Gong xi gong xi! Xin nian kuai le! Chun feng de yi!
Every Chinese New Year, you will hear these auspicious greetings, which also happen to be the titles for some of the most played songs during this festive season.
This is also the liveliest and busiest time of the year for local girl group Q-Genz, which has been putting out CNY albums for the past 12 years.
They may be seasoned entertainers, but believe it or not, the members of Q-Genz are only in their teens.
Q-Genz is short for Q-generation – also known as Qiao Qian Jin in Mandarin – and its line-up currently consists of Veron Lin, Joanne Fu, Miko Oh and Ivian Wong. The group was originally known as Xiao Qian Jin (Little Princesses), when it was formed in 2005 with members who were four to five years old.
Its first album titled Sung Ni Yi Ge Da Nian Gao (Give You A Big New Year Cake) was released in 2006.
After that album, the group was renamed Qiao Qian Jin (Cute Princesses), on the advice of a fortune teller.
When Qiao Qian Jin celebrated its 10th year anniversary in 2015, the group changed its name to Q-Genz to reflect its coming of age.
This year, the group has reinvented itself yet again, as the cute little girls have blossomed into lovely young ladies. The group has released a full-length album titled Chun Feng De Yi (Triumphantly).
Apart from recording 10 songs for the album, the girls also shot 11 music videos – all within the short period of two months.
Having done this for so long, this was all in a day’s work for the four.
As the only original founding member left, Lin is practically a veteran in the business, even though she is just 16 years old.
She was only four when she was spotted by a talent scout at the Mary Sia Arts Performance Centre in Kepong, and was recruited into Xiao Qian Jin in 2005, together with three other precocious child performers, Viki Yap, Alicia Low and Cecelia Lee.
“I remember I was three when I started learning how to sing, and in just a few months, I was recruited to form a group,” Lin recalled.
“I’m now 16, and looking back to the time when I first started, I can say things are very different – there’s more of a storyline in our songs now and a lot more things to see in our music videos.”
She also said the group decided to change its image this year to reflect their transition from girls to young women.
“People used to call us tong xing (child stars). But we are well into our teen years now,” said Lin, who is also currently pursuing an acting career. She had a role in Hong Kong action flick Special Female Force last year.
At 15, Fu is the youngest member of Q-Genz, having joined the group in late 2011, replacing Alicia Low.
Fu recalled how her mother received a call asking whether she would be interested in letting her daughter be a child entertainer.
“My mother explained to me that becoming a child entertainer would fill my life with lots of sunshine, yet at the same time I would stand to lose some of my freedom and time. But if I gave up this rare opportunity, then I would surely regret it,” Fu said, adding that she does envy her classmates sometimes.
“There are moments when I wished for the kind of childhood that my friends are enjoying. I have few opportunities to go on vacation or get together with friends. Even school holidays are all spent singing, dancing, studying music, training, recording songs, shooting music videos, and doing rehearsals, album roadshows and other promotional activities. I find that I can barely catch my breath sometimes,” she mused.
All the same, Fu still hasn’t lost her passion for performing.
“It is something I enjoy so much. I always feel energised when I get on stage to perform for an audience,” she said.
Juggling school and showbiz was more of a challenge for Oh, who also joined Q-Genz in 2011, replacing Cecelia Lee.
The oldest member of the group, Oh, 17, had to sit for her SPM last year, so she had her hands full between preparing for her exams and making the album.
“It was quite a challenge, having to distribute my time and energy between my studies and music.
“I couldn’t attend some of the practice sessions, but we managed to get everything to gel together in the end,” she said.
Judging by the number of plushies and other gifts she received from fans during the first stop of the album promotion at Sungei Wang Plaza in Kuala Lumpur last month, Oh definitely won over a lot of fans with her efforts.
“Seeing how everyone loves the music, I’d say everything was worth it!” she exclaimed.
Compared to her fellow members, 16-year-old Wong is practically a baby in the business. Before she joined the group last year, Q-Genz was operating with just three members, and released two albums in 2014 and 2015 as a trio.
The group decided to recruit a fourth member for their 2017 effort.
Wong shared: “My vocal coach was the one who alerted me about Q-Genz looking for a fourth member.
“Since my voice was a good match with the other girls’, I was recommended for the part.”
Apart from music, Wong’s other passion lies in movement arts, and she chose to specialise in Latin dance and martial arts.
In fact, she has started working as a dance instructor despite being in her teens.
On how the group has lasted for so long, Lin said it was all thanks to their fans.
“Every year, we’d release a Chinese New Year album; at mid-year, we’d sometimes release another album of tong yao (children’s songs).
“Fans will leave us messages asking for a new album, if they don’t hear from us after awhile,” said Lin.
“We’re really thankful for the support of our fans, who continue to buy our albums and visit us at roadshows. Hopefully, they’ll keep on supporting us in the future!”