Monday, March 23, 2015

Mr Lee Kuan Yew @ Pulau Tekong (1963), Sri Temasek, Parliament House, State Funeral, Music


23rd MARCH, 2015.


I met him only once in my life time.  But it was a special encounter and when he walked by, the respectability and awe the crowd had for him was remarkable. 
Mr Lee, at 40 years young, was visiting Pulau Tekong Besar in May 1963 when he toured the island, Pulau Ubin and Changi.  Sounds of the kompang in the kampongs filled the afternoon air as he met the villagers who thanked him for newly opened community centres and for improvements in their lifestyle.

At 23 years, I witnessed the occasion and with my father's box camera, followed him with the delegation and crowd that accompanied him.  I managed to take some photographs of Mr Lee because I kept a close distance.  And amidst gangly coconut trees, coconut leaf buntings and festivities, I heard Mr Lee speak.

Many of us have been 'following' him since, in the newspapers, magazines, academic papers and recently on the internet.  There were also the books he wrote. 

Some books about LKY. Really good reads.
Images for A: Private Collection.

              B) WAKE @ SRI TEMASEK, ISTANA NEGARA, 24th May.

Images for B: Thanks to Jimmy PresLee.

The choir of St. John's College Cambridge sang Home @ Parliament House on 25th March. Video: PM Office.

OUR QUEUE FROM 8.30 pm - 12.30 am. 
        The crowd was huge but it was orderly.  When I checked my iPhone outside City Hall interchange I read it was to be an eight hour wait. I nodded to friend Tony and we decided to join the queue.

The lines of people streamed in silence as we watched them move towards Parliament House. We followed the flow.  The line was snaky but we both had a bottle of water each while others took canned drinks, biscuits, sweets and umbrellas, provided free by some generous donors. 
We had spent nearly two hours after we came at 8.30 pm. It was another two hours before filing into the House which was just ahead of us. My back was in pain but by then I was holding the hand of a three year old boy who was with his parents and older sister. We had all met in the queue, bonded quickly and energised ourselves with bubbly chats...  

I looked around me. We were standing on Padang grass. An area of history and great pageantry.  In front of me was the new Art Gallery, majestic under the arch lights,  but a place where judges and lawyers used to gather.
I looked at my young friend, who was still holding my hand and not letting go for some time.  I sensed that he was comfortable with me so I couldn't resist singing, "Little One" to him during one of our short stops.  The song was a Russ Hamilton hit written for his niece.  I thought Emmanuel enjoyed the lullaby.  He looked tired though.  By this time my back was at its worst. Hardly any chance to sit.

By about 11.30 pm, we reached the security gates where we were checked by the guards.   Within half an hour the silent crowd had been split into two rows as we filed into Parliament House. I was about to pocket the iPhone as no picture-taking  was allowed within the corridors but managed a stolen snap.  The guard looked at me, "No photo taking please!" I smiled.

Another 15 minutes passed, and finally, after a long evening we managed to witness our Mr Lee lying in state. It was a four hour wait but a four minute view. I looked at my Phone, 12.30 am.

Emmanuel finally let go of  my hand as he sleepily ambled to his mother.   I really like that kid. We said our good-byes.  He was in dreamland as we left the gates.  Lucky boy; and in so many ways. An appropriate name too,  Emmanuel...

Images for C: Private Collection.

Time to let go.

 29 March.

1) Dead March from Saul performed by the Singapore Armed Forces Military Band.
Coffin Bearer Party carried the coffin into the University Cultural Centre (UCC). 
2) Air performed by Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
J. S. Bach's Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. 
3) Last Post by lone bugler from the Singapore Armed Forces Military Band.
At the end of the eulogies, a lone bugler from the Singapore Armed Forces Military Band sounded the Last Post, representing a final salute to LKY and also marked the start of a minute of silence for him.
4) The Rouse by lone bugler from the Singapore Armed Forces Military Band.
It is a symbolic call back to duty after respect was paid to memory of the deceased and the end of a minute of silence.
5) National Anthem
After the National Pledge, the National Anthem was played as a mark of respect to Mr Lee.
Images: PM Office; CNA Media Corps, Singapore.


6) Auld Lang Syne
Played when the casket left Sri Temasek for Parliament House.

7) Amazing Grace
Heard during Mr Lee's Lying in State at Parliament House.

