Concert review: Hanjin Tan re-imagines the Mandopop hits he wrote for others

Homegrown Hong Kong-based artist Hanjin Tan is many things to different people.

Obligingly, the singer-songwriter-arranger-producer-actor catered to the different segments of his fanbase at his hour-plus gig on Sunday at Huayi, Esplanade's Chinese festival of arts.

On the opening autobiographical song Hands To The Sky, he rapped about his life "from 14 years ago to four years ago". From his days as a singer at the now-defunct Fat Frog Cafe in Armenian Street, he went on to pen songs for A-lister Jacky Cheung and has grown into a respected singer-songwriter in his own right with feted albums such as Who Is Hanjin Tan (2011).

He has a big, bright and bold voice that easily fills the cosy Esplanade Recital Studio as he draws you into his songs.

Speaking mostly in English, Tan also shared little titbits about his works. Useless, for example, was written for his wife before they were married - and he is advising her to walk away because being a musician will not amount to anything.

Ironic then that there are those who know him for the Mandopop hits he has created for others. They include Eason Chan's Love Is Suspicion, Jam Hsiao's Marry Me, Coco Lee's So Crazy and a duet he sang with Sammi Cheng, Steps.

He performed all of these, but in testament to his mad skills as an arranger, they were all re-imagined, especially Love Is Suspicion, whose original funky and bluesy arrangement was ditched entirely.

Stripped of their pop sheen, the tunes still shone. They were usually set to a piano and guitar accompaniment and exuded a loose-limbed vibe. He even scatted at points, adding to the improvisational, jazzy feel.

Still others know him better as an actor from TVB series, including the long-running sitcom Til Love Do Us Lie (2011). So he performed No Time For Regrets - which he wrote and sang - the theme song for the popular legal drama Ghetto Justice (2011), which he did not act in.

Apart from fan who appreciate his talents in the various, Tan asked if they were any in the audience who were there because they know his parents.

He was joking, of course, because the fact is, no matter which Hanjin Tan you know, one thing remains constant: He is a man of singular talent.

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