Poon Sow Keng (Pan Xiuqiong) the "Queen of
Alto", became 80 in 2015, and she celebrated the occasion with some
special concerts. She was born in Macau in 1935. When she was four, her family
moved from Macau to Kuala Lumpur, where her father worked as a barber. At
school, she was usually chosen as the representative in singing contests and
school concerts. “Since we were not well-off, my siblings and I didn’t have
toys like other kids did. Instead, we treated singing like a game. To us, it
was the cheapest and most enjoyable means of entertaining ourselves. As long as
I can sing, I’m happy. "
At 15, she was performing in Singapore, as the entertainment scene there was
thriving with the three amusement parks, nightclubs and hotels. “There were
nine mouths to feed at home. I was genuinely happy to sing for a living. I felt
honoured to be able to help improve the circumstances of my family.” At 17, she
became the youngest singer signed on under the Pathé record label in Hong Kong,
and also the only singer from Southeast Asia in its stable. She would go on to
release more than 100 record albums and appear in 4 films. With the success of
her signature tune, A Lover’s Tears, Poon’s singing career reached new
heights. She would shuffle back and forth between Hong Kong and
Singapore, for her album recordings and singing engagements.
She was soon singing at prestigious
establishments like the nightclub at the Singapore Hotel as well as at the
restaurants at the Cathay Building. She would also grace cha-cha parties thrown
by post-war British officers on the top floor of the New 7th Storey Hotel.
Often, after half an hour singing in Mandarin at a Chinese restaurant, she
would be asked to sing songs in English at the Western restaurant downstairs.
She would also perform in nightclubs all over Hong Kong. “The tears I shed now
are no longer tears of a lover. They are tears of happiness, tears of care and
concern. They are really tears of gratitude. I have always led a simple life,
and I feel that anyone can be happy if they keep things simple. Even so, I hope
to be remembered. Please forget me not. I wish that the songs of Poon Sow Keng
would be a part of everyone forever.”