Xinyao 新谣 stands for 新加坡歌谣, which literally means Singapore Chinese Folk Songs.
Started in early eighties, it was, in a certain way, influenced by the Taiwanese folk songs 台湾歌谣 and songs created by their college students 校园民歌, which had its origin as early as the 1930s and hit the peak in the seventies and eighties.
In 1981, some music-loving students at the National Junior College started a song-writing competition, attracting many passionate responses and creating awareness for composing local-styled songs.
As it developed, xinyao, led by talented local composer and lyricist Liang Wern Fook 梁文福, began to gain popularity among youngsters with its clear acoustics, simple melodies and sentimental lyrics, usually accompanied by only the guitar. The music was clean and light, differing greatly from techno or heavy metal.
It is not exaggerating to say xinyao was the spark that inspired the local music industry which had blossomed since the late nineties, producing the likes of Kit Chan, Tanya Chua, Stefanie Sun and JJ Lin.
Liang Wern Fook produced many classic xinyao pieces in the eighties, the most popular being “Flowing Water” 细水长流, “A Step at a Time” 一步一步来, “The Eve of History Exam” 历史考试前夕, “Singapore Style” 新加坡派 and “I Left my Shadow to You” 我将背影留给你们.
“Singapore Style” 新加坡派 is a brilliant piece which describes Singapore from the sixties to the nineties, mentioning Jurong Industry, SMRT, HDB flats and other Singaporean stuffs. (Thanks to musicboxforever for creating this interesting music video)
Other notable xinyao singers emerged, such as Yan Liming 颜黎明 (with representative hits such as “This Class of Ours” 我们这一班, “A Stroll in the Moonlight” 月色同行), Jiang Hu 姜鄠 (“Resting of Love” 恋之憩), Hong Shaoxuan 洪邵轩 (“Are You Still Here” 你是不是还在, “The Other Face of Age” 岁月的另一张脸) and Pan Ying 潘盈 (“Let the Night Falls Silently” 让夜轻轻落下). Many were singing the works of Liang Wern Fook and other xinyao pioneers, whereas some were inspired to do the composition of the music themselves.
Love duets were also popular, such as “Your Shadow” <你的倒影> by Yan Liming and Hong Shaoxuan. “Encounter” <邂逅> by Eric Moo 巫启贤 and Liang Huizhen 黄譓祯 even became the first xinyao song to record an entry in Singapore’s billboard of mandarin pop in 1983.
Some of the xinyao were used as theme songs for local mandarin dramas at Channel 8; an example being Yan Liming’s catchy song of “Youth 123” <青春123>.
Moving into early nineties, the nature of xinyao changed and moved towards commercialisation, perhaps influenced by the popularity of new-age mandarin pop from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The songs became sophisticated, with more elements of musical instruments added, as the need to cater to mass market deepened. The unique local flavour of xinyao diluted rapidly, and the days of purity and innocence of local songs were gone after a decade of brilliance and creativity.
Published: 13 October 2011
Updated: 09 August 2016