A popular Hong Kong-Canadian singer-songwriter will finally fulfill his dream of performing in front of friends and family in Canada —more than a decade into his career abroad.
Jay Fung, who has captured the hearts of Cantopop fans in Hong Kong with his soft crooning voice, is performing Friday evening at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby as a special guest at a songwriting contest, organized by Richmond-based Fairchild Radio.
It’s always been a goal of his to perform in Canada, in front of family and friends, and he sees this opportunity as a “blessing.”
“I waited for about 11 years, and finally it happened.”
The 35-year-old emigrated to Edmonton with his family when he was a toddler and returned to Hong Kong in 2011 to pursue a career as a singer, where he narrowly missed first place in Hong Kong’s version of The Voice.
In stark contrast to his hectic life in Hong Kong, Fung said he feels excited, but relaxed, performing on a Canadian stage for the first time.
“There isn’t that nervous energy, it just feels like I’m at home,” he said.
“I just want to have fun and do the best that I can and put on a good show.”
Exploring Richmond and meeting fans
Fung may have grown up in Alberta, but he’s no stranger to Richmond. In fact, he stayed in the city a few years ago when his friend and fellow Cantopop singer, Phil Lam, tied the knot in Canada.
“It’s just a lovely city and I think the Asian community is very tight-knit,” he said.
On Thursday, at a media event in Richmond, Fung met with fans and aspiring singers ahead of Friday’s finals for the SQ27 Canadian Chinese Song Writer Contest. A concurrent contest was held to find the best covers of Fung’s songs, and tickets to Friday’s concert were given to the winner.
Fung has been enjoying the local food offerings since his arrival, but he hopes to spend more time with family members, who are in town to watch his performance.
He also wants to get “acquainted with the area a bit more.”
“One day, I’m hoping that I’ll have the chance to move here,” he said.
Music is everything
The down-to-earth singer got his big break in 2020 and held his first solo concert in 2022. Earlier this year, he successfully completed a three-day run at the iconic Cantopop concert venue, the Hong Kong Coliseum.
Fung described music as something that is “a part of (his) life” as both work and a hobby. One of the biggest influences in his music is his Hong Kong-Canadian experience.
Fung picked up his love of Cantopop from his father who listened to such icons as Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui, but blended that with other musical genres he heard on Canadian radio.
Many in the Hong Kong diaspora connected with his 2022 single, Song for the Absentees, which has been streamed more than five million times on Spotify since its release.
The song was originally written for his grandmother who passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Fung, and it’s an “amazing feeling” to see his audience connecting with this song and his music in general.
Although he has now been in the industry for more than a decade, Fung feels like he is “just getting started.”
“There’s so many things I still want to try out, that I haven’t done yet, music-wise,” he said.
“I feel like I’m always hungry to do more — different types of music, things that I haven’t tried before. And it’s always fun.”
His main motivation is the ability to connect with audiences.
“When you’re writing your music, you have a say in what you want to write or what you want to put in. And it could be something completely crazy or something that doesn’t even make sense,” said Fung.
“But you do it because it feels right and you know that no matter how crazy it is, there are certain people who will connect to that and that’s your people… That’s your audience.”
Apart from holding successful performances, Fung also recently starred as a mentor in a Hong Kong televised singing contest, “King Maker,” which featured several Canadian contestants.
“It’s always nice to see fellow Canadians come and join these local singing competitions,” said Fung. It was “very rewarding” to be able to influence others to pursue their dreams in the industry, he added.
“I had a tough time when I first went back to Hong Kong because I was originally from Canada and I didn’t know much Chinese, but it’s opened up so many new doors and so many new opportunities.”
His main advice to aspiring singer-songwriters is “perseverance.”
“It took me a long time to reach the success that I have now,” said Fung.
“And I think, in some ways, it’s a good thing because I’ve experienced a downside of it, it makes me treasure
or appreciate the things that I have now.”
It’s also important to stay passionate about one’s craft, said Fung, as pursuing the career for “superficial reasons” will not last long.
“There’s going to be… people just closing doors on you. And it takes a long time. And sometimes when you go perform, there might even be one person who’s just there, and (you’ve) got to sing your heart out,” he explained.
“I was very lucky. I caught my break, and that might not be the case for everyone. So that’s why you have to be very passionate with what you do.”