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WHENEVER there is a charity concert, there will be Judy Ongg.
The Taiwan-born, Japan-raised songbird organised and produced two Heart Aid shows in 1999 and 2008 to raise funds for survivors of the Jiji earthquake in her homeland and victims of the Sichuan Earthquake respectively.
On her last visit to Singapore two years ago, she raised S$850,000 for the Community Chest at a special Mother's Day concert with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.
On Sept 9, she will headline a fund-raiser for The Business Times Budding Artists Fund, which has groomed more than 13,000 talented youngsters from five to 19 years old for over a decade.
The Love Concert Judy Ongg 2016 marks the first time the evergreen singer-actress is performing to support financially disadvantaged children and youths pursuing an education in the arts.
However, the 66-year-old, who is best known for her 70s hit ballad Miserarete, claims to be uncomfortable being labelled a charity queen.
Ongg reveals she does it because she likes spreading happiness and recalls a life-changing incident which set her on this path: "In 1986, I got very sick and had to pass on a big role in a drama ... When I finally got my health back, I realised it was not just the medication but it was everybody's love that made me better."
She adds: "From that day, I always try to do things to help people feel happier. Singing my songs took on a whole new meaning."
Born in Taiwan, Ong moved to Japan with her parents when she was two and grew up there.
She shares she is able to relate to the beneficiaries of The Business Times Budding Artists Fund as she was a child star too.
When Ongg was nine, she was hand-picked to join the highly prestigious Theatre Academy Himawari; two years later, she made her big-screen debut in a film adaptation of Pearl S Buck's The Big Wave (1961).
Her fame spread to the rest of Asia and she became a household name during the 70s when she starred in the Taiwanese tear-jerker Love Begins Here (1972), playing the role of an ill-fated music teacher and singing the film's popular theme song Seagull. Ongg also won a Golden Horse Award for Best Leading Actress the same year for the movie The Heiress and the Imposter.
"I know what it is to follow a dream and if there is someone at the back, you will have the full power to chase it," she quips.
Both her parents were extremely supportive of their daughter's artistic pursuits. Her mother kept a close eye on Ongg's career in the beginning and often accompanied her to film shoots; while her father, who was in the TV broadcast business, has penned the lyrics to many of her hit songs including Pray and Warm Humanity.
Ongg also says her own feisty and determined personality comes from her mother; and those traits led to her discovering woodblock printing 25 years ago. Wanting to learn it, she approached a master who initially refused to teach her because she felt Ongg would be too pre-occupied as a recording artist and actress to devote time to the craft.
But she refused to take no for an answer and attempted it in DIY fashion, based on her own experience in painting. The effort paid off when the master saw Ongg's genuine passion for woodblock printing and accepted her as an apprentice.
Today, Ongg is an accomplished woodblock printing artist and has received numerous awards, including the top prize at the 2005 Nitten exhibition, one of Japan's best-known public art competitions.
Some of her works will be shown on stage at the concert where she will perform her signature hits as well as a selection of jazz songs she grew up with.
There will also be a special segment where some of The Business Times Budding Artists Fund recipients get to collaborate with Ongg.
Tan Tee Tong, chief operating officer of The RICE Company which is co-producing the gig and manages The Little Arts Academy and 10 Square, two multi-disciplinary arts centres providing training to the beneficiaries of the fund, says: "We are honoured and excited to have the support of one of Asia's evergreen celebrities. Judy Ongg's successful and multi-faceted career as a singer, actress, author and woodblock printing artist will certainly serve as an inspiration to these children who are enthusiastic in their pursuit of the arts."
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