I love to sing, but the last several years have been tough.
Quite some time ago, I had a manager who believed in me and worked very hard to find me singing gigs in Hong Kong and China. We found a few, but it didn't last long. There were two problems. First, the people of China were not yet ready to be entertained by a foreigner singing Chinese songs. Second, they preferred shows where the performer was a 'fun' person and the singing didn't matter so much. Unfortunately, I'm more like Frank Sinatra or Michael Bublé, people where the show is all about the singing.
Much of that was happening around the year 2000 when I first encountered severe exhaustion and the depression (possibly burnout syndrome) that developed as a result. That took several years to recover from. On top of that, it was almost impossible to arrange gigs and jobs outside of TVB unless you had inside connections because TVB always had first priority on your time, and they had the legal right to require you to show up at TVB at the last minute even if you had booked a gig months in advance. This was exactly the reason many movie companies were hesitant to engage my acting services, and is also one of the reasons I declined to renew my contract with them in January this year.
Through the years since 2000, I haven't done a lot of singing. There have been gaps of up to a full year where I haven't sung at all. Being the eternal optimist, I saw something good in this. First, each time I stopped for an extended period of time, it gave me the chance to forget bad singing habits before learning correct ones. Second, I believe that the time wasn't right for me to try to advance a career as a singer. The people of China were not ready for it. A foreigner singing Chinese songs would only be seen as a gimmick, something to giggle at for a few minutes. The welcome wouldn't last long.
The world has changed. A friend told me not too long ago that the people of China need me, a foreigner who sings (well) in their language. Now is the time to make my move, and I'm preparing for it. My singing voice has improved markedly over the least couple of years with Peisha's guidance. I simply need to sing more to strengthen the chords, and I need material.
Whenever people ask me how many songs I know, I have to say "just a few". I have an excellent memory for tunes, but not such a great memory for lyrics. When it came to the question of what to sing, I always wanted to find the songs that the audience would enjoy listening to, and that I would enjoy singing, but never knew how. Now, I've decided to simply find and learn the songs that I know and love. What I sing will become my signature.
So I have begun my research. As often as I can, I'm visiting the Karaoke at APM and listening to every song of the singers I know and respect, searching for the songs I remember (not by name unfortunately) and love. Many of you probably think I'd listen to 張國榮 Leslie's songs first but you'd be mistaken. My first target was Alan Tam 譚詠麟.
Alan was probably more important than any other singer in changing my life and bringing me to Hong Kong. My whole experience with Leslie in Sydney was limited to a wonderful conversation in the car as we drove from Sydney to Canberra and back. My experience with Alan reaches much further than that. When Alan was performing in Sydney in 1986, I became friends with his backup singers, three wonderful attractive girls. They informed Alan that I loved his songs, and he consequently asked me up on stage during rehearsals one day to sing with him. That was an amazing experience.
After arriving in Hong Kong in May of 1987, I lived at a friend's home in Kowloon Tong. Having no job, no friends, and no knowledge of Hong Kong other than what I'd seen in movies, I spent my time walking and exploring. One fateful day, I found myself in a place with lots of trains and a very large squarish building. It was the Hong Kong Colosseum 香港體育館. I didn't know where I was, or what I was looking at. It didn't matter. I was exploring. What happened next though could not have been planned or scripted by anyone.
The back door of the Colosseum was open, and several people were seated there taking a cigarette break. As I walked by, they recognised me; me, a 鬼佬 who had been in Hong Kong for just a month!!! They were members of Alan's band, the same band that had played back in Sydney one year before, and they were rehearsing for Alan's home concert. I was invited into the Colosseum to see Alan. One thing led to another, and in July of 1987, I watched 30 of Alan's 31 concerts from backstage, and guest-appeared in two of those concerts! A month later, I was a special guest at Alan's birthday party celebration for his fan club. After that, Alan and I rarely saw each other. I ran into him once during a TV project where we chatted a little. We never have much to say, but he is always the gentleman, and will always be an important part of my life.
So you can perhaps understand why I would choose to listen to Alan's songs first. Don't worry though. Leslie is next on my list, followed by Jacky 張學友, Danny 陳白强, Roman 羅文, etc.
Listening to the songs of these incredible singers is an amazing journey, bringing back memories and feelings. Maybe I'll tell you more about that later. For the time being though, I need to get back to work; vocal training, singing, researching, performing :-)