赵咏华 Taiwanese Singer

Many years ago when I was writing for the Straits Times, I had a robust debate with a journalist on the need to segregate and discriminate between high brow and low brow literature. I felt that all genres, can be written well or written badly. There are only well-written books and badly-written books.

The low brow works should not be treated with disdain if they are good reads. Almost all local writers should at least deserve some mention, not just those who write “serious” stuff which are not necessarily good just because they are serious. If our newspapers put the them on a pedestal and ignore the rest, then the majority in the reading public may get the impression that good writing must be boring and pretentious.

I must have struck a raw nerve with the high brow guardians of Singapore literature in the newsroom. From then on, I was never asked to contribute anymore to the Straits Times. I stumbled on a 费玉清 programme on YouTube a couple of days ago. This episode features Taiwanese singer 趙詠華, a serious singer who ended up on the “other side”. As a child, she had already been singing theme songs for children programmes. She received formal voice training and was poised to be a “serious” singer.

At the age of 17, she sang folk songs at restaurants to earn some pocket money. From then on, she began to appreciate popular music and realised that she actually could blend her formal training with well-written popular pieces without being seen as condescending. Listen to and watch 趙詠華 in action. Her highly trained voice is never wasted on nice songs, whether high brow or otherwise.


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The Era Of Powerful Voices 蕭孋珠

During the early 1980s, before the likes of Su Rei exploded on the Taiwanese music scene, female singers were mostly soft and gentle. Some were downright “feeble”. In the 1970s, however, Mandarin pop was dominated by the powerful voices of Feng Fei Fei, Teresa Teng and the not so well known Xiao Li Zhu 蕭孋珠, officially spelled Shiao Lih Ju.

Shiao rose to fame after singing the theme songs of many popular films based on Chiung Yao’s 琼瑶 novels, like 一帘幽梦 Fantasies Behind the Pearly Curtain (1975), 处处闻啼鸟 Everywhere Birds Are Singing (1978), and 踩在夕阳里 Love Under a Rosy Sky (1979). In the mid-1980s, she moved to Singapore, where she sang the theme song for the Singaporean historical drama 盗日英雄传 The Sword and the Song (1986) based on the legend of Song Dynasty hero, Yue Fei.

踩在夕陽裡 left a very strong impression on my teenage years. The music was so haunting and lyrics simple and down to earth. Ironically, my young mind was curious and immature, constantly dreaming and exploring. Another one of my favourites was 青色山脉.

At the age of 16, I moved from Queenstown to Telok Blangah. With my new home surrounded by hills which often got enshrouded by mists on rainy days, this song blended into my pensive moods, gazing out of the window. I’ve always mistaken 處處聞啼鳥 to be a song sung by Feng Fei Fei.

Having said that, I must say that Shiao sounded so unusually “refined” in 處處聞啼鳥. Frankly, I don’t remember watching any of the Qiong Yao movies mentioned above. As Liu Jia Chang once said, the trashy movies were soon forgotten but the songs became classics. He was willing to write theme songs for trashy movies as they gave him the break he needed.

While Shiao’s powerful voice is probably no longer fashionable these days, she had a powerful effect on the dreams, romances and sad realities of many young people growing up during that time.


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Tam Ping Man

Tam Ping-man (14 November 1933 – 5 September 2020) was a Hong Kong actor and singer. He was the first horse racing commentator in Hong Kong. He was also the voice behind many dubbed movies. From behind the scenes, Tam also starred in a number of successful movies and television shows where he also played host. His charming voice was much sought after in advertisements and public service announcements. He also dabbled with singing, but his albums were only marginally successful in Hong Kong. Still, he had many fans in Southeast Asia and he often made his concert tours around the region.

Many of the YouTube videos below received most of their views after his death was announced.


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Danny Chan Pak Keung 陳百強

Danny Chan Pak Keung was a Hong Kong singer/musician. At a time when piracy and the copying of Western and Japanese tunes were rife in Hong Kong, Danny wrote original pieces, making him a unique icon of Cantonese pop music (Cantopop) in the 1980s. Compared with other superstars of the same period in the 1980s, Danny’s singing career was the shortest, but his many of his songs have become classics.

Danny Chan reached the peak of his career in between 1979 and 1985. He released the most hits during this period and also played teen idol roles in movies with Leslie Cheung. After a brief two-year hiatus, he made a comeback from 1986 to 1989. I’m not a fan of his, but my favourite during this period is 偏偏喜歡你 (1983). After this period, Danny began to fade behind the scenes. He held a few concerts and recorded another one of my favourites 一生何求 (1989).

Many people who have been in contact with Danny Chan agreed that he was a sentimental person who was often melancholic. He did not hide his depression and chronic insomnia. Danny had sought medical treatment for his emotional distress and sought spiritual comfort by reading Buddhist scriptures.

His colleagues and close associates all knew that he was a victim of depression. On 18 May 1992, Danny Chan went into a coma after a drinking session with his friends. He remained in that condition in hospital until he passed away on 25 October1993.

Compared to most other HK singers with his level of achievement, Danny Chan had the shortest career which abruptly ended at age 35. Fortunately or unfortunately, he was a dewdrop that vaporised and became immortalised at a glorious moment.


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倩女幽魂

Chinese busker playing 倩女幽魂 on her gu zheng at a beach in France. Why can’t we have buskers like that in Singapore?


Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.