right), who composed the lyrics and melody of the song Searching, which won the Best Song Award at  SG:SW2019 I Write The Songs, a nation-wide Mandarin pop songwriting festival, on Sept 28, 2019. It was performed by
Mr James Liu Song Yu (second from right), who composed the lyrics and melody of the song Searching, which won the Best Song Award at SG:SW2019 I Write The Songs, a nation-wide Mandarin pop songwriting festival, on Sept 28, 2019. It was performed by Mr Daniel Lim (third from right).PHOTO: SG:SW I WRITE THE SONGS
Mr Daniel Lim performing at SG:SW2019 I Write The Songs, a nation-wide Mandarin pop songwriting festival, on Sept 28, 2019.
Mr Daniel Lim performing at SG:SW2019 I Write The Songs, a nation-wide Mandarin pop songwriting festival, on Sept 28, 2019.PHOTO: SG:SW I WRITE THE SONGS

SINGAPORE - University student James Liu Song Yu was searching for meaning in his life.

So the 24-year-old Singaporean, who is studying computer science at the National University of Singapore, put pen to paper and wrote the lyrics and melody to a Mandarin power ballad called Searching.

Little did he expect it to be the big winner at SG:SW2019 I Write The Songs, a nation-wide Mandopop songwriting festival. The event's finale concert was held on Saturday (Sept 28) at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC).

The song, performed by Singaporean civil servant Daniel Lim, won both the Best Song Award and Best Vocal Performance Award. The Best Song Award includes a $2,000 cash prize and the Best Vocal Performance Award includes a $1,000 cash prize.

Mr Liu, who wrote the melody in 30 minutes and the lyrics in three days, told The Straits Times: "A lot of people around my age are looking for meaning in their lives - via their careers, hobbies or something else. I wanted to say that all of us are looking for something that is greater than ourselves and this process might be a difficult one.

"I hope this song can help people feel that they are not alone in their search. Even if they feel empty at times, it is normal and just part of us discovering ourselves."

The festival, jointly organised by SCCC, the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore and Ocean Butterflies Music, aims to uncover and cultivate the next generation of music talent.

Out of the 303 compositions received this year (in 2019) during the open call submission, 12 were performed at Saturday's concert.

The judges included Singaporean xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook and singer-songwriter Wong Hong Mok as well as Taiwanese music producer Bing Wang.

The show also featured performances by home-grown acts singer-songwriter Kenny Khoo and folk-pop duo The Freshman.

The song Ku Mahu Zaihu (I Want To Care in a mix of Malay and Chinese), with Malay and Chinese lyrics, won the SCCC Xchange Award, which aims to encourage compositions with strong multi-ethnic elements. It was composed by Mr Jamiel Said, with lyrics by him and Mr Lim Wei Bin.

Singer-songwriter Jamiel, 37, said: "We wanted to create a beautiful song that has influences from Malaysian director-singer P. Ramlee and Taiwanese songbird Teresa Teng."

Mr Lim, 33, an instructional designer, added: "I don't speak Malay and Jamiel doesn't speak Mandarin, so we had to work on translating the lyrics and overcome the challenge of getting the right rhythm and number of syllables."