updated 3 Apr 2013, 09:15
Login password
Wed, Nov 28, 2012
My Paper
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Don't sweat the K-pop wave, says Tanya
by Joy Fang

THE massive popularity of K-pop has irked some in the Chinese music industry.

Show Luo, for instance, made a show of his protest recently when he refused to dance to Gangnam Style at the 12th Global Chinese Music Awards.

“I’m here to support Chinese pop music,” he had said firmly.

But home-grown Mandopop star Tanya Chua has words of reassurance for her peers.

Her message? Have no fear, K-pop is merely a fad that will pass in time.

“J-pop used to be popular. And after K-pop, it will be something else. Everyone has a turn,” she said in an interview with My Paper.

The 37-year-old – who is based in Taiwan and is one of the “big three” of Singapore’s Mandopop exports, along with Stefanie Sun and JJ Lin – will be in town next Friday for a concert at the Esplanade that will focus solely on her latest English-language album, last year’s Just Say So.

But, Chua’s prediction aside, the Korean wave is such a strong force that even record labels in Singapore are considering moulding their training programmes for young stars to be like the Koreans’.

This could mean years of strict, intensive training in dancing, singing and public-relations management, starting as early as when aspiring stars are in their early teens.

Chua was doubtful that this would work in Singapore.

The industry here shouldn’t strive to emulate that of other countries, she added, saying that “there are other ways to become a good singer”.

Chua should know what she’s talking about, having first hit the mainstream with 1997’s Bored.

Her distinctive voice and lyrics, which reflected typical grunge-era dissatisfaction, pegged her as a Singapore version of the 1990s queen of angst, Alanis Morisette.

She won major label support and moved into Chinese music with 1999’s Tanya, becoming a successful Singapore export to Taiwan, where she has lived since 2006.

Today, she is a Golden Melody winner many times over, and was crowned Best Mandarin Female Singer for the third time at the awards ceremony for her 2011 Mandarin album, Sing It Out Of Love.


Chua described herself as having ascended to fame in Singapore’s “golden period”, when everyone seemed to make it big. Then, Singapore’s Mandopop exports included Sun, Lin and Kit Chan.

“Right now, I feel like Singapore, in terms of its talents, has sort of disappeared from the radar in the Chinese music scene,” noted the singer.

She said it could be because the country is currently “focused on the economy and on changing its exterior”, which has led to the music scene being put aside.

There is also an oversaturation of information, so finding a spot to emerge and be special is very difficult, she added.

These days, the CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls’ School and Singapore Polytechnic alumnus feels more at home in Taiwan.

She felt “disconnected” from Singapore when she returned home after a long absence last year.

“It kind of freaked me out,” she said. “So many things have transformed that I don’t recognise.

Even the people, like when you go to a restaurant, the waiters are not Singaporean. It’s not like the coffee shops I grew up in.

“I felt like a stranger in my own country.”

Still, she returns to Singapore more often now, for four days every alternate month.

“Deep down, I feel and I know that I’m Singaporean. That will never leave me. But I can’t say I feel the most comfortable here.”

Her favourite hangout when she comes home is Spize in River Valley Road, she added.

Her friends beg her not to suggest going there, she said, laughing.

“I like that there’re some things about me that don’t change,” she said.


Not all things that remain unchanged are necessarily pleasant.

Tensions have not eased between Chua and her mother, Madam Jennie Sri Rangkajo Sudjana, who said last year that she was Chua’s manager. But Chua has clarified that it was not the case.

She said: “Well, my mother is my mother. I have a professional group of people who are handling my career. She is a normal mother who is concerned about me. She loves me a lot.”

She said it is never a good thing for parents to manage their children.

“You have your kid’s interests at heart but, sometimes, there are things in the industry you may not like, but you have to, sort of, accept it.”

As an artist, Chua is realistic and constantly aware of the danger of becoming obsolete in the rapidly evolving industry.

“One day, I will not be relevant...and that will be the day I should step away,” she said.

“I know the day will come... That’s the way life goes.”

That day, this writer is confident, is not today.

[email protected]

Get My Paper for more stories.

readers' comments
Tanya is truly talented and as fellow Singaporeans we should be proud of her. Really really liked her M-pop songs too.
Posted by LouisSG74 on Wed, 28 Nov 2012 at 20:12 PM
I agreed ... :D
Posted by mystrawberry on Wed, 28 Nov 2012 at 19:36 PM

Copyright © 2013 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.