Thursday, June 23, 2016

Michael Meets Melodians, Moonglows: Part One

Michael Bangar: Silver Strings Rhythm Guitarist

Michael Bangar played with the Silver Strings in Sentosa and Pek Kio Community Club in 2015 before I met him for the first time during the band's practice sessions. We were preparing for Media Corp's popular prime time slot, Not The 5 Show in April 2016.

After a few chats I asked if he could provide me his music history as a guitarist and singer. Michael had been playing with many pop bands in Singapore. He obliged and sent me a portfolio of his connections with the guitar groups from the 70's onward. 

He explained, "I paid my music dues learning and watching 60's Singapore bands like Silver Strings, Quests, Thunder Birds, Mysterians, Moonglows and other bands. In the late 60's I played in a few unknown bands. I was very low key." 

He went about honing his skills on the portable six-string instrument learning much from playing at clubs and events. Then when he was ready, "I went full time as a musician in October, 1984."

He joined Robert Shotam's band, The Silver Saddles with Sam Hussein and Sam Kassim. Robert was on lead, the first Sam was on bass, second Sam on drums and Michael himself on rhythm.  

There was a change of bands and Michael made his mark by teaming up with The Strollers 3 0 or Trio. Ali Hamzah was on guitars and Abdul Hais playing the upright bass (double-bass).  Sophisticated and pleasantly a gentleman in his ways, I asked about his unique surname. 

"It's Bangar not Banger," and added, "I'm Indian and have an international family consisting of members from many countries."  

Raised in the East Coast area Michael grew up in Katong and went to Telok Kurau Primary School and St. Patrick's Secondary School. He told me how he was traumatised in primary school by a nasty teacher. 

                                          *Video by Fabian Foo 
     Michael Bangar with Silver Strings @ Kallang Wave Concert 2016. 
(We were entertaining sports participants rather than 60's music enthusiasts.)

As a young teen he learnt guitar intricacies from his father, coaxing the instrument in an unassuming way. Playing and singing with ease, enjoyment and in a relaxed manner, his body language tells that he is an experienced musician.  A six-footer, he looks the suave, pop figure anyone would look up to. 

As of late, Michael is the only Silver Strings member to don shades during a gig. With his Ray-Ban glasses, he seems shrouded in mystery as he strums the solid guitar. 

As he tells his story, he remembers the famous 60's recording artiste Maurice Patton and The Maui Chimes who invited him to play. Patton was on both electric and Hawaiian guitar with Marwan on bass. Hassan Panjang played the drums. 
Lead guitar Ivor Lesslar (Cells Unlimited), 2nd guitar Donald Thaver ( Moonglows), Bass Jeffrey Pinto, Drums Ramon Francis ( Neu Faces), Sax Jerry Murad (Dukes) n lastly Mike Bangar on lead vocals n Rhythm guitar.

Before joining 60's pop stars The Moonglows, a drummer Maurice Limoco got a six months' booking at the old Queen's Hotel and invited Michael, Maurice Patton and Marwan to perform together. 

Climbing the stairway to fame, both as singer and guitarist, it was only natural for Michael to join recording artistes, the late Sunny Bala and His Moonglows. Sunny and Michael both played the guitars, Randall Morales was on bass and Cedric Cock on drums. 

Michael rattles off band names without pausing. He remembers every detail, time, dates and places. Each name or venue he mentions has a personal history in his book. And he says in all seriousness, "My father taught me the tricks and trade of playing the guitar. It's easy if you know how."

Part Two coming up soon.

*Video was taken @ 9 am. when participants were preparing for the run. But the band had encores from the spectator crowd present. 

Images: A Personal Collection.
Article: As told by Michael Bangar to Andy Lim.
(Copyrights Reserved.)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Les Miz, Miss Saigon: Singapore To London Part 2

Miss Saigon (1989) and Les Miserables (1985)

A Personal Experience

Each live musical my wife and I attended and seeing it on stage was a phenomenon in itself and each visit to the theatre had a story to tell. I cannot exactly remember the names of the theatres we went to but the 5 shows we attended were at the West End in London, an area like Broadway in New York, where musicals, plays and theatre acts were of the best quality with pomp, pageantry, and people.  
                          Buzzing Helicopter Icon: Miss Saigon

And during the 1990's attending stage musicals was trendy indeed, a happening that went on for many years and visitors going to London specially to watch these extravaganzas. But for us, it was just the music; a natural flow from musicals in the 50's to these ones in the 90's.

