Written by: Luke Lim
Edited by: Gerald Lim
On the night of 13 February 2016, the stage at the University Cultural Centre was set for the Xin Qing Rong Ji (心情溶剂) (XQRJ) Grand Finals. It was an exciting night of exploring music from various genres and indeed an excellent platform for budding musicians to express themselves and showcase their talents. XQRJ is a regional song writing competition for students in Singapore and Malaysia that was birthed in 1998.
The XQRJ grand finals have always been an important day for the organising committee as well as the participants. Intense preparations began months prior to the grand finals and no effort was spared to ensure that the programme ran successfully to enable the finalists to showcase their beautiful compositions to the world.
The judges for the competition included Zennon Goh (吴剑泓), Wilson Tan (陈炯顺) and Derrick Tham (谭志华), executive producers from Ocean Butterflies Music Co. Ltd.
The programme proper started with emcee Chen Ning (陈宁) from the Chinese Radio Station YES 93.3 taking to the stage to introduce XQRJ. Thus began a delightfully pleasant medley of wonderful songs.
‘是你 (It’s You)’ by Tan Zi Jian (陈子健)
The first piece was a song inspired by the events from Zi Jian’s personal life. Zi Jian came up with he came up with the melody and the lyrics while watering his plants!
‘Stay’ by Sharon Lee (李杰铃)
This song from the rock genre was rather interesting as Sharon challenged herself by writing a love song without using the word “爱” (love). Despite being the composer and appearing in the introductory video, it turned out that Sharon did not take to the stage. The audience was greeted with a surprise when Sharon’s friend Yi Da instead went on stage to perform the song that Sharon had composed.
‘第三者 (Third Person)’ by Alina Mak (麦菽娟).
The inspiration for this song came from a local television programme ‘志在四方 (The Dream Makers)’. Alina competed in XQRJ two years ago but did not manage to win any awards; she decided to challenge herself this year by competing once again. We really admire her courage and tenacity!
‘爱没什么了不起 (Nothing Remarkable About Love)’ by Tang Zi Yi and Wee Pui Yin (邓资峄和黄佩音)
This piece was performed with stringed instruments. It tells of a painful experience of a girl moving away from a broken relationship. Despite such a negative experience, the girl managed to overcome it and let go of her past hurts, such that it no longer was a major negative influence in her life.
‘有你，才有我 (When There’s You, Then There’ll Me)’ by Aw Wei Zheng (胡伟政)
This song is explores what and how a boyfriend thinks about his girlfriend. Although the tune of the song was cheerful, the lyrics actually brought about a rather mournful message, and this brought a rather unusual twist to the song.
‘下个季节 (Next Season)’ by Zhang Yiqing (张一清)
This piece was about a couple Yiqing knew: They were physically separated as they were living in different countries. It talks about how there are times when the boyfriend will melt the heart of his girlfriend during winter, and how the girlfriend send flowers to her boyfriend during autumn. There will be a season when they are separated. Through this piece, Yiqing hopes to share that we should be the confident of our own relationships.
‘选择性失忆 (Selective Amnesia)’ by Goh Chun Wei (吴俊伟)
Think of a time when someone brought up a topic that evokes bad memories. Such memories stir up deep hurts in our hearts, and we hope that we can forget all about it. This song is discusses just that. We can be brave and forgive, but it is extremely hard to forget the pains that we have gone through, as they may cut so very deep.
‘面具 (Mask)’ by Heng Zhi Wen (王智文)
This is the only song composed that does not talk about love or relationships in a direct manner. The song revolved around the theme “the saddest person smiles the most”. We can be strong and put up a brave front but deep in our hearts, such that our true feelings are hidden. However, the song suggests, taking off our masks can also be a good thing.
‘Oh My Darling’ by Tan Leong Hooi (陈隆辉)
A rap piece that talks about ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends bad-mouthing each other. Leong Hooi made the effort to compose the song such that it allowed the audience to pick up the lyrics and sing along despite it being new to them. This piece was so catchy that the audience were heard singing “Oh My Darling” together with the live band during the chorus.
‘有你的地方 (A Place With You)’ by Joshua Tan (陈鸿毅)
A piano piece inspired by Joshua’s own life with his girlfriend as he learnt to get along with her, spending time with her, learning to cherish her and chasing the dream of having the confidence of being together for the rest of their lives.
The perforamces (rather sadly) drew to a close, and soon, it was time to present the prizes to the winners after the judges had made tough decisions. The audience waited in anticipation as one of the judges, Zennon Goh, walked onto the stage to announce the winners.
‘选择性失忆 (Selective Amnesia)’ by Goh Chun Wei (吴俊伟) took the ‘Online Popularity Prize’ – this piece garnered more than 1100 likes on Facebook.
The winner for ‘Best Lyrics’ was ‘是你 (It’s You)’ composed by Tan Zi Jian (陈子健). The judges had mentioned that they truly enjoyed this song and was an excellent start for the competition.
The 3rd prize went to ‘第三者 (Third Person)’ by Alina Mak (麦菽娟). Alina appeared extremely elated on stage as her hard work of composing another song for XQRJ for the second time had finally paid off!
The 2nd prize went to ‘有你的地方 (A Place With You)’ by Joshua Tan (陈鸿毅). The judges appreciated the way the piano piece was played and liked how the lyrics was presented with the melody played.
The biggest winner of the night walked away with four awards – the most well received song by the audience, the best performance, the best melody and the 1st prize. The winner of this year’s XQRJ was ‘Oh My Darling’ by Tan Leong Hooi (陈隆辉). Leong Hooi did not expect to clinch a total of four awards in the XQRJ and there were loud cheers from audience as he went up to receive the prize. The emcee even commented that Leong Hooi’s two hands were not enough to carry all four awards!
It was most certainly an exciting and enjoyable night for many in the audience who were treated to an array of love songs on the eve of Valentine’s Day.
Here are some thoughts from this year’s organising committee:
Christopher Cheah – Chairperson of XQRJ 2016 – “This year, XQRJ had pushed for more musical works from the region and encouraged more students to take part in song composing. XQRJ had made a breakthrough and received 191 entries for newly composed songs for this year. We are thankful for the support of the budding composers to realise their dreams with XQRJ. We hope that the songs presented for the night have touched the hearts of many.”
Tay Pei Ling – Stage Manager (incoming chairperson for XQRJ 2017) – “The preparation was tough and stressful but very fruitful. I’ve learnt many new things about myself and have grown as a leader as well. When I saw the efforts my team had borne fruit, the joy was inexplicable. So, if I were to be given the chance to go through XQRJ again, even with knowing how tough the journey is, I will go through it all over again because it is a CCA that has given me many opportunities to learn and grow at the same time.”