Written by Dean Liaw Yih Hang
Edited by Ong Hui Shan
King Edward VII Hall is well known among the NUS halls for being rich in culture, evident in the wide range of cultural activities KE7 residents indulge in. It is impressive that there is not one but three major hall productions in Ke7: Hallplay, Chinese Drama and XQRJ. While Hallplay and Chinese Drama are, as their names suggest, English and Chinese drama productions respectively, XQRJ needs more elaboration on its roots.
XQRJ is the acronym for Xin Qing Rong Ji or 心情溶剂. It is a regional Chinese song writing competition organized by the students of KE7. Originally intended only for NUS students, it was soon extended to all institutions in Singapore, and then Malaysia in the past few years. Singapore, the birthplace of famous Chinese artists such as JJ Lin and Stefanie Sun, prides itself on being the hub for the Chinese music industry in the region. As such, XQRJ aims to provide budding song writers and music composers a platform to showcase their talent and promote the Chinese language among younger generations. To eliminate unfair competition from songwriters and composers with experience, this competition is only open to students – presumably amateurs in songwriting.
XQRJ has been enjoying a long standing partnership with Ocean Butterflies Music, a renowned music label which provides professional song writers as judges for the competition, thus making the competition professional and quality-assured. There are 2 categories in the competition: category A requires the contestant to submit an original song coupled with original music. For category B however, music is provided and contestants have to complete the songs based on the music provided. All entries are first rated by judges who then select a handful out of over a hundred entries. The lucky ones are then up for the preliminary round, held at the Ocean Butterflies Music HQ located at Scape Mall along Orchard Road this year. In the preliminary round, the judges come together to select the top 10 from category A and the winner of category B to be put through to the Grand Final.
With the confirmation of finalists, it is time to prepare for the Grand Finals: first off, the photo shooting session for the finalists held in Singapore during the December vacation. This is then followed by the “Music Without Boundary” project, a new initiative organised in collaboration with KE OCIP (Overseas Community Involvement Project). Members from both committees, together with the finalists, spend a day at the Children’s Aid Society entertaining and teaching the residents music. Rounding up the lineup of events during the holidays, finalists are invited to a music workshop organized by Ocean Butterflies Music and conducted by professional song writers who provide feedback on contestants’ songs.
Fast forward to 12 February 2012, 6 weeks after the start of the new semester: the day finalists and the XQRJ committee had been anticipating – the XQRJ Grand Finals. Held at the University Cultural Centre Hall and scheduled to start at 7pm, members of the audience started pouring in at 6 to get good seats. The KE7 Hall Master, among other high profile guests, was present to lend his support.
Emceeing for the event was DJ Kun Hua from 93.3FM who kept the audience hyped and alive throughout the night. He had previously interviewed the finalists during his daily program “牛顿给点力” on 93.3FM.
The much coveted Grand Prize of XQRJ went to NUS Sheares Hall resident Tan Zhen Lin with his song “叶绿素” which directly translates to “Chlorophyll”: he compares being in love to chlorophyll harnessing energy from the sun to achieve photosynthesis, portraying the love experience as a sunny day.
Second prize winner Gao Sheng Han, a JC student from Raffles Institution, was the composer of “第十七个夏” or “Seventeenth Summer”, a song about teenagers in love.
Xu Yiting, also from NUS, won third place with his song “秦淮”, which stood out from the rest with its deep lyrics, comparable to that of an old Chinese poem, brought into the context of a modern day love song.
Despite not winning any of the top 3 awards, ex-KEVIIan Lee Chun Keat, who was performing on behalf of a friend’s entry, bagged the “Best Performance” and “Audience’s Choice” awards with the song “我还爱着你，你知道吗？” (“Do you know I still love you?”).
The hard work the XQRJ committee had put in for the past 6 months had finally paid off: the spectacular performance received much praise for its professionalism and rousing success. The bar has definitely been raised for the next organizing committee as XQRJ moves into its 15th year; as to what they will deliver, we can only wait and see.