Miss Saigon

Cameron Mitchell's Miss Saigon was exceptional because it was one of the first musicals we went to in the early 90's.  The draw for this particular show was Lea Salonga, a Philipino superstar who made it big with the starring role as Kim. We wanted to hear her sing in person. She was supposed to be performing that evening but didn't.  

It was a let down that night at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane but an unforgettable one. Strangely when I played the CD I could not recall many of the songs I thought I knew except for The Overture, The Heat Is On In Saigon, The Movie In My Mind, Sun and Moon, I Still Believe and the mental awakening of, If You Wanna Die In Bed.

It is based on the opera, Madame Butterfly and tells the sad tale of a romance, doomed from the start, between an Asian woman and her American lover. The plot setting was in 1975 in Vietnam during the war.

Not a musical I would take a child to since the lyrics would not be within the youngster's vocabulary, "Men pay a lot for virgin arse..." 

Miss Saigon lasted 10 years at the West End. To me it was The World of Suzie Wong revived, with Vietnam the buzz word. Great theatre though, especially with a huge 'helicopter' (or half of it) buzzing with full stereophonic sound and hovering near the ceiling on stage. It was a thrill for many of us in the audience. And lots of space for Asian actors to perform. But we loved the show!

                         Revolution Street Barrier Icon: Les Miserables.
Les Miserables

Another Cameron Mitchell sensation, this musical I could not appreciate*. Honestly, we didn't enjoy it, found it too heavy because we were tired out during the show after some heavy London eating and sight seeing. The plot was simple enough but we did get a little miserable watching it in the evening. The songs too didn't make it out for me.

The ones that I vaguely remember were, On My Own, One Day MoreI Dreamed A Dream and Lovely Ladies. The jocular Master Of The House woke me up from my golden slumber at the theatre.

To be fair, the musical was a huge success but the biggest impact for me was the unique street barricade on stage erected by the youthful revolutionists.  It became an icon for Les Miz, like the chopper did for Miss Saigon. The original stage production in London was the longest running musical since 1985 and second in the world. 

Queen's Theatre, Soho, Shaftesbury Avenue, Gerrard Street and a walk to a Chinese restaurant, where a bowl of won-ton noodles cost 10 Pounds and the restaurant had a minimum price entry tagged at 15 Pounds; kept me confused even to this day. Tickets too, cost a whopper then. But no Leicester Square for us. We weren't walking there to buy half price ones. Too tired.

No CD's from the show but watched the movie at home in later years. Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were huge. But neither Victor Hugo nor the musical was for me. Could be the long journey from Vietnam to France? (Below a tired looking Andy Young posing outside the British Museum in 1990.)
                 Les Miserables: Master of the House video: tongwarit

Perhaps I just wanted to be happily entertained, with the emphasis on happily. The experience came only when we saw Cats, The Phantom of The Opera and Starlight Express. Another two stops on the road to witness musicals.

But it was a long way from the Cathay Cinema in the 50's to West End in the 90's.
     British Museum, Rear Entrance, Bloomsbury, London with Andy Young.

There is no intention to denigrate the plays mentioned.

Images: Google; Personal Collection.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Muhammad Ali Black Superman: Singapore 1973

Boxing: Happy World 1950's

I used to watch boxing and wrestling matches as a young boy at the Happy World stadium in the 1950's and 1960's with my father. It would be an affair to remember when we would go in the evening to Geylang Road opposite Lorong One where the Stadium used to be.