8) Home (Singapore Song) sung in Parliament House witnessed by PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Images for D: PM Office, Singapore.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Channel News Asia: 50 Years of Singapore Music

On Screen

In February 2015, John Leong (below), anchor for Singapore Tonight, introduced a special news piece on Channel News Asia where Dick Lee, Yiren Cai, Audie Ng and I were interviewed regarding 50 years of Singapore Music.  The programme was in conjunction with this year's SG50 celebration. 

What has been music to Singaporeans' ears? The show takes us down memory lane to see how the music has evolved through the years and where bands like Silver Strings, Black Dog Bone, Sweet Charity, Siglap Five and singers Anita Sarawak, Stefanie Sun, A-Do, JJ Lin, Mavis Hee and Shirley Nair were discussed.  The song You're The Boy remains steadfast as a background anthem during our interview.

(You can watch the whole programme on the right side-bar of this blog.)

Behind The Scene 

We had pretty and sophisticated CNA producer Syahidah Othman (below) to conduct the whole affair with much calm and decorum.  The camera was positioned for appropriate angle shots; the white guitar was placed in a strategic position behind the interviewees (image above) and photographs were selected for the news documentary. Ms Syahidah was also the narrator on screen.

As it was usual, although the chat lasted for a few minutes on TV, shooting took some time. The interview was held on a lovely afternoon and we enjoyed ourselves throughout in the large, airy and air-conditioned hall.

Many thanks to Mr Malvin Chua (image below) who coordinated the afternoon's project with a quiet but experienced eye.  Some snaps on my iPhone were taken by Malvin.
Video footage on right side-bar from Channel News Asia:

Images from Marcus Loh Collection.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Durian Chase: 'Love Will Keep Us Together'

Image from:
Still On The Music n Food Trail
The Letter from NTU Students

"I read your post on 5 places you can still find durian trees in Singapore and you mentioned your memories of seeing durian trees along different places. I am wondering if you would be interested to share more about your experiences with durians when you were growing up in the 60s and 70s?

Me and my friends are year 4 students at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and we're working on our final year project on the topic of durians. It's a campaign aimed at getting youths to appreciate durians, not just for the fruit and taste but also the history, the sellers, people who work to create durian flavoured products or crafts.

In one of our phases, we want to do a video series on stories of durians back in the 60s, 70s and 80s and also on durian picking in Singapore (Wee Kim Wee School of Communications in a letter to Lam Chun See of
Good Morning Yesterday from whom I received a copy)."

C.W. Kee's Durian Cartoon (C)
My Story:

Durian Feasts

I never like durians and whenever members of my family bring home durians to consume I will always ask them to take the path to the kitchen using the side garden of our residential home and never through the living room. Feasting must only take place in the kitchen with windows wide open and fans full blast. That is how much I dislike durians and even up till today, the same rules apply. 

The Mersing Trip

It was the mid-70s and the chase began when a group of friends wanted to buy durians from Mersing in Malaya.  I only agreed because it was my first time going and I had hopes of passing by the little water-fall and take a peek at Pulau Tioman a holiday place which was just across the waters from Mersing.

It wasn't too long a trip and four of us cramped into my tiny jalopy, a Datsun 1000 (used, 3-year old @ $4,000).  Since the car was a four-door affair the ride was pretty comfortable.  We were all skinny young 'uns and ready for an adventure. 

Love Will Keep Us Together

On the way across the three musketeers sang, Love Will Keep Us Together, a big hit those years and sung by Captain and Tennille. It was quite obvious what the durian chasers were referring to:

"Be there to share forever 
Love will keep us together 
Said it before and I'll say it again 
While others pretend 
I"ll need you now and I'll need you then..."
Southern Tip of Malayan Peninsula showing Mersing and Tioman

The Causeway was not difficult to cross. Traffic wasn't too heavy then. I cannot remember if we had to pay charges for crossing over but the immigration       officers from both sides let us through without fuss.

When we reached Mersing there was this open field with lots of durians and their keepers. And there was a huge crowd, all running around hurrying and trying, buying and eating durians a plenty.

My three friends scuttled out of the car before I even jammed the brakes.  I was just as ignorant then as I am today and cannot remember where this area was, but it wasn't too far from the waterfall. I left my friends as the stench was unbearable and hurried to the waterfall alone.

Brimming The Boot

When I came back two hours later I saw the three of them waving to me excitedly. But I wasn't as enthusiastic when I saw a basketful of the horrible fruit at their side.  They decided, without my permission, to buy as many of the green spiked balls as they could for their dinner date at home.

