SINGAPORE - The unsung hero of the xinyao scene, concert and events organiser Cai Yiren has been building up a fan base for the music for over 15 years.
The local Chinese-language music movement blossomed in the 1980s as singer-songwriters such as Liang Wern Fook and Eric Moo gave voice to their generation in earnest song. From time to time, interest has flowered in the genre, most recently with the release of the nostalgia movie That Girl In Pinafore last year.
Without the efforts of people behind the scenes such as Cai though, xinyao might not have been rooted deeply enough for these periodic blooms. In the parched years of the noughties, the boss of TCR Music Station nurtured audiences through the annual Chong Feng concerts, persevering through failed live music ventures and loss-making gigs.
Organising the first Chong Feng concert in 2002 was like taking a leap of faith, says the 49-year-old. "It was the first time combining xinyao and Taiwan's campus folk songs and I had no idea what the demand would be like.
"It's not like you can take a course and you can't ask someone to teach you because there weren't that many people organising concerts. You just have to learn from experience."
The first two editions were held at National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre and ticket sales were "not good". As a neophyte organiser, he would miss out on various costs and miscalculate his budget and "when your sales are poor, you lose even more".
Fast forward to last year's sell-out Chong Feng, which saw 4,800 paying fans pack the Esplanade Concert Hall for three nights. What turned the tide for him in the industry over the years, he says, is that "people could see that we were serious about what we did".
Slowly, sponsors began to come on board. Singers who came from Taiwan and elsewhere to perform for him were also impressed by his professionalism and helped spread the word abroad.
This year's 12th edition of Chong Feng is the biggest yet. It takes place on May 17 at The Star Theatre, which has a capacity of 5,000, and features prominent Taiwanese veteran singers such as Chyi Yu and Pan Yue-yun.
Music is now a stable source of income for the A-level holder, who has not looked back since falling in love with xinyao as a Jurong Junior College student and now runs TCR with his wife, Huang Guixia, 48. Together, they produce shows all year round for the Esplanade, clan associations and government departments.