it’s about the history and beginnings of xinyao in singapore, and how our various national, education and language polices shaped the xinyao culture. it’s somewhat academic and yet so relatable for, i believe, many people in the era before ours, and very moving all at the same time. though xinyao started some time before we were born, there were so many points of familiarity, from the songs we’d heard since young, songs we were forced to learn in sec sch (like 骊歌 lol omg wtf jackson really butchered it lollol this will never get old), to more intimate little details of our lives, like the fact that my parents were the products (and one victim?) of that era’s policies, and so were some of the teachers who taught us back in school (i thought of dear mr goh and his “jero”s; clearly one of the many 华校生s forced to adapt).
at one point, one of the guys being interviewed became emotional while describing how life was like for them from the chinese schools being booted out into a society where english was now deemed *the* working language. even after so many years, i guess, these hurts and their 阴影s remain. at another point, another commented about how deplorable the standard of chinese in schools had become. compared with those days, it’s true - look at the depth of all those xinyao lyrics, even the higher chinese kids like us may not be able to read or fully understand them.
another thought-provoking point for me (among the so many) was how the xinyao culture was an organic thing, from the ground up, not by government directive, but by a horde of young people who were truly passionate and believed in what they were doing even at a time when it was so hard for them. cant believe that their first (cassette tape) album was produced before they even turned 21! (at age 21, i was still trying to stay on dean’s list... so pointless now.) and how luck/fate sometimes plays a part - eric moo became famous in large part because his “rivals”, his other group mates, were all in army (national policy again).
moving also cos they described a much more innocent era, with them as students, just penning their thoughts and feelings on society, daily life, etc into heartfelt song and lyrics. how, as life grew more complex as they grew up, the flavour in their creations changed as well. how they stumbled upon people who gave them a chance, how they never received a cent from their first album as the production firm went bankrupt, how in their first trip ever to taiwan to participate in the 明天会更好群唱 (my fave comfort song lol) they were wowed by all those stories from the industry veterans when they were still nothing, and were told “aiyah in 20 years you’ll be telling these stories yourself” - how prophetic. oh and how liang wenfu’s one song was banned from air for 23 years for his insistence on keeping a few dialect phrases in his composition (language policy again).
maybe i’m just a sucker for “struggle” stories. but it’s also such stories that give us hope. the hope to create things truly from our heart. the hope to carry on. perhaps i’m so taken by it also because it’s a documentary of the voiceless “left behind” chinese school students from our very own local society somehow finding their voices, which then became such a resounding beautiful melody going straight into our history books. it also makes me proud of our heritage, young nation as we may be, and ineffectively bilingual as we are (as i am) today. the familiarity of so many of those songs, growing up with bras basah, knowing all those xinyao names beyond just eric moo... you’ve gotta be singaporean (albeit chinese) to have in your head/heart a little treasure trove of little bits and pieces of those memories/experiences. (p.s. there’s even a multiracial part of xinyao in the documentary, lol.)
oh i really love this film that i accidentally ended up watching, and i highly recommend it (though i’m six years late cos at the time when it came out with a bang, i was in hk). and i also learnt some new chinese words, like 彳亍(chi4 chu4), which means to 小步慢走，时走时停. so cool, right?! here’s an old article reviewing the film.
p.s: 明天会更好 (which featured in a small part of the film) is particularly meaningful for me also because at a time that i felt really really at 谷底, its familiarity and words of hope provided comfort so much so that i played it day in day out as if it helped hold me together even though i could barely understand some of the lyrics. i remember seated alone, the sole customer, one weekday afternoon at the crystal jade at the empty tai yau plaza beside wan chai mtr, having pleaded sick, sipping on this red rose tea that served only to remind me of yunnan and holding on to this misshapen silver pendant that i thought could be the only concrete proof i had left of something, and simply not being able to proceed with life as it should be. really relieved to have those times behind me now, even if i still suffer flashbacks every now and then. how valuable songs can be, when they can, just by being, somehow help see you through rough times.