Echoes of familiar songs

Taiwanese singers Michelle Pan (left) and Chyi Yu (right) performing at the Taipei Arena last June.
Taiwanese singers Michelle Pan (left) and Chyi Yu (right) performing at the Taipei Arena last June.PHOTO: ROCK RECORDS

Concert by Chyi Yu and Michelle Pan will offer fresh renditions of tracks penned by Taiwanese author Echo Chen or San Mao

Its dreamy opening lines - "Don't ask me where I have come from/My home town is faraway" - have stirred wanderlust in many a listener for decades since it first hit the airwaves in 1979.

While most Mandopop fans would have heard of The Olive Tree, originally sung by Taiwanese singer Chyi Yu and covered by Singaporean songbird Stefanie Sun in 2002, fewer know that its lyrics were penned by the late Taiwanese author Echo Chen, better known as San Mao.

It is Chen's life, that Chyi, together with fellow Taiwanese singer Michelle Pan, will celebrate at a concert here later this month.

Known for her travel writings, Chen, who died in 1991 at age 47, had published books recounting her experiences in far-flung places such as the Sahara Desert, as well as Central and South America.

She also collaborated with Chyi and Pan on the 1985 album Echo, which features songs sung by the two singers, and lyrics and voice narration by herself.

The duo, now both 61, will take these songs to the stage next month.

Over the telephone from Taipei, Chyi told the Singapore media: "I was in my 20s then, and felt very happy and excited working with my idol (Chen)."

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  • WHERE: The Star Theatre, 04-01 1 Vista Exchange Green

    WHEN: April 27, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $88 to $178 from Apactix (go to www.apactix.com or call 3158-8588)

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She said that while Echo was released in the 1980s, it has plenty to offer audiences today.

"Perhaps when people listen to the album today, it feels old. But this concert will definitely not feel dated. The experience will be full, fresh, in keeping with the times. Pan and I are also not the same people as we were in the 1980s, so it will be a very special night," she said in the interview last month.

Chyi, elder sister of singer-songwriter Chyi Chin, adds that everyone can get something out of Chen's thoughts and ideas.

"Like folk ballads, I am sure these songs can connect with listeners."

She hopes parents will go with their children to the concert.

"I hope young people will be able to get a sense of how their parents felt in their younger days. After all, parents were young once too."

The current concert tour, which started in Taipei in June last year, has also made stops in Beijing and Shanghai.

Chyi says among the first songs to be performed during the show is the soothing Riddle, with its simple melody and gentle guitar accompaniment.

In a separate phone interview, Pan said the song Fly Away is among the album's tracks that spoke most to her.

The lyrics by Chen depict the end of a relationship, with the protagonist leaving on a train, a ticket in one hand, a passport in the other.

"I think everybody will face the end of a relationship at some point, although the passport and the ticket might be different."

During the concert, she adds, she will not replicate the singing style used more than 30 years ago, explaining: "It is impossible to return to the past. Rather, I will sing with my current mood and experiences."

Apart from songs from the 1985 album, Chyi and Pan will also sing their own hit songs, such as Springtime For The Wild Lily.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2019, with the headline 'Echoes of familiar songs'. Print Edition | Subscribe