Boasting soulful vocals, stirring guitar solos, and cathartic lyrics, CiuJyut 超粤 are a band that should be on the radars of Cantorock lovers.
Formed in January 2023, the four-piece outfit is made up of lead vocalist Frank Chen (49), guitarist Hong (35), bassist William Choi (34), and drummer Ryan Yan (33) — individuals united by a common passion for the tunes of artists such as Beyond, Kolor, Rubberband, Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Sam Hui, Alan Tam as well as the Cantonese language.
CiuJyut 超粤's love for their culture is also reflected in their name, which they tell Hear65 roughly means "Super Canto" when translated directly to English.
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For about a year after their formation, they spent most of their time playing in studios and performing for audiences at Malts Whisky Bar, Tong Ah Eating House, Friends Cafe HK, HometeamNS Bedok's Sum Dim Sum, and more.
A few days into 2024, CiuJyut 超粤 joined the Cantonese music catalogue with a single of their own — 'Inner Cry (吶喊聲)', a number that fuses the sounds of synths and strings with metal and electro influences. Inspired by the band's observations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the track captures the "mixed feelings" that people had to contend with during a trying season.
Given that they have their sights set on helping to sustain interest in Cantonese music locally and (eventually) exporting their made-in-Singapore Cantorock creations to overseas audiences, do not expect CiuJyut 超粤 to slow down anytime soon. Next up on the band's 2024 calendar is a show at Club Apollo Livehouse at the end of January.
Following the release of their debut single, Hear65 spoke to CiuJyut 超粤 to learn about how they came together, their relationship with Cantonese music, the creation of 'Inner Cry (吶喊聲)'.
Hi, CiuJyut 超粤! How did the four of you get to know each other? Why did you decide to start making music together?
ALL: [Our] drummer, Ryan, is a cousin of vocalist, Frank, and Ryan introduced Hong (guitarist) and William (bassist). Both Hong and William knew each other and had performed in a band at a few bistros in Singapore. Frank’s idea is about making Cantonese songs in Singapore and preserving the Cantonese dialect in Singapore. That’s almost the main reason why the band was formed.
"Canto lyrics touch people's hearts directly, giving them a sense of empathy."
What is it about Cantopop that keeps you coming back to it even after you've explored other genres?
FRANK: Cantonese is a dialect that we have spoken since young, even till now [among] family, relatives, and friends. Hence, instead of making it too upfront, our mission is to promote and preserve Canto music culture in Singapore.
HONG: Cantonese lyrics elaborate and deliver the moods and emotions of the singer that they want to convey to their listeners. In my opinion, Canto lyrics touch people's hearts directly, giving them a sense of empathy. Even if you have never been in love or ended a relationship or experienced arguments/antagonism with friends, you can still feel these emotions and perceptions through the lyrics. Of course, there are also many excellent ones in Mandarin. There are also many songs that make people tremble, but the feelings brought by the Cantonese lyrics are not quite the same. For example, some songs have Canto and Mando versions, and there is a prominent difference in the taste/feeling between Mandarin and Cantonese lyrics.
RYAN: As a band, music lovers, and songwriters, we do listen to a lot of songs in different languages and genre. But Canto songs are our favourite. Cantonese is my dialect, [but] nowadays, a lot of youngster don't even speak Cantonese anymore. We hope by promoting Cantonese songs, more youngsters will get to know how lovely Cantonese songs and [the Cantonese] language itself [are].
"Lyrics-wise, we are a bit direct, not having too ‘flowery’ words."
When you began creating your own music, what were some things that you did to differentiate CiuJyut 超粤's sound from the sounds of other Cantonese rock bands?
FRANK: Lyrics-wise, we are a bit direct, not having too ‘flowery’ words; [Our lyrics are] emotional liberation, an outlet to express [oneself].
Your first single, 'Inner Cry', is about "humans facing restriction, control, suppression and struggles". Of the 10 songs that you could have selected from, why did you decide to introduce yourselves with this one?
FRANK: Almost representing what we mean by emotional liberation through lyrical composition, 'Inner Cry' is like releasing ourselves from struggles, ultimately salute to ownself for being able to overcome any hardship.
WILLIAM: We chose 'Inner Cry' as our first song that best represents our band's sound — intense power chord playing during the chorus infused with a small touch of electric synth and [a] string element.
"We chose 'Inner Cry' as our first song that best represents our band's sound — intense power chord playing during the chorus infused with a small touch of electric synth and [a] string element."
You got to work with Snakeweed Studios' Leonard Soosay, who's such a prominent figure in the local music scene while putting together 'Inner Cry'. Tell us what that experience was like.
WILLIAM: My previous [and] original band had worked with Leonard Soosay in mixing all of our singles. We were very pleased with his work, so I decided to recommend CiuJyut to engage Leonard Soosay in recording and mixing our first single 'Inner Cry'. During our live recording session, Leonard gave us good suggestions on how to record our two singles (one with clicks and one without clicks). Leonard was down to earth and listened to our suggestions for our vocal and instrumental mix. It’s certainly fun working with him and being accompanied by his two cute cats!
Can we expect your future releases to cover similar themes? Or do you have something else lined up that you can share with us?
FRANK: Something else, for sure. Different stories from different experiences and encounters in life. We are already working on our second single and would be happy to collaborate with local singers.
"[We hope to tell] different stories from different experiences and encounters in life. We are already working on our second single and would be happy to collaborate with local singers."
Prior to releasing your debut single, you spent some time performing at ticketed events. How did it feel to be able to share your love for Cantonese music with live audiences?
We explained briefly about each song — why and how it was written — and that provided an idea to the audience [about what they were hearing] and allowed us to engage with them as some of the storylines resonated with all of us. We felt blessed and contented to be able to share our songs with our audiences. Although a few of them were not able to understand Cantonese, they appreciated our effort [to share] our songs and perform live as a new band in Singapore.
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Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Frances Yip, and Alam Tam are some big names that come to mind when one thinks of Cantopop stars who have achieved success internationally. How do you think Cantonese acts from Singapore, such as yourselves, can gain more exposure on a global level?
WILLIAM: We have reached out to Kolor, a band from Hong Kong, to share our music with them. We hope when Kolor comes to Singapore for [their] tour this year, we can have the privilege to be their opening band to perform a few originals. Besides Hong Kong, we also plan to travel to Johor Bahru to do an acoustic sharing session at bars.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Catch CiuJyut 超粤 live at Singapore's Club Apollo Livehouse from 8 PM onwards on 30 January. Tickets are priced at $18.