• print
  • email
  • twitter

The emergence of xinyao 1982

Xinjiapo geyao (新加坡歌谣), or xinyao (新谣) in short, was a term coined in 1982 at the seminar “Wo men Chang zhe De Ge” (我们唱着的歌, “The Songs We Sing”) organised by the Chinese newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau.[1] Xinyao refers to the emerging trend of school students composing and performing their own Chinese-language songs. This trend was believed to have been influenced by the Taiwanese folksong movement, minyao (民谣), which emerged in the late 1970s,[2] as well as by shiyue (诗乐), which began in the late 1970s when Nanyang University students started transposing their poems into musical compositions.[3]

Throughout the 1980s, there were numerous xinyao concerts, competitions, and album launches that thrust the musical genre into the public consciousness.[4] As a result, many local singers and songwriters, such as Eric Moo (巫启贤), gained popularity, eventually finding commercial success.[5] One of the earliest xinyao groups formed was The Underground Train (地下铁小组; Dixiatie Xiaozhu), comprising students from Jurong Junior College.[6] Other big names associated with the xinyao movement include the Li brothers – Li Si Song (李偲菘) and Li Wei Song (李伟菘) – Dawn Gan (颜黎明), Billy Koh (许环良), Liang Wern Fook (梁文福) and Roy Loi (黎沸挥).[7]

The Young Songwriters’ Society (YSS) organised an annual Xinyao Festival that not only provided a platform where amateur xinyao artistes could perform, but also acted as a launching pad for the careers of these singer-songwriters.[8] In 1986, the YSS, which had formed in May that year, invited xinyao groups and works by local songwriters to be featured in the first Xinyao Festival under its auspices, which was held over two days in October.[9]

However, by 1990, interest in xinyao seemed to have waned, with the YSS struggling to raise funds and garner participants for the festival. The society managed to raise just S$20,000, a far cry from the S$60,000 it had raised the year before. Ticket sales had also dropped from 95 percent in 1989 to 70 percent in 1990. Album sales of xinyao artistes had also declined, in the face of competition from composers and singers from countries such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.[10] In 2002, a xinyao reunion concert was held, with performances by artistes such as Eric Moo, Dawn Gan, Ng King Kang and The Straws. Tickets for the concert were snapped up within 10 days of their release.[11]

1. 梁文福. (主编). [Liang W. F. (Ed.).]. (2004). 新谣: 我们的歌在这里 [Xinyao: Women de ge zai zheli] (pp. 25–26).新加坡: 新加坡词曲版权协会 [Xinjiapo: Xinjiapo ciqu banquan xiehui]. Call no.: Chinese RSING 782.1095957 XY.
2. 南洋学生主催 弹弹新谣·谈谈新谣 [Nanyang xuesheng zhucui dandan xinyao, tantan xinyao]. (1982, September 11). 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. 梁文福, 2004, pp. 25–26.
4. 梁文福, 2004, pp. 45–54.
5. Koh, S. T. (1987, August 21). Has xinyao gone pop? The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. 梁文福, 2004, pp. 25–26.
7. 梁文福, 2004, pp. 25–26.
8. Festival to be held in October. (1986, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 梁文福, 2004, p. 56; Guan, L. (1989, November 3). New artistes get a break at xinyao fest. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. The Straits Times, 10 Jun 1986, p. 13.
10. Guan, L. (1990, November 25). Is xinyao fading out? The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Sng, S. (2002, April 1). A show to xinyao ’bout. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


The information in this article is valid as at June 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Next Event Prev Event