Singapore Idol's Olinda Cho, Campus Superstar champ Ng Chee Yang in China Super Vocal battle

Olinda Cho (left) and Ng Chee Yang will be competing against 10 other singers for three spots to go to China for China Super Vocal.
Olinda Cho (left) and Ng Chee Yang will be competing against 10 other singers for three spots to go to China for China Super Vocal. PHOTOS: OLINDA CHO/FACEBOOK, DIANE PHELAN PHOTOGRAPHY

Former Singapore Idol contestant Olinda Cho and Campus Superstar champion Ng Chee Yang are among 12 singers here competing for three spots to appear on a popular Chinese TV show.

The three will be selected on Saturday (May 21) to go to China for China Super Vocal, which is judged by Mandopop king Jay Chou and other established singers. Formerly called The Voice Of China, the television contest is being branded as a new show due to legal dispute with the Dutch format owner.

At a press event on Thursday (May 19), Cho tells The Straits Times she responded to the audition calls out of nationalistic pride. "I want to give singers in China a run for their money. I want to show we may be small, but we are strong. I hope to give them a good fight," she says.

This will be her first singing contest in 12 years since she placed third in the inaugural season of Singapore Idol in 2004. Since then, she has been giving vocal lessons and co-running talent agency Nu Management with model-actress Sheila Sim.

Besides the stiff competition she is likely to face if she makes it there for the show, Cho, who is more comfortable conversing in English, will also have to overcome the language barrier.

But she is undaunted. "It's not like I have to write an essay. I may not know the 'cheem' Chinese, but I can communicate and joke in Mandarin," she says, using the Hokkien term for "complex".

"Whatever it is, I'm Singaporean. I will survive."

On Saturday, she will be performing Wu Bai's Wanderer's Love Song.

WhileNg declines to reveal what song he has chosen, he says he hopes to be mentored by Chinese singer Na Ying, another judge on the show, if he gets to represent Singapore in China Super Vocal.

"She's very nurturing, yet she's critical at the same time. I believe she will be able to help me improve my singing. She's very supportive of her team, which I really like," says Ng, 26, who won Campus Superstar, a local student singing contest, in 2006.

Now based in New York because he is hoping to carve out a singing career in the United States, he will be touring with American a cappella group Vocalosity over the next couple of years.

He happened to be in town for his own singing projects last month and decided to take part in the China Super Vocal auditions, which saw 1,700 hopefuls take part.

In the show, contestants show off their singing prowess in hopes of getting picking by celebrity mentors, which include veteran Taiwanese singer Harlem Yu and rocker Wang Feng, who is actress Zhang Ziyi's husband.

Last year, when the show was still called The Voice Of China, husband-and-wife singers Alfred Sim and Tay Kewei got to perform in China, but they were not picked by the mentors.

On Saturday, the 12 finalists here will be battling it out at a concert held at The Coliseum in Hard Rock Hotel Singapore. All 2,000 tickets to the concert have been given out.

Their fates lie in the hands of four judges - producer-songwriter Billy Koh, singer-songwriters Paul Lee Wei Song and Dick Lee, and veteran radio deejay Eeva Chang Mei Hsiang, whose company Eeva Productions is organising the local auditions.

Largely based in China now, Koh, 52, says that he is back here to "update" himself on the scene and find out if younger generation of Singaporeans has what it takes to replicate the success of JJ Lin and Stefanie Sun.

Sun's mentor Paul Lee, 47, says: "I'm not looking for someone who is just out to show off his vocal techniques and hit high notes. It has to be someone with a human touch."