Lay­ing the foun­da­tion

Malaysian singer Eric Moo talks about be­ing the first Malaysian singer to make it in Tai­wan.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Music - By MICHAEL CHEANG en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my The Eric Moo 2017 Con­cert Asia Tour Live In Malaysia – Pe­nang will be held on Aug 19, 8pm, at the SPICE Arena, Pe­nang. To pur­chase tick­ets, visit www.tick­etcharge.com.my.

THESE days, the list of es­tab­lished Malaysian mu­si­cians in Tai­wan to­day 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 town to pro­mote his up­com­ing Eric Moo 2017 Con­cert Asia Tour Live In Malaysia hap­pen­ing in Pe­nang on Aug 19, 8pm, at the SPICE Arena. 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 in the Sin­ga­pore 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 short­term 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.”

Of late, Moo has branched out to be­come a judge on Chi­nese singing com­pe­ti­tion TV shows. — Hand­out

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