Kit Chan’s manager spills the tea on her kiasu-ness and ah lian-ness

Did you know that the homegrown singer is also a fan of chope-ing?

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Kit Chan may not be performing at this year’s National Day Parade (or at the next few ones for that matter - more on that later), but you can still catch her perform ‘Home’ “live” at the National Day Concert. And it’s free!

Held at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay, the chanteuse will headline the first of the two-day concert, alongside other local legends like Dick Lee and Rahimah Rahim, and we’re told it’s going to be quite an impressive set list, boasting her classic Mandopop hits as well as the beloved National Day theme song, which she will perform with Dick.

It is not going to be your usual rendition, but one that some of you might find familiar and hit you right in the feels no less. “The arrangement that we are using is actually the same as the one I executive produced for Total Defence Day in 2011, which featured 39 artistes spanning different generations,” Kit told Toggle in a phone interview last week.

If you thought that sounded familiar, that’s because the same concept was used for the music video of this year’s National Day theme song, ‘Our Singapore’, except on a much larger scale.

“This is why when I heard that Sydney [Tan, music director of NDP 2019] was doing [something similar] for this year’s NDP song, I immediately I jumped on board because I know how hard it is to put a project like that together,” she said. “He made it even harder for himself by getting like 300 people in the music video. It was really easy for me to go sing a few lines.”

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Kit Chan performing 'Home' at the National Day Parade in 2015. The singer said in 2015 that it was likely to be her last NDP.

To Kit, ‘Home’ is more than just her personal favourite - it’s like her music legacy and despite having performed it countless times over the past two decades, “I don’t get sick of it”. The 46-year-old attributes it to the energy of the audience that she feeds off during each performance.

“Unlike my own songs, when I perform ‘Home’, it is usually before a Singaporean audience, and somehow they own the song. So you get the feeling it’s not just YOU putting in energy - everyone else is putting in the energy. It’s always a collaboration even though I am singing it solo.”

But if you are still keeping your fingers crossed that Kit will come out of “NDP retirement” soon, you’re going to be disappointed.

“For the foreseeable future, I really don’t see myself doing another NDP, but that’s not to say never. If somebody asks me after a few years, I might be like ‘Oh yeah! That’s kind of fun again!’” she said. “Check with me in five years.”

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Kit Chan celebrated her 25th anniversary in showbiz with an intimate showcase last year.

Kit, who marked her 25th anniversary in showbiz last year, is undoubtedly one of the most recognised and celebrated singers on the little red dot - she’s even been dubbed Singapore's "national treasure”. And as our chat progressed, we realised it’s a title that more than befits her, not just in the talent department, but also when it comes to her Singaporean-ness.

For one, she can be super kiasu (“I’m off the charts when it comes to work”) and her manager can more than vouch for it.

“When a stylist tells her to bring an outfit and two pairs of shoes for a performance, she will bring double that just in case,” her manager told us. “And also, when we travel overseas for work, we always bring a pandan cake because Kit is afraid she will not be able to find a good ‘light and fluffy cake’ to snack on during rehearsals!”

Okay, that’s pretty hardcore. We’ve heard of tourists lugging home boxes of pandan cake, but locals doing the opposite? That’s a first. And as it turns out, there’s an inner ah lian within Kit that you do not want to see rear its ugly head. 

“I am usually polite, that’s the way I was brought up. But when I am really angry, I will be quite vulgar and that’s the inner lian coming out,” laughed Kit.

Instead of asking her to demo, we egged her manager to reveal the singer’s preferred lingo for, erm, colourful language.

“Depends,” she said. “She seldom [swears] but when she does, it’s usually in English. She’s like an ang moh lian.”

Read on to find out how Singaporean Kit is.

What’s a typical Singaporean side you have?
I like to chope (reserve) things - it could be chope-ing seats and sometimes chope-ing people. For example, a friend says she wants to go Morocco then I will go, “I chope you for that trip, you cannot go with anyone else.” Everything also must chope.

Do you chope seats at hawker centres? 
I don’t want to sound spoilt but when I go to the hawker centre, I am usually with someone who will buy the food, so I am the chope-er. You don’t need a pack of tissue.

On a scale from 1 to 10, rate your level of kiasu-ness.
This one is very extreme. I think in general, as a normal person, I’m only 5. However, when it comes to work, I’m a 12. I am off the charts. I always over-prepare, especially for “live” performances.

For example, we only need an outfit and a pair of shoes but we always bring extra because someone might spill coffee on you. And I will bring a lot of underwear. There’s different underwear that goes with different outfits so don’t think, just bring everything. I also make sure there’s enough water on the stage, and not just in one spot but several spots. I feel people come all the way to watch you perform and you don’t want to spoil it because of those few minutes.

Is it because you’ve encountered many mishaps over the years?
(Laughs) When I first started out, I had almost zero SOPs (standard operating procedures) but over the years, with each mishap you have another SOP to counter that mishap. So you just have more and more SOPs because more s*** happens to you.

There was once, when I was doing [musical] Forbidden City, I went on stage without a skirt. I was a concubine in the Qing dynasty and I went on stage in PANTS! How could this happen?! So after that, we started doing things like counting the number of pieces of each outfit and having a chart on the wall and ticking it off.

Do you have an inner lian?
Yeah! Suffice to say I have a temper and when that temper flares, that’s when the inner lian will rear its ugly head. I will be quite vulgar and that’s the inner lian coming out.

What are your favourite Singlish slangs or phrases?
Ji mei lor (very beautiful)! I think the reason I always use it is because of the industry I am in. I work with a lot with stylists and hairstylists and there’s a lot of aesthetics involved, so there’s quite a lot of complimenting each other like, “This outfit ji mei lor!” 

And the other one is abuthen. I don’t suffer fools and when someone says something [stupid] I’m like, “Abuthen, duh!”

What’s your favourite local food?
There are too many, to be honest. If I really have to name them, one of it has to be nasi padang. And why I say nasi padang is because I often have to abstain from it because if I have performances, I cannot eat spicy food. I usually get the belacan brinjal, begedil and ayam masak merah, the chicken in the red spicy sauce. Yeah, that’s good.

Do you have a go-to place for nasi padang?
No, I would get it whenever I can. I would just give it a visual test to see whether it looks good or not.

I also love kueh, like nyonya kueh, ang ku kueh, but it must be good. It’s getting harder to get good kuehs. My favourite ang ku kueh is at Everton Park.

Gardens by the Bay & Mediacorp National Day Concert takes place on August 10 and 11 (Saturday and Sunday) at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. Performances start at 6.30pm. Admission to both the concert and fringe activities is free. For more information, visit gardensbythebay.com.sg/nationaldayconcert.

Related:
Desmond Ng wants to expose younger audiences to getai at the National Day Concert

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