It was a year of reckoning for Uriah See Khai in 2014. Just 19 years old at the time, he beat over 1,000 Malaysians to emerge as champion at the annual Astro Star Quest Chinese Singing Competition 2014, then went to surpass singing champs from Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to claim victory at the TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship in Hong Kong.
It’s just over a year since he won those titles, but in that short time, the young man has already staged his first concert in Malaysia, released his first mini-album, shot a music video in Australia and even hosted a travel show in Japan in between his singing projects.
See recalls his participation in Astro Star Quest in 2014 with much amusement. “Initially, I didn’t know about it. I was sitting with my family at cafe, when my friend walked in and told us. My mother was interested so she checked it out online and discovered that it was the last day for registration. So I quickly prepared a demo and send it in,” he shared in an interview last week.
Being crowned champion in Malaysia was one thing, but bringing home the gold in Hong Kong was an entirely different matter. While people had told him he stood a good chance of winning, See was well aware of his own shortcomings.
“In Hong Kong, the competition was international, so I felt some pressure. Fortunately, Astro trained me well. Although I was initially concerned about my command of Chinese (he does not speak Cantonese), I was pleasantly surprised to find that the participants in the Hong Kong competition were all English educated.”
Looking back, See says he did not expect to win in Hong Kong. “For me, song choice was an important deciding factor. My advantage was in picking unusual songs which were rarely heard but sounded especially impressive when presented on stage during competition.”
Growing up in Pontian, Johor, See had the best of both worlds. His Sabahan mother Ellen Chung is a piano teacher, and his Johorean businessman father Winston See is an avid badminton player; so his days were divided between music and sports.
“Since my mother was a piano teacher, I fell in love with music at a very young age. I used to sit by the piano, just casually playing by myself,” mused the 20-year-old, who learnt to play the piano at four, took classical opera vocal lessons at six, picked up the violin at 10, and only recently started playing the guitar.
A self-professed outdoors guy, See is an avid swimmer and badminton player, and also plays basketball, football and handball. He has even represented Johor in both basketball and badminton.
Being accustomed to all that disciplined sports training, See also applies a similar approach to songwriting as he doesn’t believe in waiting for inspiration to strike. “I have my own formula when it comes to working on music. I’d sit down at the piano and play something to find the feeling. I usually work separately on the lyrics and tunes,” shared See.
The singer recently released a mini-album comprising two songs – a Mandarin tune titled Gei Ai (Give Love) and an English one titled The Only Thing That Matters. See wrote the music for both songs, as well as the lyrics for the English one.
The mini-album was released on Dec 19 last year, the day of his first concert – a full-length show titled Love & Music Season’s Greetings Concert at KL Live, in which he shared the stage together with other Astro Star Quest winners Geraldine Gan (2011) and Nicole Lai (2012).
During the concert, he sang in Mandarin, English, and even Italian. See said he was glad that the concert turned out better than expected. “I was concerned because it was pretty rushed, and it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Apart from picking suitable songs, we had to sing and dance at the same time. I had to collaborate with Geraldine and Nicole, and we managed to achieve a nice synergy during the three-hour-long show.”
After working on Astro’s Chinese New Year album, See now has his hands full with Astro’s Chinese New Year roadshows, before heading back to Pontian for the holidays.
He will be seen in Astro’s Love & Music programme, which is a continuation of the Love & Music concert.
Scheduled to coincide with Valentine’s Day, it is an entertainment show which will feature him together with other Astro Star Quest talents. Looks like 2016 is going to be a busy year for See as well.
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