With a radio career spanning over 25 years, 988 DJ Chan Fong is one of the country’s most established deejays today. But did you know being a radio deejay has never actually been his full-time job? Chan Fong’s career path has been a varied one.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after finishing Form Five. I wanted to go into the entertainment line but it wasn’t well-developed then. So, I decided to study graphic design instead,” recalls Chan Fong, who turns 47 this year, in an interview.
Still, he always kept an eye out for opportunities in the showbiz industry. “While I was studying, I heard that Rediffusion (now 988) was looking for radio drama artistes. These drama artistes work part time, recording only at night.”
He became a drama artiste for the radio station in 1991 while studying.
By the following year, the hardworking Chan Fong had proved his worth and made the leap to radio presenting – something he would do to this day but still only on a part-time basis.
So where does Chan Fong’s bread and butter come from?
Earlier in his career, he also pursued a diploma in recording engineering, and later put those skills into good use when he produced albums for popular Mandopop duo Michael & Victor (Michael Wong was his junior in the diploma course). He also hosted the weekly chinese musical programme, Music Express on TV3 and had acting gigs too.
But Chan’s main source of income comes from working full-time at an advertising agency for the past 19 years. “If you remain only in the entertainment line, it’s hard to live a good life. Advertising brings me a better source of income,” says Chan Fong, who now owns the ad firm and has 70 employees under his care.
Asked why he continues to be a radio deejay despite having found success in advertising, Chan Fong says he still has a passion for it and feels a big sense of responsibility.
Indeed, besides anchoring 988’s breakfast show, Morning Up (weekdays, 6am to 10pm), he also offers a shoulder for listeners to lean on once a week on City Heartbeat (Fridays, 10pm to 1am).
For 20 years now, listeners with problems big and small will call up the show and Chan Fong will offer them some words of wisdom.
“I have a responsibility to do this programme. Whatever problems a listener shares, someone else out there is facing a similar problem. I may not be able to solve them immediately but it may help those out there listening from going down the same road.”
1. As a radio deejay, you play a lot of music for other people. What kind of music do you personally love?
I listen to a lot of jazz music. I love artistes like Chet Baker, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Diana Panton and Janet Seidel.
When I listen to jazz music, it’s not like pop songs where I can easily sing along, it’s about the feeling it gives me.
I like to hear it especially when I’m driving alone at night.
2. Listeners pour their hearts out on your segment, City Heartbeat. What’s the most heartbreaking story you’ve heard?
Once a guy who has been taking drugs for quite some time called up. I told him, “Why don’t you quit? I know it’s hard but you have to do your best.”
I even scolded him. He said, “I’m sorry, I know what I did was wrong but please let me finish.”
He shared that his family didn’t want to see him anymore. They had moved out and they didn’t want him to find them. They were scared of him.
He called my show hoping that his family would tune in, and listen to what he had to say.
He told me he had been very sick and had three months left to live. Then he mentioned his parents’ names and said, “Mum and dad, I’m so sorry, please forgive me. Bye bye.” And hung up.
I was stunned.
3. Do you see the rise in the consumption of music streaming services today, especially among the younger generation, as a threat to radio stations?
There are two groups of people. The first group wants to listen to music only while the other group, wants a mix between listening to music and listening to deejays talk as well. Music streaming services can’t satisfy that.
Teenagers prefer to listen to music only. But when they get older, they know they need more information, whether it is local news or life advice. So they will listen (to radio).
And on 988, we are focused on current affairs and news, while other radio stations are more skewed towards entertainment, music and games.
4. 988 just launched an album with four short films, CNY House Of Happiness 2017. Tell us about it.
With most Chinese New Year songs, the lyrics are usually filled with well-wishes and flowery words but there are no stories behind them.
I wanted to tell stories. So last year, we made a short film, accompanied by songs with simple messages in them. There’s a song about people buying clothes off the rack for CNY these days, unlike in the past when people used to have their clothes tailor-made.
This year, we have four short films packed with meaningful messages. For example, one of them is about putting down your handphones and enjoying the festivities.
5. As the host of a morning show, you’ve been waking up very early for years. What tips do you have for people who aren’t early risers?
You just have to sleep early. There’s no other way. I try to sleep, ideally, by 10.30pm because I have to wake up around 5am.
In the past few years, I’ve also been changing my lifestyle. Not only do I sleep early, for breakfast, I eat chicken breast or grilled salmon (with no oil and just a bit of salt) plus a bowl of boiled vegetables. I also go to the gym three times a week.