Xin Yao 新谣随想
Xin Yao played an important role in the history of Singapore pop music. The era of Xin Yao was so long ago, had become history, and brought back so much memories.
In 2004, one of the important pioneers in Xin Yao, Liang Wen Fu (梁文福）published a book title “Xin Yao: Here are Our Song” (《新谣：我们的歌在这》). The book described with great details the history of Xin Yao: from its origin, how it was started, its development and growth, various important activities and milestones, the important figures and song/lyric writers and their influences to the Xin Yao movement. It was from the book I realised I was only in touch with a small part of the Xin Yao history, which is essentially Liang Wen Fu and Ocean Butterfly series (海蝶系列) of Xin Yao music.
I attended a Chinese New Year performance near Marina Square in 2009, where the performers were all local artists. Among them was this “Wild Pigeon” group （野鸽子小组）whose performance brought back many memories from the Xin Yao days. This group was formed during Xin Yao days, and it is heart warming that they are still around and still performing occasionally.
The prime period of Xin Yao was around 1985 to 1990. From the first recording release “Tomorrow 21” 《明天21》, local Xin Yao began to form the style of its own and moving away from the early influence from Taiwan. The music content ranged from love, friendship, kinship, society and culture, and all with very strong Singapore local content.
To talk about Xin Yao you have to talk about Liang Wen Fu. He is probably the only surviving Xin Yao artist/composer that is still very active in the pop music industry today, besides being a professor in university. However, there was this guy Samuel Tan who had been working hard in the background, who maybe not known or remembered by many. I knew him since Chinese High days in secondary school. He was then already very active musically, playing very well both the violin and piano. At that time he was already arranging music for small pop string group to perform. In the hay days of Xin Yao, many of the songs were arranged by him for recording. Maybe I am a classical music lover, as a result I loved his style of arrangement, making significant use of real instruments like violin, piano, cello, Chinese flute, erhu, pipa etc. Being a pianist himself using piano as part of the arrangement is natural and easy for him. But he did told me before using various instruments would increase the production cost, having to get various soloists and also more time needed at the recording studio. So for Xin Yao production at that point of time with limited resources it was not an easy task.
As for Wen Fu’s songs, many times I would asked myself whether I liked his lyrics or his music. But looking from all angles, his works are definitely a class of its own. And it is hard to deny his lyrics are so attractive to people of his age and generation. His music that goes with the lyric seems always cheerful, light hearted and humble, but within the music with the lyrics that are always so forceful and deep.
Wen Fu’s works covered touching love songs often sung by other singers, heart warming songs about friendship and kinship, and that series of songs about social behaviours and society. His works are full of Singapore local flavour. His lyrics make use of many local dialects and languages from other races like Malay. Maybe his works being so full of local culture and contents make them very hard to go international.
Wen Fu always leads me to think about the Taiwan pop singer/composer Luo Da You (罗大佑). Both of them are blunt and direct in some of their works and that attracted me a lot at that age. Sometimes I wonder whether Wen Fu’s style was influenced by Da You. Looking at Da You’s albums “Future Master” （《未来的主人翁》）, 《之乎者也》, “Home” (《家》), “Lovers and Friends” (《爱人同志》), “Love Songs 2000” (《恋曲2000》) which were released in the period 1986 to 1994, parallel to the release dates of Wen Fu’s albums. So probably Wen Fu was not influenced by Da You, or was it writers of the same era at 2 locations of very different background and culture created songs of the same style?
While Xin Yao is already history, it does has strong influence to the development of Singapore pop music from Xin Yao days to the present international artist like Stephanie Sng (孙燕姿). Thinking back Wen Fu’s various songs: plain and simple “A Song for You” (《写一首歌给你》), friendship “As Stream Flows” (《细水长流》) and “Friendship Over Ages” (《岁月列车》), a bit sad in the heart “Old Clothing and New” ( 《新衣那有旧衣好》), sensitive and was once banned in Singapore (《阿Ben阿Ben》), very Singapore “Sparrow with Twigs” (《麻雀衔竹枝》) and “Singapore Style” (《新加坡派》), very historical “Before History Exam” ( 《历史考试前夕》), and there are so many more .....
Sweet memories ...............
Wen Fu won the Singapore 2010 Arts Awards. The awards are for those artists in Singapore who have great achievements in the area of arts. Congratulations Wen Fu! (updated Oct 2010)