It has been more than three decades since she first took to the stage, but Datuk Elaine Kang is still gushing about how much she loves performing.
“I love to sing, I like to share my music, I enjoy performing on stage. When I’m singing for everybody, I only want to give my best,” declared Kang, who is set to return to the stage in two week’s time with a concert to celebrate 35 years in showbiz titled Elaine Kang Live 2015.
Looking glamorous in an all-white jumpsuit, her long tresses casually gathered into a low bun, Kang speaks softly with a warm smile.
Born and bred in Penang, Kang moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1981 after completing school to pursue a recording career. The youngest of four siblings, she was, in her own words, “an island girl” who loved singing even as a child.
Together with her sister Evon and her cousin Karen, the teenage Kang would perform for fun at stage shows and participate in talent contests all over Penang.
“My father would play the harmonica and my mother would sing along. We all loved music.”
Kang admitted that she initially sang for fun and never imagined that it would be a lifelong career.
“In school, for my karangan (compositions), I always wrote that I wanted to be a nurse. But, in the end, I don’t know how I ended up as a singer instead. I’ve never worked in any other line or even tried an office job,” shared Kang, who used to listen to Teresa Teng and Fong Fei Fei as a child.
Her very first singing job in KL was at the revolving lounge in Federal Hotel. After that, she had a stint at Campbell Nightclub where she was talent-scouted and was signed to Life Records.
“The song I sang during the audition was called San Yue Li De Xiao Yu (The Drizzle Of March). Halfway through the song, I was told to come back and sign the contract the very next day,” said Kang, who promptly embarked on a professional singing career at 17.
To date, Kang has 36 albums to her name: 32 in Chinese, three in Bahasa Malaysia and one in English.
Away from the spotlight, the effervescent entertainer, who turns 50 in August, is battling sinusitis and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) which was diagnosed nine years ago.
Her petite frame, porcelain complexion and cheery demeanour belie a steely determination to overcome these chronic conditions which have become her constant companions.
Kang tries to deal with it by keeping to a moderate lifestyle and mild diet, which is usually something “soft and smooth and soupy” such as porridge, noodles in soup or cereal and milk.
“I don’t eat any sour, spicy or strong-tasting food,” said Kang, adding that such foods do not agree with her now.
Doesn’t she ever get bored with eating bland food? “Never, I can eat the very same thing, day in day out, for several weeks. I never have any problems with that,” said Kang, who avoids all sorts of spicy cuisine so as not to aggravate her condition.
In 1994, Kang tried her hand at acting when she was cast in Bahasa Malaysia film Red Haired Tumbler In Malaya (1994) alongside popular 1990s singer Shima and a teenage Gavin Yap, who went on to become a theatre actor. It was to be Kang's first and last film project.
“I prefer singing. Acting is not for me. It is just too stressful. I prefer to be performing on stage,” sighed Kang, who nevertheless continues to receive offers from movie producers and directors eager to cast her in their projects.
Few people know this, but Kang was offered a role in a Jay Chou movie a few years back. “I couldn’t accept it so I suggested a more suitable candidate instead.”
Acting in films may not be her cup of tea, but hosting television shows is right up her alley. In fact, Kang took to hosting like a duck to water, and became a household name in the 1980s for helming over 50 different variety shows on TV.
She is best known for TV3’s Bahasa Malaysia series Kisah Benar and RTM2’s Cantonese programme Hitz Game Show. Night owls might recognise her vocals as Kang sang the patriotic song Sejahtera Malaysia, which is played just before transmission ends on RTM1.
Like a celebrity with a good business sense, Kang has dabbled in other ventures including jewellery, bridal wear, food and beverage, fashion, beauty and event organisation. These days, the self-confessed workaholic likes to spend her time working at her Triangel Jewellery boutique at Hartamas Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
Over the years, Kang has invested much of her time and energy in various charitable organisations from raising funds for schools (i.e. Methodist Girls School in Penang and Hin Hua High School in Klang) to cancer foundations (her second brother Frank succumbed to the deadly disease).
Apart from all these social and business engagements, Kang is thrilled to be back with a new concert, her first in seven years.
For her upcoming show, Kang will be backed by a 20-piece band, 12 dancers, and a six-piece chorus. She is already rehearsing and keeping fit by swimming.
As for the guest artiste at her concert, Kang is excited to be sharing the stage with her good friend Zaiton Sameon, 58, who made her name as a powerhouse vocalist in the 1980s with the hit single Menaruh Harapan.
“Come join me for a night of nostalgia,” says Kang to her fans. “We’ll take a stroll down memory lane together. Everybody is invited to sing along.”
Elaine Kang Live 2015 will be held at the Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on May 23 at 8pm. Tickets are priced from RM103 to RM383. For bookings, call Galaxy Group at 03-2282 2020.