[编辑 Editor 刘大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人 部分照片刘翔提供／ Liu Xiang]
It’s probably a case of too slow, yet too soon. After all, Chingay Kuil Kuno Johor will be celebrating its 148th instalment this week, but ironically, we have yet to “own” a single song we could sing our hearts out, nor teach our future offsprings in schools, unless you count the chorus of “Heng”, “Huat”, and some say “Ong” as original (which it’s not), there’s probably nothing much else to shout about. What better way to celebrate our home city’s big day than creating a musical medley that showcases our home-grown talents while making some pleasant noise at the world stage? Having given Johor Bahru it’s first-ever bilingual festival guide “Homecoming” in 2014, and a limited edition souvenir book to commemorate HM Sultan of Johor’s gracious visit for the first time in 2016, we thought of going in a big way to fill the air and streets of JB with some original delightful tunes. Before we could step up to hit the first note, it seems a particular individual has other plans and has stolen a march before us!
Known to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his love for Johor’s Chingay, Liu Xiang is finally officially putting his “patriotism” into music with his latest hit song “Spirit of Ngee Heng“. As a local native born and bred just behind the Johor Chinese Old Temple along Jalan Dato Dalam, where he could catch the entire Chingay on both sides of the circuit, the entrepreneur turned part-time singer is undoubtedly well-placed to put his money where his mouth is and sing his love and commitment to the event. Since we couldn’t beat the man on experience, we could certainly learn a few things…
Living a childhood fantasy…
It all started with a passion for singing as a kid, and like most parents, this hobby could prove to be both a luxury and a liability if an eye for talent or a stroke of good fortune doesn’t come your way. It was almost mid-life (but no crisis) when I chanced upon Maggie, a popular local singer during the 60’s and 70’s, who would then show me the ropes and ways to project my voice. In a bid for greater exposure and valuable on-stage experiences, Maggie encouraged me to take part in numerous competitions, only for me to realise that singing as a career is not quite a bed of roses. With sheer grit and after countless attempts, lady luck finally smiled at me when I was crowned champion in a regional competition, and more glories were to follow. With tonnes of experience and friendship under my belt, including the national singing competition in KL (Astro) and Singapore (Mediacorp), my first break as a singer finally came in 2015 when I met my other singing coach, who has helped put me on track to release my first personal album CD!
The big idea & adrenaline rush…
My forefathers hailed from Meixian district in Guangdong Province, China and they have made Johor Bahru their home having braved the sea and first settled in Plentong. My grandfather was incidentally one of the co-founders of SJK (C) Chien Chi and a founding member of the Thoong Nyien (Hakka) Association Johor Bahru, while my elder siblings were also active members of the local Chinese community in the youth setup. Noting their contributions in the early days, I’m compelled to do my part in giving back to the society and have been pondering ways on helping to preserve the legacy of one of the city’s arguably most important festivals. While working on my second personal album back in September 2017, it began to dawn upon me that an official theme song is sorely lacking in helping to spread the good gospels to the rest of the world, as well as our future generations. Having made up my mind to do my part in what I do best to commemorate the occasion, I began writing the lyrics to what would eventually become the official theme song for the upcoming Chingay, beyond my wildest dreams!
My first song in the making, out of love!
Being my first attempt at writing a song, let alone a “patriotic” one certainly gave me the opportunity to express my love for Chingay, and I really felt it would be a natural thing to do. The original song title was literally Johor Old Temple, based on the recollections of my childhood memories, but thanks to my buddy who shared my song demo with the folks at Tiong Hua Association JB, the rest soon become history as the organisers were extremely supportive and provided me with the necessary literature and feedback to finetune my lyrics to portray a more vivid and complete picture of this momentous occasion. With the support of my recording studio, we manage to wrap up the album production well ahead of the Chinese New Year to make it available to the public in time for the upcoming 2018 Chingay Kuil Kuno Johor! And the song was aptly renamed “Spirit of Ngee Heng“!
A dream come true!
“Spirit of Ngee Heng” is more than just another a song in my album, but my personal gift to the community. The song tells the tale of a journey that connects our past and present, a bond that spans over a century and a connection between divine and mankind that’s uniquely JB! I hope this song can give you more reasons to cheer, to honour this timeless tradition and truly appreciate what it means to come home for this home carnival!
词：刘翔 / 曲：王昱亨 / Lyrics: Liu Xiang / Music: Wong Chee Seong
朵朵白云一层一层 / Clouds gather across the sky
飘扬过海到新山 / as we head south to JB by sea
义兴精神联系了乡亲 / The “Spirit of Ngee Heng”
英雄和豪杰同欢共聚在一堂 / is what unite us towards our common goal
灿烂阳光照遍了大地 / The sun shines brightly on our land
团结义山、一庙一校 / our memorial park, our temple and our school
百花齐放永不息 / May all the flowers bloom and
溪水长流欢乐满人间 / river flows for everlasting prosperity
花灯多璀璨、花车一辆接一辆 / Let the celebration begins
佳节吹响前进的号角（嘿 好）/as the lanterns and floats glow brightly
抬起神轿摇啊摇（摇吖摇吖摇吖）/Up with the sedan (Swing! Swing! Swing!)
大家一起向前冲（冲吖冲吖冲吖）/full speed ahead all the way (Go! Go! Go!)
锣鼓喧天冲云霄 / party to the rhythm of deafening drums
烟火炮竹响连天 / as colourful fireworks lit up the sky
五千年中华文化再创高峰（嘿）/taking 5,000 years of heritage to even greater heights
柔佛古庙香火鼎盛（兴吖兴吖兴吖）/May the Johor Old Temple thrive (Heng! Heng! Heng!)
舞龙舞狮真热闹（发吖发吖发吖）/amidst the celebrations and festivity (Huat! Huat! Huat!)
五帮精神、五帮共和 / Five clans unite, for health and harmony
祈求人民幸福安康 / praying for peace and prosperity for the community
载歌又载舞 / Our city revels in the chorus of music and dance
大老爷、兴！兴！一起发（发吖）/with blessings from the supreme god Heng! Heng! (Huat!)
Johor Chingay & me, going forward…
My association with Chingay went a long way back to over four decades, having first been part of the Hakka’s lion dance troupe when I was 15, before joining the local St John’s Ambulance brigade a year later to offer medical assistance to those in need during the possession. As time goes by, our clique of schoolmates and play buddies grow in size and strength as everyone donned the same colours in walking and joining the possession properly, a tradition that we hold on to date, even after marriage and with kids now running rings around us LOL!
As Bangsa Johor and a true blue Anak JB, it’s heartening to note that the proliferation of technology and the Internet (of things) have not dampened our collective “spirit of Ngee Heng”, but actually connect us to a broader global audience to be part of our annual homecoming celebrations. I certainly look forward to the day when Chingay Kuil Kuno Johor, having been gazetted as a National Heritage in 2012, to be officially recognised by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for its rightful place in the hearts of thousands of Johoreans, both locally and worldwide, for I’m already making plans for another song release to celebrate this occasion!
Till then, here’s Liu Xiang signing off with our customary chorus of “Heng ah! Huat ah!”
The official theme song for Chingay Kuil Kuno Johor is released in Liu Xiang‘s second music album and available in both CD and DVD format for RM25. For a limited time period only, the album is available for purchase at Xing Gong and proceeds will be donated to the Johor Temple Foundation!
To catch the full action and the on-going happenings behind the scene of the 148th Chingay Kuil Kuno Johor, be sure to tune in LIVE on Facebook!