Xinyao lover Cai Yiren can’t wait to hold live concerts again
Going live on Facebook when safe management measures kept audiences away was a struggle for xinyao veteran Cai Yiren.
He confessed that it was a struggle to adopt the new format of holding concerts online.
That added to his woes as Mr Cai had taken a year's break in 2018 after staging the annual Chong Feng (reunion) xinyao concerts for 16 years.
Mr Cai, 56, told The New Paper: "I felt then that Chong Feng had reached its peak, and its popularity was falling."
When he was about to restart, "the pandemic hit, there were restrictions, and it was disappointing as we could not continue staging them".
To sustain his business and with advertisers' urging, he had to pivot the concerts online via Facebook.
Mr Cai said: "We faced technical difficulties at the start and they prevented the concerts from proceeding smoothly."
He has since adjusted to the new norm.
Mr Cai runs TCR Music Station, a concert and event management company that provides songwriting lessons to music lovers, amid other music- related services.
Its annual Chong Feng concerts have featured many famous Taiwanese and local xinyao artistes.
Mr Cai's passion for xinyao goes back to his years in Jurong Junior College (now known as Jurong Pioneer Junior College).
He recalled: "Back then, the xinyao culture was strong, and I participated in several xinyao singing competitions with friends."
He was initially inspired to open music cafes that were widely popular in Taiwan, but licensing issues prevented him from fulfilling his dream.
Mr Cai then turned to working as an operations manager at karaoke lounges.
"But I wanted to do something that I truly love and fulfil my dream of opening a music cafe even though it was not as trendy by then," Mr Cai said.
In 1998, he opened a music cafe under TCR Music Station but soon realised the difficulty in sustaining the business.
TCR Music Station then switched its focus to organising small concerts.
And in 2002, it was the start of the highly popular Chong Feng concerts.
"Chong Feng concerts featured popular Taiwan and xinyao singers.
"Its name hints at the reunion of music from two countries and people so it brings back many memories from my childhood."
Despite the shows' success, the company endured two years of losses at the start.
Mr Cai said: "Although we were making a loss, I was unwilling to stop these concerts as we had put in a lot of effort. I believed that they would eventually succeed."
And it did. For the next 14 years, tickets were sold out for all shows.
Mr Cai hopes to revive and continue with the tradition of staging Chong Feng live when the restrictions are relaxed.
He said: "The atmosphere and interaction at live performances can never be replaced by online concerts.
"We must continue to preserve this xinyao tradition, we would lose a piece of our culture if we let it fade away."
- Organise more xinyao performances. The shows will ensure the continuity of a culture that has lasted since the 80s and help more youth to understand and appreciate it.
- Encourage songwriting in schools. As songwriting is a key feature in xinyao, practitioners can teach students how to create their original piece of music, continuing the tradition that the community had in the past.
- More culture groups, theatres and shows can feature xinyao songs. Doing so leads to greater publicity of the music and enables more Singaporeans to be exposed to it, keeping the xinyao spirit alive .