By Christina Ng
IT WAS 30 years ago when Mr Liang Wern Fook wrote his first song.
Over the years, his songwriting skills helped to found the 1980s xinyao (Singapore folk music) movement and established his status as one of the giants of Singapore's Mandarin pop-music and literary scene. More than 200 of his songs - many of them now evergreen hits - have been published and sung by home-grown and overseas Mandopop singers. Stefanie Sun's We Will Get There (2002) was composed by Mr Liang, as was Jacky Cheung's She Came To My Concert (2006).
In recognition of his many achievements, Mr Liang, 45, received the Cultural Medallion from President S R Nathan at the Istana last evening.
Malay poet and novelist Suratman Markasan, 79, and visual artist Amanda Heng, 59, were the other two artists who also received the award.
Instituted in 1979, the Cultural Medallion is Singapore's top honour for individuals who have attained excellence in their respective fields of art.
"The biggest significance of this award, for me, is its affirmation of pop music," Mr Liang told my paper.
When asked about xinyao, he said: "It represents the Singapore of the 1980s. Back then, a group of us just came together to write songs about growing up, Singapore, and our lives in general."
Now an assistant professor (adjunct) at Nanyang Technological University's Chinese division, Mr Liang has won many other awards for his musical achievements.
In 1992, he won the first Young Artist Award, given to promising artists aged 35 and below, in recognition of his potential in literature.
And in March this year, he received the Outstanding Achievement Award, given for his contributions to music over the past 30 years, at the Singapore Entertainment Awards organised by Singapore Press Holdings.
In recent years, Mr Liang has gone on to work on musicals. He wrote the songs for If There're Seasons - staged in 2007 and last year - and December Rains, staged in 1996 and August this year.
"I see musicals as an art form through which I can explore my love for both writing and music," he said.
The Young Artist Award was also given out last evening to five artists: Film-maker Sun Koh, 32; comic artist Sonny Liew, 35; visual artists Choy Ka Fai, 30, and Robert Zhao, 27; and poet Toh Hsien Min, 34. Mr Toh - who co-organised Wordfeast, Singapore's first international poetry festival in 2004 - has published three collections of poetry since 1994.
The Oxford University arts graduate - who works as a risk analyst - is also the founding editor of literary journal Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.
After receiving the award, he said: "I'm very encouraged. It's important for an artist to receive good critical reception. "It shows that you've not gone completely off tangent."
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