I disagreed and refused to transfer the fruit into my car but after some plea bargaining I agreed with much frustration. They filled the boot to the brim. The cover just managed to shut.

Fruit of the Season

I was grumbling all the way, what with the hot humid weather and the smell, I was ready to burst.  It was like a journey to hell and when we reached the causeway I thought my trouble was over but it was only the beginning of more problems. The immigration officer eyed us sharply but was polite.

"Do you have anything to declare?" he asked with a sincere demeanor on his face.

"Nothing sir," I declared, since I was driving.

"Nothing? You mean nothing at all? Not even fruits of the season?" Then he added, "I can smell them you know."

"Yes, we have a few durians in the boot," I replied.

I felt the perspiration down my spine. The way he looked at me it was as if I was smuggling drugs into Singapore.

"Aha." he remarked with glee, "can you please open the boot." And when he saw the heap he shouted, "So many ah... And you say a few only!"  

You Tube: Captain n Tennille, Love Will Keep Us Together by Desperado0001

The Tax Charges

So the rule was short and simple, "I have to charge tax. If you want a         receipt you must pay $15 for the durians. If you don't need a receipt, just pay $5."

It was quite obvious. The officer took  me to his little hut, pulled out a huge *Blue OMO box from under the counter and signalled me to put the five dollar note into it. I looked inside. Full of 5 and 10 dollar bills.

"Lucky ah... we paid only 5 dollars!!!" my friends remarked as we hurried home.

"I paid!" I retorted. 

And, by the way, neither love nor durians have kept us together.  We went our separate ways and on the trip I never even visited Pulau Tioman.

Durian, King of Fruit? Bah!


*Blue OMO is a detergent, well-advertised on TV and a household name those years.

Song: Love Will Keep Us Together by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. A Captain and Tennille international hit in 1975.

Images: Google.
Cartoons: C.W. Kee's Comic Strips (Malaysia).

There is no intention to discredit anyone in this posting. It is a true story and the situation was different in the 60s and 70s. It has changed much today.
C.W. Kee's Durian Cartoon (C)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Krupuk, Si Jali Jali, Gambang Kromong = Cap Go Meh

                                                emping = fried padi-oats.


What's a food posting doing on a music blog again?  They connect; but here's a vocabulary list before proceeding, just in case:

Indonesian to English:

krupuk udang = prawn crackers (from Indonesia).
emping belinjo = smashed and fried gnetum or padi oats.
goreng krupuk = fry crackers.
garing = crunchy/crispy.
kwali = a wok (a large Asian frying pan).

si jali-jali = a traditional folk song from Betawi (Batavia/Jakarta), a tropical plant.
gambang kromong = a Betawi Orchestra.
chap goh meh = end of Chinese New Year on 15th day. Chinese Valentine?

                                 krupuk udang = Indonesian prawn crackers.

It's called finger food today and taken with wine and beer. But emping and krupuk udang have been on the dinner table as part of Indonesian meal appetisers a long time ago.  They are also eaten with gado-gado (salad).  It's still a delicious diet for many Asians. And they are everywhere during the Chinese New Year festivities.

My own household in the 50s always connected the Indonesian music coming from the Pye radio in the hall with the frying of krupuk udang or emping in the kitchen.  Our domestic help was a very plump but short and tanned Indonesian lady who would do her frying with the large wok or kwali filled with ten gallons of oil, accurately heated to a certain temperature. She had to make sure that the krupuk udang would drip out of the kwali light brown, dry and most importantly garing.
                                                  wok = kwali
I never waited for dinner time and would snatch two or three of these hot and oily krupuk from the shallow flat basket, where she placed them, and run out of the house sinking my teeth into the very tasty and garing prawn crackers as I swallowed them quickly.  My mother would hear her screams and shake her head muttering, "He knows he'll get a bad sore throat..."

The krupuk udang those years were very much larger than they are today and I never believed that they should be broken into pieces and placed in jars only to be eaten during meals. I would just take bites from the large pieces that Piah (our domestic help) had fried and enjoy them whole.

Si Jali Jali:
  Modern Jali Jali Dance (

The Jali-jali coming from the radio was testimony of our helper's love for the music.  She was allowed to tune in to Indonesian stations any time she had to goreng krupuk.  Piah, jovial and warm, came from Betawi and the crackers she fried and music she listened to were part of the culture brought over from Indonesia.

