Home-grown Heroes

Singaporean Ling Kai made waves in China, before Nathan Hartono and Joanna Dong

Singer-songwriter Ling Kai made waves on Chinese reality television singing show Sing My Song in 2014.
Singer-songwriter Ling Kai made waves on Chinese reality television singing show Sing My Song in 2014.PHOTO: CROSS RATIO ENTERTAINMENT

Before Nathan Hartono and Joanna Dong on Sing! China, bilingual singer-songwriter Ng Ling Kai was making waves on another Chinese reality television singing show. In 2014, she was the only female finalist on Sing My Song, where contestants perform their original compositions.

Ng, who goes by Ling Kai professionally, uploaded her first English original song Larkin Step to YouTube in 2008. She later signed with local hitmaker-producer Lee Shih Shiong's Beijing-based label Wise Entertainment and relocated to the Chinese city from 2012 to 2015.

Her debut full-length album LinK came out in 2013 and she won the SPH Media Award for Aspiring New Artiste (Female) at the Singapore E-Awards the following year.

The 30-year-old's latest release is the five-track Mandarin EP, Unlearn.

Tell us in 100 words or fewer what your new release is about.

I wrote the EP while shuttling between Beijing and Singapore. With more of us plugged into the digital world than ever before in the big cities, I wanted to write about life as lived today.

I remember thinking that with all the connectivity today, the world could be a wonderful place, as long as I was able to connect with people using my words and my music.

Yet paradoxically, I find that the distance between people seems to get greater.

Who do you think will like your new album?

I think there is a song in the EP for everyone. I've received positive reactions from industry peers and the average listener, which has been incredibly encouraging.

Our mastering engineer from the United Kingdom even dropped us a note, despite the songs being in Mandarin, commending the "crazy violins and emotive vocals" on the title track.

It takes time for a singer-songwriter to become familiar to the audience and my goal is to become ever more prolific.

I hope my music inspires more curiosity about creative work in Singapore and for works by Singaporeans.

In 10 years' time, how might you think of this album?

I want to look back happily at this album and sit down for a drink with everyone who has encouraged me, worked and collaborated with me and inspired me to make music, for I could not have completed this album alone.

•Ling Kai's Unlearn is available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, KKBox and other digital platforms.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'Trailblazing Singaporean who made waves in China'. Print Edition | Subscribe