Ying Hua, best known by her stage name of Sakura Teng, was born in Muar, state of Johor, Malaysia, in May 1948. She grew up there, where she received her education in Chinese and English, but has always been mistaken for a Singaporean as she had been living in the republic until the mid '80s.
During her years in school, Sakura won many singing competitions as well as many public speaking awards. Despite being a top student, and having decided to become a singer, at the tender age of sixteen she quit school and moved to Singapore. Her music career began in 1965, when she was just seventeen, at the now defunct New World, an amusement park located in the central area of Singapore.
On her path to fame, Sakura was lucky enough to meet Su Yin (舒雲), a.k.a. Henry Foo, a Singaporean singer, songwriter and lyricist, who was also the A&R manager for the Chinese section at Columbia / EMI. He immediately recognized her potential, and in 1966 she was signed by the label. Her first 7" EP was an instant hit: it sold 25,000 copies and became the first in a very long series of successful releases which lasted until the early '80s.
Interestingly, her stage name is actually a literal translation of her Chinese name, which means 'cherry blossom' in Mandarin. Apparently she was given the nickname when she started singing Japanese numbers in Chinese during her early stage performances.
Sakura recorded many fabulous Mandarin covers of popular English songs and she was part of the pioneers who launched the Rock Movement in Singapore. Along with Rita Chao, with whom she joined forces on many recordings during the late '60s, they were both known as 'A Go-Go Queens of the Sixties'.
Sakura and Rita began performing as a double act in 1967, as both singers were doing well and EMI felt that pairing them would give both their careers a boost. Together they toured Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, building a fan base at each port of call. On stage, Chao usually played the part of the impish naif, while Sakura was the more mature half of the duo. They split up in the mid '70s but are still fondly remembered.
During her heyday in the '60s and '70s, Sakura cut more than fifty records and she also came to be known as the 'Yodelling Singer' for her vocal 'trademark'. She still is one of the most popular female Mandarin singers, and during her career she also recorded songs in many other languages including English, Japanese, Cantonese and Malay.
In 1985 Sakura relocated to the U.S.; since then she has quit recording but she kept on performing live until 2013, when she definitively retired at the age of 65.
Here's the track list for this 7" EP:
01. 我愛牛郞 (Cowboy Sweetheart) (2:57)
02. 什麼道理 (Stupid Cupid) (2:51)
03. 真友愛 (Michelle) (2:35)
04. 歡樂今宵 (2:11)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in March 2016 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the complete original artwork.
Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.
Sakura's third EP was released sometimes in early 1967 by Columbia / EMI in Singapore with catalogue number ECHK 574. The cover features a picture taken during the same session that produced the iconic picture that graces Sakura's debut album, a sought after and highly enjoyable release that will be the subject of a future post here on Stereo Candies.
The backing band is not credited anywhere on the cover or labels of this release, but since all these recordings were later included on Sakura's debut album, from the information and pictures included on such release we know that they're no less than the mighty Quests, a legendary Singaporean group which was very active during the mid-late '60s, both as a backing unit - most notably for Sakura and Rita Chao - and as performers with their own hits and TV show.
Side A begins with "我愛牛郞 (Cowboy Sweetheart)" a Mandarin cover of "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart", a Country and Western song written and first recorded in 1935 by Rubye Blevins, who performed as Patsy Montana. You can listen to the original version here.
"什麼道理 (Stupid Cupid)" is a song written by Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka which became a hit for Connie Francis in 1958. The Quests add tons of distortion on the guitar, turning the original number into one of Sakura's best covers. Here's the original version for your reference.
Side B offers "真友愛 (Michelle)", a cover of the classic Beatles tune... Do you really need a link to the original version of this song?!? C'mon...
The EP ends with "歡樂今宵", which is supposed to be an original composition... Anyway, I wasn't able to find any information about it, maybe someone out there can share some?
Sakura as a 'cowboy sweetheart', 1966
The following clips offer a preview of the remastered EP, enjoy "我愛牛郞 (Cowboy Sweetheart)", "什麼道理 (Stupid Cupid)" and "真友愛 (Michelle)"!
More information about Sakura is available here:
In the next months I will post more Hong Kong/Taiwan/Singapore/etc. Pop/Instrumental records released in the late-60s / mid-70s. As usual, I would like to provide information about these releases and their authors.
Unfortunately the Internet doesn't offer much information - written in English - about these artists and this is the reason why I need help: if you can translate from Chinese to English please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you so much!
It's been difficult to obtain these vinyls, some are not in the best conditions and I'm currently working hard to properly master them. It seems that these artists and their music are poorly known in the West, of course it's a real pity because they made stunning releases: I'd like to share them with you with a proper presentation, hope that someone will be able to help.