Hong Kong powerhouse crooner Frances Yip has sung Cantopop classic The Bund numerous times in her 50-year career, but it is only in more recent times that she truly understood the song.
Her signature tune was the theme song of the hugely successful 1980 Hong Kong TVB drama of the same name, starring Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat.
“The song compares life to ocean waves because there will always be both highs and lows. There will always be both happiness and sadness.
“Now that I have lived more, the song means so much more to me. When I sing it now, I sing it with even more feeling than before,” she said in a phone interview from Sydney, Australia.
The lesson is how to get past the sadness, says the 70-year-old, whose low points in life include getting diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 and discovering in 2010 that her grandson would be born with a brain tumour.
She has been declared cancer-free since 2002, while her grandson, whom doctors said would not live beyond a year, is now eight.
She says: “I was very depressed when I learnt of my breast cancer. I kept asking, ‘Why me?’
“Eventually, I decided that there were some things I could do to help myself, and that was to try to live healthier, build my immune system and beat the cancer.
“As for my grandson, he is handicapped and cannot walk or talk, but he is a happy kid. I consider myself blessed that when I play with him, he is always laughing and is so carefree.”
Perhaps, Yip is also a little more sentimental than usual, having crossed the milestone birthday of 70 last October.
“At this point in my life, I just want to enjoy every single day that comes. I’m an old lady now,” she says with a laugh.
Yip, who started out as a singer of commercial jingles in the 1970s, is one of Hong Kong’s most famous Cantopop stars. The Bund – both the song and the show – was a mega hit across Asia.
She says: “When the show was airing, the streets were completely empty because everyone watched it. And younger audiences know about it too because it re-runs somewhere on some channel every few years or so. I am very lucky.”
In 1997, she gained international fame when she was selected to be a co-presenter at the British Farewell Ceremony to mark the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China. The televised event was watched by millions around the world.
She says: “Many people watched the event on TV, but I have special pictures and personal stories to share from that very special day of my life.
“Come to my show and find out.”
– The Straits Times/Asia News Network