Singers fly Singapore flag

Singers fly Singapore flag
Ruth Kueo Miaoru (in red) has taken part in several overseas singing competitions.

You may not have heard of Jeremy Teng, but the polytechnic graduate did Singapore proud when he won the Nodojiman The World contest in Tokyo in February.

Non-Japanese compete in the bi-annual singing contest by singing Japanese songs.

Teng beat 19 other contestants and is the first Singaporean to appear on the show, which has been running since 2011. The 20-year-old is among a growing number of Singaporeans - amateurs or professionals - who do well in singing competitions overseas. Some say they look for such opportunities to gain exposure to the Asian music industry, while others take part purely because they love to sing. There are pull factors too - all five that SundayLife! spoke to say they were courted by show producers overseas to audition for and take part in such contests.

Teng was approached to join the competition by Nodojiman's producers, who were impressed with his covers of Japanese songs on his YouTube channel. Some of these include J-pop stars Ayaka's Mikazuki and Nakashima Mika's Yuki No Hana.

Teng says: "All these covers were done out of personal interest. I never imagined going overseas to take part in a singing competition, much less win it."

Nodojiman ("nodo" means throat and "jiman" means boast in Japanese) was Teng's first foray into overseas singing competitions. He has taken part in nine contests in Singapore since 2009. He made it to the top 10 for Channel U's reality TV singing contest Campus SuperStar in 2009 and was grand champion of Safra's The Ultimate Voice last year.

Others, like Rachel Chua Aijia, 20, are not new to the scene overseas. She was only 15 years old and an artist with Ocean Butterflies, a home-grown record label, when it signed her up in 2009 to be a guest challenger on Taiwan's top reality TV singing contest, One Million Star, where she survived three rounds.

After completing her O levels, she was invited in 2012 to compete in Hong Kong's Chinese New Talent Singing Championship, where she came in second. She faced 13 contestants from Chinese communities all over the world. The annual talent hunt is held by Hong Kong station TVB to discover new singers, and the likes of late Hong Kong diva Anita Mui and singer Eason Chan have taken top honours in the past.

Later that year, she was invited to Asian Wave, a Chinese singing competition held by Shanghai Media Group. She was eliminated after two rounds.

She says: "I was fine with that. I just want to challenge myself in these contests. I'm not seeking fame."

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