Albums Of The Week

Music review: Xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook's new album full of homespun charm

Liang Wern Fook can craft social observations as well as compose evocative ballads.
Liang Wern Fook can craft social observations as well as compose evocative ballads.ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook's first album in 24 years charts the country's growing pains and ups and downs

In his first record since 1992's Go East, xinyao leading light Liang Wern Fook performs in his inimitable style, that modest, homespun charm still intact as he speaks and sings Xin Yao Li Shi Wai Zhuan (Unofficial History Of Xinyao), a reworking of fan favourite Eve Before The History Exam (1987), in which he namechecks the creators, singers and songs of the home-grown Mandarin music movement.

There is also an update of the 1990 classic, Singapore Pie, which takes into account developments such as MRT train breakdowns and the sky-rocketing of certificate of entitlement prices.

These are songs that chart the ups and downs and growing pains of Singapore. No one does it like Liang, who taps into people's collective memories - be it goggle-box viewing in Watching Television or listening to the radio on New Flame Meeting Old Love.

Ren Sheng Wu Suo Wei (Life - Fear Not) not only marks the first time that Liang sings a TV series theme song and the breezy track for the long-running series of the same name (2015-2016), but it also fits in a reference to Sang Nila Utama.



    Liang Wern Fook

    Ocean Butterflies Music

    4/5 stars

This new release was not conceived as an album with a cohesive vision; it is a collection of mostly recent material from the past few years, as well as a few tracks that date back to 1999.

Inevitably, it is thematically disparate, with songs as different as Hear Tomorrow Singing (an ode to teachers) is from Carefree Suzhou (an ode to the Chinese city).

Nevertheless, Sound Of Dawn is a collection of works written by Liang that demonstrates his range as a songwriter, who, apart from crafting social observations, can also compose evocative ballads such as Wish To Tell You. It was penned for the xinyao- themed TV series, Crescendo (2015), and ably performed by local singer A-do.

Unusually, there is one song here which was not composed by him. He wrote the lyrics for Jacky Cheung's 1999 hit, She Came To Listen To My Concert, while Huang Mingzhou penned the music.

It is a poignant track about the relationship between a singer and his audience and how songs accompany one throughout one's life. It was a special treat when Liang performed it at his long-overdue first solo concert in April last year.

And now, people have it for posterity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Sounds of Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe