20140302 A Note of the Rising Son

Sunday, 2 March, 2014 – 00:00

28 February 2014 – a day I’ll remember – it’s the day my son’s first album was released and immediately (i.e. that day) went to number 3 in the Taiwan music charts.

James Yang Yong Cong (as he’s known professionally) is a product of his Hong Kong mother and his very English father and, as such, has grown up bridging two very different worlds with two very different parents but who both have one core value: excellence in all they do.

As a linguist, James is basically hopeless but I suspect it’s not because he’s lacking in aptitude. On family holidays, to try to get him to speak French or whatever the language was where we were, there was a standard instruction: “you can have anything on the menu so long as you can say it.” He never went hungry. Later, in Korea for a year, he learned a few words of Korean. But he speaks no Cantonese despite a Cantonese speaking mother and, having grown up in the UK, Mandarin was an entirely alien tongue.

James grew up with music all around him. It was all over the house, in my office, in the car. And so he was exposed to everything from the 1930s right up to the latest releases and he developed a remarkably catholic taste – and even went beyond the boundaries of my own extremely wide appreciation. We continue to feed each other stuff we find.

But it was in his teens that James’ interest in playing/singing developed, mostly for his own interest. He got his first electric guitar, then a second, then an acoustic then… well, I just hope he’s got what is turning into an expensive collection insured and that airlines don’t break more than they already have (a nice Fender acoustic – Lufthansa refused to entertain the claim because he didn’t unpack and check it as soon as he got off the flight). He got a portable studio kit and was able to record some songs he wrote in his bedroom. He gave copies to family and a few friends.

After his year in Korea, he went back to London and joined a very selective management training programme with a large international financial services group and hated it. He sent off a couple of his bedroom tracks to a couple of record companies. HIM, a big record company in South East Asia invited him to Taiwan and signed him. So, after going back to London to, basically, fill up a backpack and collect a couple of guitars, he set off. One small snag: he had to communicate and perform in Mandarin. It took a year to get even the basics right but after a while, he entered a Taiwan TV programme where he was popular and then entered Chinese Idol, the official transfer of e.g. American Idol. He came fifth but fifth in China’s a big deal (after all, its domestic market is three times that of the US version) and, although the show is not widely broadcast outside China, his growing army of fans pushed it out through Weibu, YouTube and other platforms. There are lots of videos all over the web.

It was during Chinese Idol that the experimentation with what to call him started: James isn’t an easy word for Mandarin speakers, it turns out. And there’s zero chance of anyone getting all the way through his surname. But something more than “James” is needed to help with internet searches. So, after several months of different versions in different places, it seems to have settled on Yang. So there we have it: after spending school holidays at his Grandparents’ home with the Jimmy Young show playing on BBC R2, he ends up as a JY with a similar sounding name. Thank heaven he’s not called Tony Blackberry or something. Only the English will understand.

In October 2013, James’s debut release was a duet with 周蕙 which has 346,000 (ish) views – that’s not in the Justin Beiber scale of things but it’s very respectable for a video, especially one with a target market that can’t watch YouTube. It’s at http://youtu.be/-AJH6bDAamc.

In December, 2013, his pal Anthony Neely, a very popular Mandarin pop star and James were sitting around in a hotel room messing around and someone turned a video recorder on: they played Happy Christmas, War is Over (the John Lennon song) and it got stuck onto Anthony’s Christmas message to his fans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j326P9_5UHM.

For (western) new year, James was on national Chinese TV with a very tired sounding voice after a ridiculously busy year: he was singing a duet with Malaysian singer Shila Amzah (love her voice). It’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNFZ4xurCAY. Since then he’s done gigs in Las Vegas and a guest spot with Aaron Yan in my home town Kuala Lumpur. It was weird seeing my little boy up there on that great big stage. Then for Chinese New Year he was back on Chinese national TV. In between, he’s recorded the new album, half in Mandarin and half in English and in a few days he’s off to Macau.

The first promo was called “Who is James?” – that’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9HsgR21Yng announcing the new album “Stay” and came with a new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jamesyanghim.

A couple of days before the album release, there was the new video: Forget who I am (楊永聰 [忘了我是誰) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDDZkfqTDu0 (addition: since release, there’s a “the making of” video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNedKqGtiWI )

So, when the new album came out on Friday, a public holiday in Taiwan, it started to get picked up by MY FM in Malaysia, YES933 in Singapore, City FM for China-wide broadcast. I guess the hard work starts now as PAs and other promo things take over.

The album includes a song that James heard many times when he was young, in lots of different versions ranging from The Animals to a long semi-disco version by Santa Esmerelda. And since then he’s discovered several old blues versions from when recordings were novel. It’s “The House of the Rising Sun.”

And that’s why this is “The Note of the Rising Son”.

It’s an indulgence from a proud father. For that, I trust I’m forgiven for taking up the time of those who read this far.

James’ website at www.jamesyangyongcong.com


James具有中英血统,母亲是一位香港人, 父亲则是地道的英国人。James的父母虽然拥有迥异的背景,个性差异也很大,但他们却有着共同的核心理念: 无论做任何事情,都要力求卓越、做到最好。

要James成为一名语言学家, 基本上是无望的,但我猜这并非是他缺乏天赋。家庭休假的时候, 为了让他讲法语或是任何一门当时我们所处地的语言, 我和他约定说:“你可以点菜单上任何你要吃的东西,只要你可以说得出它的名字。”他从来都不会因此而饿肚子。之后在韩国的一年里, 他学会了一些韩语。 但是他不会说广东话,即使他有一个说广东话的母亲。此外,由于James一直在英国长大,中文普通话对他来说也是一门完全陌生的语言。

James从小就在音乐的氛围中长大, 无论是家里、我的办公室里、还是车里,音乐都无处不在。 他所接触到的音乐类型,包括从19世纪30年代的音乐到最新潮流的音乐,因此也培养了他对音乐宽泛的兴趣爱好, 甚至超越了对音乐有丰富鉴赏力的我。 我们之间也互相分享各自对音乐的心得、交流发现的新音乐。

但在James少年时,他才把兴趣投向了演奏和唱歌,这主要是因为他对音乐的兴趣与意愿。James得到了自己的第一把电吉他后,紧着第二把,接着又有了原声吉他…… 然而,我希望他会替那些昂贵的音乐器材进行投保,也希望它们不会因为航空托运而再受损坏(James曾经有一把很好的Fender Acoustic原声吉他在随机托运的过程中遭损坏,但航空公司以“下飞机后没有马上进行检查”为由拒绝索赔)。他也有一套便携式的录音装置,以便能够录下那些在卧室里创作出的歌曲。录制好后,James会把这些歌曲送给家人和朋友评赏分享。

在韩国生活了一年后,James回到了伦敦,在一家大型国际金融集团任职并参加了集团内部的精英培训计划,但是James却非常不喜欢。 他给好几家唱片公司寄过自己录制的歌曲。HIM(华研)是东南亚一家大型的唱片公司,曾邀请他到台湾发展并和他签约。 签约HIM后,James回到伦敦简单的收拾了一些行李,带上几把吉他,就出发前往台湾了。

James将面临一个小挑战:他得以华语进行交流和演出。他花了一年的时间学习基本的中文。 不久后, James参加了台湾的电视台节目后便开始走红。随后他又参加了《中国梦之声》的比赛,这个比赛有点类似美国的《 American Idol》 秀。James在比赛中获得了第五名, 这个成绩已经非常了不起了,因为中国的市场以及竞争都是美国的3倍。虽然《中国梦之声》没有在中国以外的地区播放,但是James的歌迷却在微博、YouTube及其他社交媒体为他宣传推广。因此在网络上可以找到很多关于James当时比赛的视频。

早在参加《中国梦之声》比赛时,我们就在讨论叫他什么名字比较好:因为对多数讲中文的人来说,James不好念又难记;更不用说他的姓氏了,几乎没有人能够正确发对他姓氏的音。为了更方便大家在互联网上搜索到他,我们需要找到一个更好的名字或称呼。经过数月、多次的尝试后,大伙决定称呼他“ Yang”。假期时他在祖父家收听过BBC R2的Jimmy Young 的节目, James现在就和Jimmy Young拥有相似的名字“JY” 。幸好James的名字不是Tony Blackberry 或其他什么,这, 只有英国人才能明白。

2013 年 10 月份,James与周蕙的合唱首播,随即点击观看率就突破了346,000多次;虽然这不及Justin Bieber的巨星排场,但对于一首MV而言,这个点击率确实是一个非常棒的成绩,因为目标市场(中国内地)是无法使用YouTube的。此MV的链接是:http://youtu.be/-AJH6bDAamc.

2013年12月,James与好友,著名华语流行歌手安东倪一起在酒店的房间里交流音乐、打发时间,有人录下了他们悠闲自在弹唱的歌曲Happy Christmas 和 War is Over (the John Lennon 的歌),并上传到网络作为送给安东倪粉丝的圣诞祝福。 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j326P9_5UHM

经过忙碌的一年后,略显疲惫的James在新年元旦时受到了一间中文电台的邀请,与马来西亚的一名歌手茜拉Shila Amzah (我喜欢她的音色)表扬了合唱,链接为:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNFZ4xurCAY 。之后,James又去拉斯维加斯参加了特邀演出,并在我的家乡吉隆坡担任炎亚纶演唱会的表演嘉宾。当我看到儿子站在那么耀眼的舞台上演出时,我觉得真的太不可思议了。 农历新年期间,他又回到中文电视台演出。期间他还录制了新的个人专辑,里面有一半是中文歌一半是英文歌。没过几天他又出发前往澳门。

James的首个宣传视频是“Who is James? (James是谁?)”链接: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9HsgR21Yng,专辑的名字叫做“Stay”,他也在facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/jamesyanghim开通了新的链接。

就在新专辑发行前的几天,James还上载了一个新的MV: Forget who I am(忘了我是谁),链接为: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDDZkfqTDu0(另外,新专辑发布之后,又推出一个关于该专辑录制花絮的视屏:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNedKqGtiWI)

上周五正值台湾的公共假日,James的新专辑在台湾发行,随后马来西亚的MY FM、新加坡的YES933、 中国的City FM 也相继开始宣传播放他的歌曲。我猜此刻他应该更辛苦忙碌,为宣传活动而奔波着。
这张专辑收录的歌曲,包括了James小时候就听过无数次的歌曲 “The House of the Rising Sun”。这首歌曲曾经被多位歌手以不同的方式演绎过,包括 The Animals、 Santa Esmerelda等;在录音机盛行的年代,James还听过这首歌的好几个老式的蓝调版本 。

这正是本文取名为“ The note of the rising son”(音乐之星——我冉升的儿子)的缘由。

这是一位深感自豪的父亲对儿子所表达的疼爱。 因此我相信,各位耐心的读者都会深深地体谅我的作为。

© 2014 Nigel Morris-Cotterill
All rights reserved

All thanks and credit for the Chinese version go to Veena and her team in KL. There were some rather dodgy translations going around and it’s lovely of them to spend, collectively, many hours making sure they accurately converted my colloquial English. I think a Marco Polo dim sum lunch is in order as thanks 🙂 Either that or I’ll cook !

* Oh, apparently, they are all in Singapore. That’s ruined that idea, then. Oh, well. I’ll have to think of something else….