It is better late than never, said singer-songwriter Eric Moo of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's mention of xinyao during this year's National Day Rally.
Mr Lee had crooned the first line of the xinyao classic Xi Shui Chang Liu (Friendship Forever), which literally means "Small Stream That Flows Forever", and had used xinyao, the music movement popular in Singapore in the 1980s, to drive home the point that there are many opportunities for Singaporeans to fulfil their dreams.
The Malaysian-born, Singapore-bred and now, Beijing-based star told The New Paper in a telephone interview: "It is a good thing that xinyao has finally been given the acknowledgement of the legacy it has left and the impact it has had on the music industry."
But while there was a resurgence of interest in xinyao with the release of local movie That Girl In Pinafore last year, and with Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations next year, Moo, 51, reckons that xinyao and its popularity cannot be revived or replicated.
He said: "Times have evolved, whether it is our thinking, the genres of music that we are all exposed to. It's all very different now."
Still, it continues to hold a special spot in his heart even though he has gone on to achieve commercial success in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.
This explains why he has decided to dedicate his concert here next month to xinyao, which marked his humble beginnings.
He said: "I did not have the chance to reflect that aspect of my music in all my concerts despite its importance.
"It is only when I am back in Singapore that I have a chance to perform the songs that will connect with the audience."
And that meant returning here whenever possible to sing at annual concerts put up by concert and events organiser Cai Yiren, boss of TCR Music Station, who has persevered in building up a fan base for the music for over 15 years.
The xinyao-themed Tomorrow 32 that was held in August, which featured Moo, Roy Loi, Pan Ying and Dawn Gan, did so well that another show had to be added to meet demand.
Moo also turned up at The Songs We Sang, a documentary on xinyao, which was held in July at Bras Basah Complex, where pioneers such as Liang Wern Fook, Loi and Gan recreated the excitement of meet-the-fan sessions at the former student hangout.
In the audiences at the shows, he said he saw "couples who had come to relive memories of their courting days and parents with their children".
Moo hopes to take this opportunity to replay the memories of his days in Jurong Junior College, in 1982 and 1983, when he formed his first band, Underground Express, with six classmates.
They came up with the name because the Government had just announced plans for the MRT then.
"We managed to live out our dreams and even held a first paid concert, for a dollar a ticket, in the school hall," he said.
"I still cherish those beautiful memories of our friendships and when music-making and singing bonded us together."
It was also during the concert that Underground Express was spotted by a Chinese radio deejay. The group were invited to record a few songs, of which Chance Meeting became the first local composition to top the FM95.8 Chinese pop charts in 1983.
Moo became one of the first Singapore singers to break into the competitive Chinese music scene in Taiwan.
He was also the first Asian artist to be awarded the Excellent Artistic Music Award by American Billboard for his 1995 album Too Silly.
Moo said: "Without xinyao, there probably wouldn't be an Eric Moo."
WHAT IS XINYAO?
Xinyao is a term that refers to young Singaporeans (xinjiaporen) creating their own songs (geyao).
The Mandarin music movement involved a group of young Chinese-language songwriters, lyricists and singers who yearned to have their thoughts and feelings heard.
It grew out of school campuses and hit its peak in the 1980s.
Other singers and songwriters who started out in xinyao and went on to commercial pop include big names such as Billy Koh and twin brothers Paul and Peter Lee.
Cultural Medallion recipient Liang Wern Fook was the seminal figure in xinyao.
WHAT: Eric Moo In Concert
WHEN: Nov 8, 7.30pm WHERE: The Star Theatre
TICKETS: $148, $128, $108, $88, $78 and $68 from Sistic at www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555
This article was first published on Oct 7, 2014.
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