The legacy of musical genius Yao Min

  • Arts
  • Tuesday, 12 Nov 2013

China-born music legend Yao Min’s work will be celebrated at the tribute show.

Tribute To Yao Min: Chronicle Of Splendour II aims to attract a new generation of fans to the Chinese music legend’s work.

WHEN discussing shidaiqu or classical Chinese folk jazz fusion music of a bygone era, names of famed singers like Zhou Xuan, Bai Guang, Li Xiang Lan, Yao Lee, Bai Hong, and Gong Qiu Xia come to mind. But few would know of Yao Lee’s brother Yao Min (1917-1967), the gentleman who composed the melodies that made these songstresses so well-loved.

A songwriter of the shidaiqu era in 1930s-40s Shanghai through the 1950s-60s mainstream years in Hong Kong, Yao Min was the forerunner of Chinese musical giants, being the first winner of the Best Movie Musical Award at the Asia Pacific Film Festival, as well as the Best Movie Score at the First Golden Horse Film Festival.

Inspired by Yao Min’s story, local music and theatre professional Yang Wei Han hopes to “re-introduce” the works of this musical genius to local music lovers.

Getting the big picture: Inspired by Yao Min’s story, local music and theatre professional Yang Wei Han hopes to 're-introduce' the works of this musical genius to local music lovers. Yang is pictured with Yao Min’s 91-year-old sister Yao Lee in Hong Kong as he researched work for the Tribute To Yao Min: Chronicle Of Splendour II concert.

With that, Han Production is back with a brand new stage show in honour of Yao Lee’s brother titled Tribute To Yao Min: Chronicle Of Splendour II, which opens today at Bentley Music Auditorium in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

“Yao Min was a paradox to many; he was a major mover in the Chinese music industry. Yet, he remained a mystery to many. He was arguably the most prolific composer of popular Chinese music, having penned more than 3,000 compositions, many of which remain popular till today.

“But the unassuming gentleman was such a low-key personality that most people did not know much about him. In fact, there were some who thought he was a girl, because of his feminine-sounding name,” said Yang during a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.

The show will be led by director/producer Yang Wei Han with guest artistes Liau Siau Suan, the Summer Grace duo, Angel Lee, Angeline Wong, and Yang Mee Eng. Live music accompaniment will be provided by musical ensemble WVC TRIO + 1 comprising Tay Cher Siang, Aj Pop Shu Vit , KJ Wong, and Julian Chan.

Yang worked tirelessly with music director Tay and choreographer Leng Poh Gee to create a unique stage divided into three sections to equally showcase the singer, musicians and dancers.

Liau Siau Suan, who is based in Australia, will be a special guest to sing the English songs in the concert.

Led by Leng, the dance segments include performances by Adeline Chew, Chan Kean Yew and Queency Manjalip.

While planning for a better representation of Yao Min’s large body of work, Yang frequently flew to Hong Kong to seek his Yao Min’s 91-year-old sister Yao Lee’s guidance.

With Yao Lee’s help, Yang selected some 40 songs for the two-hour show, which is divided into seven segments; these include soundtracks and even English songs.

For the English segment, Yang invited veteran singer Liau, who is currently based in Australia.

“I will be performing five English songs, plus one with Yang and another in a group,” shared Liau who has been featured in musicals such as Kiss Of The Spider Woman and Butterfly Lovers.

“It won’t be just all songs and singing, we will also delve into the history behind each song and relate them to the milestones in his short-but-spectacular musical career,” shared Yang, who also did the stage design and created video-mapping for a unique concert experience.

To illustrate that, both Yang and Liau spoke of Gong Xi Gong Xi (literally Congratulations! Congratulations!), one of the most familiar festive Mandarin songs we hear blasting from every Chinese home and shopping mall during the Lunar New Year.

Also known by its English title Wishing You Happiness and Prosperity, Gong Xi Gong Xi was sung by Yao Min and his sister Yao Lee.

“Although Gong Xi Gong Xi is currently used as a common Lunar New Year greeting and to celebrate the arrival of spring, the song was originally written by Chen Gexin (also known as Qing Yu) in 1945 in Shanghai to celebrate the defeat of Japanese troops and the liberation of the Chinese people at the end of the Sino-Japanese War,” said the duo as they broke into song.

Last year, Han Production successfully presented 10 performances of the musical Yao Lee – The Legendary Rose to critical acclaim and an enthusiastic response from the public. It was nominated for eight Cameronian Awards, and ended up winning three: Best Stage Design, Best Lighting Design, and Best Audio And Sound.

Having observed how the show enabled family togetherness and respect for elders motivated Yang to go ahead with Han Production’s vision to make Chronicle Of Splendour a long-term project.

*Tribute to Yao Min: Chronicle of Splendour II will be playing at Bentley Music Auditorium, Wisma Bentley Music, 3, Jalan PJU 7/2, Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor from today to Saturday at 8.30pm and on Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are priced at RM100, RM150 and RM200, with a 20% discount for students, senior citizens and the disabled. For details and ticket reservation, contact Han Production (019-2012 707/ or visit Takings from the concert will be donated to Spina Bifida Association of Malaysia and the fund for A Journey Of Self-Discovery documentary project.

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