CNY tunes with a folk twist

CHEERY and lively Chinese New Year songs have once again hit the airwaves but Ai FM deejay Chong Keat Aun wants to draw the listeners’ attention to a forgotten vocal style.

The 33-year-old has produced an album of folk ballads in Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka, Hainanese and Hokkien.

Titled Xiang Yin Hui Jia (Native Tongue: Return Home), the 17-track album marked another milestone in his journey to hunt for heritage-style music.

He hosted a radio programme to detail his journey and introduce the various folk artistes, and has published a book last June.

This album focused on songs that are related to the Chinese New Year.

For instance, two Hokkien rhymes are about the order of the 12 Chinese zodiacs. Another two in Cantonese and Teochew highlighted the relationship between Dong Zhi (Winter Solstice Festival) and Chinese New Year — the weather during the winter solstice would hint on the new year’s weather.

“These demonstrated the wisdom of our ancestors,” said Chong.

Some of the tracks come with no background music while some are accompanied by Chinese instruments. There are also a few that combine vocals with electronic music.

In the album launch held at the Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Association in Kuala Lumpur recently, a booth was set up to let the attendees try their hands on making kuih kapit over a charcoal fire.

To add to the festivity, nian gao (glutinous rice cake) — a must-have delicacy during the Chinese New Year — was being steamed in a wok.

Hew Wei Choong rendered a Hakka shan ge (mountain song) while violinist Fung Chern Hwei awed the crowd with his collaboration with Chong on a Teochew track that described prayers offered during Chinese New Year Eve.

To promote the album, a series of talks has been lined up in Kuching and Miri in Sarawak, Segamat in Johor, Malacca, Alor Setar in Kedah, Penang and Kemaman in Terengganu.

The album is priced at RM20. For every album purchased, Chong will donate RM10 to the Shuang Fu Disabled Independent Living Association to help the disabled return home for Chinese New Year.

Shuang Fu founder Shen Chiu Hsiang related the difficulty faced by the disabled whenever they need to embark on a long journey.

“It is not easy for them to take public transport. Once, a disabled friend had to crawl to the back of the bus because he was refused a seat in front.

“Besides, it is also a financial burden for us to travel. I have met a blind person who has not returned home in East Malaysia for 10 years,” she said.

The association is also selling toothbrushes at RM5 each to raise funds for the cause. For details on the fundraiser, call 03-7983 1842/3.

Visit or email for more information on the album. To purchase a copy, visit

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