These days, the list of established Malaysian musicians based in Taiwan is pretty long. Michael Wong, Victor Wong, Fish Leong, Penny Tai, Gary Chaw, Namewee, Z-Chen, Nicholas Teo... these are Malaysians who have gone to the home of Mandopop and managed to carve successful careers there.
But it wasn’t this way, especially back in 1988, when Eric Moo arguably became the first Malaysian singer to make it in Taiwan. It wasn’t easy, according to the 54-year-old singer. It took a lot of patience and hard work to make his breakthrough in the crowded Taiwanese Mandopop market.
“When you’re in another country, you have to get used to the strange environment, great pressure and also, loneliness. Psychologically, you also need to be even stronger than the local singers, because they don’t have the pressure of trying to conquer a new market,” he said during an interview.
Moo was recently in Malaysia to promote his upcoming Eric Moo 2017 Concert Asia Tour Live In Malaysia happening in Penang in August. It will be the first stop for his current Asian tour, which is set to hit other cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Qingdao.
Born in Kampar, Perak in 1963, Moo’s family moved to Singapore when he was eight years old. In 1985, he released his first album, Xin Qing (Feeling), which became an instant hit and was even in the Singapore music charts. With songs like Ni Shi Wo De Wei Yi (You Are My Only One) and Na Yi Duan Ri Zi (Those Days), he became one of the most popular singers in Singapore and Malaysia.
When the time came to further his prospects in Taiwan, however, he found the going tough initially. “While I was there, I made three albums, but all three were rejected by the recording company. Then, in 1988, I finally managed to release the Ni Shi Wo De Wei Yi album, which was already my fourth one,” he recalled.
Then, after five to six years of honing his craft, he released two more albums, before finally getting his big break in 1994 with Tai Sha (Too Stupid), which became a major hit across Asia. He hasn’t looked back since.
One could say that Moo actually laid the foundations for other Malaysians to crossover to Taiwan. According to him, back then, the market was dominated by Hong Kong and Taiwanese artistes, and there were hardly any from Malaysia or Singapore.
“At the time, the Taiwanese were not familiar with our culture. I managed to prove to them that our culture is just as rich as theirs, so when the rest came over, they were familiar with our culture and music,” he said. “They knew nothing about us, so if we were to try to make it there, the most important thing is to make sure our songs could speak for themselves. You need songs and material that people can remember you by.”
Moo reckons it’s a lot harder for new singers to make it now because the competition is just so fierce. “There are so many singing competitions around these days which anyone can take part, no matter where you’re from. You can get fame from these contests, but it may be short-term fame,” he said.
“There are competitions every year, and every year, there are more and more new singers coming out. So even after you’ve won, if you don’t have any good output, you may be forgotten quickly,” he said.
As for his own long career, Moo reckons he was fortunate to be active in the 1980s to 1990s, which was the golden age for Mandopop.
“I was lucky to have had a lot of songs, and a lot of hits. All the famous singers then had a bunch of hits, and not just one or two. Wang Jie had a few, Harlem Yu had a few, Sky Wu had a few ... these are all singers who have enough material to hold their own solo concerts. Nowadays a lot of singers are famous for one song only,” he said.
He has also been able to diversify his career of late – in 2006, Moo began making inroads into mainland China, becoming a judge on Chinese singing competition TV shows such as Super Girl, Happy Girl, The King Returns and Voice Legend.
“Besides music, through these opportunities in China, I’ve managed to show people different sides of me,” he said, adding he has pretty much achieved everything he wants to achieve with his career.
“People have asked me if I will release new music, but that isn’t important to me anymore. If we go and watch the Eagles, we don’t want their new songs – we want to hear Hotel California!” he said, laughing.
“So, right now, the important thing is putting on a good show at my concerts, and figuring out how to sing all those old hits in a newer, fresher way, for today’s audiences.”
The Eric Moo 2017 Concert Asia Tour Live In Malaysia – Penang will be held on Aug 19, 8pm, at the SPICE Arena. To purchase tickets, visit www.ticketcharge.com.my.