Both the sports overlapped to television when live matches in Singapore gently faded off into the Geylang sunset for many reasons. Then it was boxing and wrestling USA but this time around we watched on the goggle box from 1963 when it first came to our island.
Muhammad Ali

Height: 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m)
Heavy Weight: 225 lbs. (102 kg)
Reach: 84 inches (213 cm)
Fist: 12.5 inches (286 cm)

'He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.'

RIP: 1942 - 2016.

Muhammad the black superman
Who says to the other guy, catch me if you can*

The boxer (former Cassius Clay), created much attention when he shone under the hot and bright lights of the boxing ring. He became a world champ and there is so much to read about him in the media that it's best readers check them out for further information. 
I remember Ali as the Louisville Lip, the boxer who could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and who fought in the Philippines with banners announcing, The Thrilla In Manila. Of course his resounding repeats of, I'm the Greatest, will live in my memory. 

He knows how to talk and he knows how to fight
And all the contenders were beat out of sight*

Despite all his ferocity, timely jibes and jeers at his opponents I had always noticed the glint in his eyes. He must be having fun with the people around him, I thought.  But like his contemporary Bruce Lee, Ali was a perfectionist within. And with all confidence and seriousness. He mentioned that he hated every minute of training but, 'I don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'
Singapore 1973

He came to Singapore during his peak in 1973, arriving at Paya Lebar Airport on October 22nd to give two five-round exhibition bouts with sparring partners Tony Doyle and Orianso Johnson.  I would have paid the $5 to watch him in person; it was a great pity because I was away in New Zealand that year. 

During his time in Singapore he stayed with his wife and mother at the Mandarin Hotel in Orchard Road.  His visit created quite a stir as he was introduced to local boxers before his sparring sessions in the evening.  
He fills the arena wherever he goes
And everyone gets what they paid for*

More than 2,000 people witnessed the occasion paying from $5 to $100 to watch Ali spar with his partners. The venue was the former National Stadium at Kallang. The new stadium had just been opened in July 1973.

Ali held up his hands in victory before a happy and excited crowd after the exhibition matches. 'Friendship is not something you learn in school. If you haven't learnt the meaning of friendship you haven't learnt anything.'
Song: 1975

One more thought remains in my mind. At his peak there was a song written about him. Johnny Wakelin wrote and sang, Black Superman (Muhammad Ali) in honour of the boxer, hoping to get a better foothold in the pop music world. 

Pity, Ali didn't like Wakelin's composition but the lyrics and uplifting, jingle-like  rhythm attracted listeners and in January 1975, it scored #7 in the UK Singles Chart, @1 in Australia and Singapore, and spent six months on the US Billboard Hot 100 (Wikipedia). 
Kuala Lumpur: 1975

The Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner fight in K.L. led Yusnor Ef (composer of 250 Malay pops) to write the Malay lyrics of Kung Fu Fighting renamed, Pendekar Mustar. It was sung by Ruslan Yus and became a pop hit in Malaysia and Singapore. 

Yusnor managed to meet Muhammad Ali with Ruslan at the Merdeka Stadium in person. The late Dato' Haron Idris, Mentri Besar of Selangor introduced them. Yusnor gave the CD to the champion boxer who thanked him. Try as he might, Yusnor could not get a photograph of their meeting nor find the person who took their picture together.

If you have stories to tell about this great boxer, please write in.

Black Superman - Muhammad Ali - Johnny Wakelin. Video from Goeky.

Images/Info: Straits Times Press pictures from Singapore Heritage Board.
*Lyrics: Black Superman, Muhammad Ali by Jimmy Wakelin.

An original article.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Dr Charles Koh: Gynaecologist Flamingos Combo

Remember Charles Koh from the Flamingos Combo? I do. Whenever he comes over from the U.S. the newspapers would announce his arrival. A gynaecologist, they say, cannot be a musician. 

But Dr. Koh is both, and an excellent one at that. A Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from NUS (1967) he now practises in the US.  Here's the truth unravelled as his colleague Dr. Raymond Tan and friend John Cher tell us about this extraordinary man.

I must thank them both for the articles below:

Dr. Raymond Tan says: "I was a medical student during the mid-sixties and Charles Koh was a few years my senior. Charles was a bright student who won the State Scholarship (equivalent to today's President's Scholarship). I was always amazed at how Charles could spend his evenings playing music in a hightclub (Rose D'or - Lido Cinema, Shaw House, Orchard Road) and still keep up with his medical studies.

Charles was a colleague and senior when I worked in the Gynae and Surgery departments. He left in 1971 for UK where he obtained his specialist degree in Gynecology. He later on moved to US and became a successful gynecologist.
The Flamingos music was sometimes broadcast live over radio (RTS) and they played beautiful music with Charles (a self taught musician) playing on the vibraphone. Charles was quite versatile and could sing and play a few other instruments."

John Cher says: "Charles Koh indeed loves music and despite his status as a doctor of eminence in the USA, he was unassuming and soft spoken. His two sons are into music as well. I remember having lots of fun jamming with all of them at a church music room many years ago. He used to return to Singapore about once a year and his good friend, James Choa, another member of The Flamingos would arrange for jamming sessions. 

The very last time we jammed was at The Peranakan Restaurant in the basement of Hotel Negara at Orchard Road. The boss of the restaurant Bob plays the piano and sings as well. Jimmy Chan, who was also with The Flamingos at one point, used to drop by after he completed work at The Mandarin Hotel. After the last customer had left, Bob would lock up and we would jam till the wee hours! 

Always remember Jimmy's joke that dying and going to the washroom is the same. If you have to go, you have to go! Lost touch with Charles completely after the passing of James about 3 years ago. Always nice to recall about the old days!"

Anglo Chinese School Class Of 59/61 says:  Within the Flamingos Combo, Charles Koh was in a vocal group called the Gaylads. "Before you jump to conclusions, we would state categorically that Charles is not that way inclined but how the name Gaylads came about merits explanation. 

Before joining ACS, Charles with Peter Loh Boon Tan and Robert Gay studied at the Presbyterian Boys School (PBS). When the group was formed, the name Gaylads was decided on to honour their PBS Principal, Mr. Gay Wan Guay, who happened to be Robert’s father."

Many readers know Dr. Koh. Do write in.

On the internet, articles abound about Dr. Koh. Here's one:

"He is an infertiity microsurgeon who merged the art of microsurgery to laparoscopic surgery and performed the first laparoscopic microsurgical tubal anastomosis in 1992. He has applied this convergence to the art of radical endometriosis surgery with fertility preservation and organ repair for the past 20 years.

He has created many innovations, inventions and techniques for advances in laparoscopic surgery, lectures and performs demonstration surgeries around the world.

In 2009, Dr Koh was awarded the Distinguished Surgeon Award from the Society of Reproductive Surgeons, American Society of Reproductive Medicine. He was the former President of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons (2009)."

For further reading go to:

This article is not an advertisement and does not promote any person or persons. The doctor mentioned is a personal friend of the two writers.
Images: The Straits Times Singapore; Google; Dr. Charles Koh Website.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Catching Musicals: Singapore To London: Part One

        Happy Talk: Juanita Hall: South Pacific (Rodgers/Hammerstein)

Watching Musicals from 1950's to 1990's

I enjoy watching musicals both from the screen and on stage. As a younger person and going to the movies in Singapore 50's, catching these shows was an exciting part of my life. I was in my early teens and it was easy to take a straight bus from St. Andrew's School to the cinema near Prinsep Street.

The Cathay Cinema was the usual venue for musicals to be screened. I remember Brigadoon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oklahoma, Kismet, The Student Prince, Paint Your Wagon and the unforgettable South Pacific. The movies were all in Technicolor and watched on the large screen in Cinemascope or Superscope grandeur, topped with stereophonic sound.
          A crowded Cathay Cinema showing Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii 

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true...*

Those were wonderful years visiting the rojak man at Waterloo Street after the afternoon show. And I usually go alone because many of my classmates were either playing football or cycling around their own kampong. They would never have heard of Mario Lanza or Juanita Hall.
                        West End, London where the theatres are

Then came the 60's and The King and I, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Camelot and a host of other musicals came along.  With a little bit more money I had nasi padang (local Malay dishes eaten with rice) at the Rendezvous Restaurant near Bencoolen Street. It was a small coffee shop then fronted by the Malay rice stall.

In with the 70's and its disco musical like Grease and Saturday Night Fever. I was too busy with studies, work and left  Singapore for New Zealand where I managed to catch our university production of rock musical, Hair and the Australian production of, Jesus Christ Superstar in Sydney.
                       St Martins Theatre showing The Mousetrap

London, England
It was only in the 80's and 90's when I started visiting London to actually patronize the theatres at the West End that made loving musicals all the more thrilling.  My first stage performance wasn't a musical but a long-running play called, The Mousetrap

If I remember correctly, I had stayed at a hotel near the St. Martin's Theatre and was invited by the smiling and persuasive concierge to buy a 20 pound ticket to watch the show. Twenty English Pounds was a lot of money in the 80's, about $160.

"Last ticket for to-night," he told me.  I bought the ticket but to my chagrin I had a seat at the corner end of the second row from the particularly high stage. The whole night I was looking at shoes, socks, legs, pants and furniture bottoms on stage, and could hardly understand the play at all because I was so furious as perceptions became distorted. My seat and viewing distance bothered me a lot.
                      London, England in the 1990's before the smart phone.
My return to the hotel to look for the concierge cheat that night proved fruitless because he was off duty. When I left the next morning, I found out he was on leave. There was no point making a complaint because I was leaving for Aberdeen, Scotland and wasn't returning to the capital. A bad experience indeed. Bottom line, never trust a hotel concierge too much! 

Within a ten year period I managed to fly back and forth to London about six times, either with tour groups to on the way to Europe or as a couple with my wife when we travelled privately. 
       Jellicle Cats: Cats Musical: (Andrew Lloyd Webber /T. S. Eliot.)

These were enjoyable trips and we had always managed to catch musicals on stage like Cats, Phantom of The Opera, Miss Saigon, Song and Dance, Les Miserables and the truly fab Starlight Express. We also learnt that theatre tickets were cheap at Leicester Square if we queued up for them much earlier in the day. We wanted to but never did. 

Are you blind when you're born? Can you see in the dark?
Dare you look at a king? Would you sit on his throne?
Can you say of your bite that it's worse than your bark?
Are you cock of the walk when you're walking alone?**

I even caught one in Vancouver, Canada when I was there in the 90's. Then not too long ago Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Rent in Singapore. Seen Chicago but it could have been on DVD. Went one full circle. 

Those were fun years. But that's another story.

Do you love musicals? Pray tell.

(This post is dedicated to Jan Cheong and CYLin who both love musicals.)
My Favourite Song From A Musical
Not in any order:

Stranger In Paradise
Baubles, Bangles And Beads

Paint Your Wagon:
I Talk To The Trees
Wand'ring Star

Almost Like Being In Love

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers:
Bless Your Beautiful Hide

Oh What A Beautiful Morning
The Surrey With A Fringe On Top

South Pacific:
Happy Talk
Some Enchanted Evening
Bali Ha'i
There Is Nothing Like A Dame

Images: Google and A Personal Collection;
Lyrics: *Happy Talk (Rodgers and Hammerstein); **Jellicle Cats (Andrew Lloyd Webber /T. S. Eliot.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cherrio Cefiro, Changing Car, Current COE n CD's

                                Drive My Car - The Beatles Video by: DrHooty911

Saying Hello, Goodbye to the Car:

Cuboid Cefiro

This car of mine
No slow poke now
I never want to part with her you see
This little car means a heck of a lot to me*

After 10 years exactly, at the end of May 2016, my faithful 2300 cc steed will finally be silenced in the scrapyard. Can you imagine a beautiful Japanese Cefiro built in 2006, complete with the latest features that only some cars have today, being towed away to be crunched and crushed into cuboid? 

I know I shouldn't be writing about cars but I am totally devastated that I have to lose $14,000 (scrap value) and pay another $25,000 (current prevailing COE price) to use my own car for another 5 years. $40,000 is a lot of gas. And the Cefiro has done only 90,000 kilometers. It hasn't seen its day yet.
CD Changer

Having taken the bus, taxi and MRT I find it truly convenient to take public transport but only if it is during retirees' hours from about 11am to 3pmTry taking a bus outside those hours and you're done for.  

Also during a rain-storm at the bus-stop without an umbrella.  Or try to queue for a taxi at Orchard Road on a week-end. Or ride the train, which can be squeezy. I'm missing the car already.

And missing the music with it. The stereo set in the car is a simple one. Nifty though with four fabulous speakers and two twitters near the windscreen. There's a ten-piece CD changer in the boot and a GPS screen in front. 

Children's Choice

While driving I am only interested in listening to music from the 50's, 60's and 70's.  And the radio station is stuck at 90.5FM. Reminder for Brian Richmond. And I know you read my blog often :>).

So here goes. When my grand children were between the ages of 4 to 8, they love songs by The Blue Diamonds like Bebek Angsa and Summer Holiday. Then Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da by The Marmalade and Don Spencer's Fireball XL5.  

Paul Anka's Diana was a must with The Beatles' Hello, Goodbye and Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat with emphasis on, Any Dream Will Do. The youngest enjoyed Fraulein and Little Dutch Girl.

Strange but true; never once did they fall asleep listening to the selection. They remember the track number of each song and the efficient Kenwood stereo never missed its cue playing CD's that the kids pushed into its mouth. We hardly used the changer.

Creditable CD's

For my own driving entertainment, The Eagles Greatest Hits, Queen with Jewels, Neil Diamond's Gold Selection, Johnny Lion and The Jumping Jewels CD Selection and a mixed bag of choice 60's Indonesian guitar group instrumentals from Larry Lai. 

The song change occurs only on occasions when CD's are replaced with a new selection. Then my son's dIREsTRAITS Money For Nothing with Sultans Of Swing sticks in the player for months.

Lately experienced rhythm guitarist, Michael Bangar gave members of the group a CD called, Elvis Presley: Artist of the Century with a BMG/GSM/RCA label. Disc One has Presley's usual hits. 

Disc Two was a surprise. Songs like: Like A baby, That's Someone You Never Forget, Down In The Alley, Run On, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Stranger In My Own Home Town and After Loving You. Thank you Mike for the CDBet readers never heard the songs?

Cherrio Car

So good bye dear car. Had wonderful and comfortable rides these ten years, providing much space for the kids to topsy-turvy in the back seat and scream with Elvis in the front.

Want readers to know Singaporeans' heartaches with their cars. And balancing the mind with songs in their hearts, every driving day, to keep the sanity intact.

You drive don't you. Stories to tell?

*This Car of Mine: The Beach Boys.
Drive My Car - The Beatles Video by: DrHooty911

Images: A Private Collection

There are 100's of car songs. Below is the longest list I've seen: 

Thursday, May 12, 2016


'Runaway' w vocalist/keyboardist Nick. Videos by Fabian Foo.

14th May, 2016
Compered by Justin Ang and Vernon A.
With Andy, Audie, Nick, John, Rickie, Vernon A., Justin Ang, Peter n Michael.
Lead Guitarist Rickie Chng, Vocalist Andy Young

Screen Grab of Dancing Crowd
Rickie, Bass Guitarist Audie Ng and Vocalist Peter Chua

Audie, John with Rhythm Guitarist and Vocalist Michael Bangar
Drummer John Cher
Keyboardist, Vocalist Nicholas Stravens
The Silver Strings with a good crowd of enthusiasts 
"Impian Semalam"
Lady doing the ronggeng.
You Tube: 'I Saw Her Standing There' w Michael Bangar.

"I Saw Her Standing There"
"Proud Mary"
"Midnight In Malaya"

You Tube: 'To Love Somebody' w vocalist Peter Chua.

Posting below: Before the show


Learn the ronggeng:

Read above article from:

Images from: A Private Collection, Google and Laurence Lim (image right). Thank you Mr Lim for taking the pictures.