These songs have become the anthem for the indigenous people of Betawi in general.  This particular music is still being practised by art groups today in the Indonesia capital and has helped to preserve the culture.

Gambang Kromong:

Apparently Jali jali was born, developed and popularized by the Chinese peranakan in old Betawi using accompaniment from gambang kromong.  It is a traditional orchestra originating from the same city, blending western music and Chinese-style pentatonic base tone. It was popular in the 1930s.

Nie Hoe Kong, a musician and leader in the Chinese Betawi community, saw to the development of this orchestra type. In the late 30s there was a group called the Gambang Kromong Goh Hong Lao that consisted of only Chinese members. In fact they played for parties and celebrated Cap Goh Meh in style singing these melodies.

 Singer Tuti Trisedya with Jali Jali is on the right bar of this page --)


                                                  Gambang Kromong 

Images; Google and You Tube.
An original posting.
Information: Wiki.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Humans Of Singapore: #Time Out For Pioneers

Connecting Seniors To Youths:

I was recently approached by Malvin Chua to participate in a movement called #Timeout4Pioneers. He told me that it started because there is a belief that young people aren't spending enough time with their elders as they would rather spend it on technology and social media. I agreed with his suggestion and met him and Paddy Ong, who is from a popular band called, *Take Two. We chatted over evening tea. 

Below is Mr Chua's letter to Humans of Singapore which was published on its Facebook page: 

"Dear HoS,

I've always believed that in order to pursue music, you need to go overseas, because Singapore can never truly offer you the opportunity to do so. However, I recently met Andy, a #musician from the 60s - alongside Paddy Ong from Take Two - who successfully changed my mind on this.

Andy, who is 74 now, was one of the lead singers in the band The Silver Strings back in the 60s - they even did the opening performance for The Rolling Stones back in 1965.

However, his dreams took a turn for the worse when Andy's principal found out that he was in a band. Music was frowned upon back in the day, and it was better to be an engineer or a civil servant instead.

But in 2008, Andy still maintained his passion for the 60s, and so he decided to start a blog called Singapore 60s Music, in order to relive his memories and pass on his learnings to the next generation.
With Paddy Ong of Band Take Two.
I asked Andy what kept him going all this time, and he told me that it was simply one quote - 'Dreams never die, they're only put on hold.'  It didn't matter to him that he couldn't pursue his dreams. He'd realized that after all this time, it was his sacrifice - and the sacrifice of many others of his generation - that would allow his grandson and many others to pursue arts if they wanted to.

His only hope was that people would recognize that there IS talent and opportunity in Singapore, and that you only need to have an open mind in order to be able to see it - which is what I want to achieve from this post as well.

Apologies for the long write-up, and Gong Xi Fa Cai!


Humans of Singapore ‪#‎Timeout4Pioneers‬."

TAKE TWO: L-R are Jeryl, Paddy, Johnathan, David and Peng Sing
"Contributing members of society by day, indie pop-rock outfit by night - leading a dual life is the name of the game for Take Two. Formed in late 2012, the quintet have since performed at Chiang Mai Music Festival 2014, NOISE Singapore's 2013 showcase, the FEYST 2013 Indie Youth Festival in Kuala Lumpur, and have been featured twice at the Esplanade's "Esplanade Presents" series. They were also part of the roster for SGMUSO's first ever House Party, sharing the stage with notable contemporaries Charlie Lim, The Sam Willows, and Kevin Lester.

Influenced by Brit Rock, Jazz, and Indie Pop (among others), Take Two brings their own blend of guitar-driven musical incarnations, full of crafty chord work and foot-stomping grooves.

Currently working on their debut EP, the band are also participants with this year's Noise Music Mentorship program, with Saiful Idris (The Great Spy Experiment) as their mentor. They will be performing at Music Matters Live 2014 and the EcoPop 2014 in Spain later this year.

Most of their songs are self composed, and I'd like to invite you to listen to their work at the following links:

Take Two (copy/paste):

#Explained in a note to HoSFB that I am no musician but an educator.

Letter and Take Two article by Malvin Chua.
Images by: Malvin Chua, Humans of Singapore, Take Two.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wilson David With Bassist Alan Poh's Songs

One of the more well- known singers in the sixties Wilson David was a name to contend with. Together with other local pop singers Mr David drew crowds to the shows they performed in. They had fans from all over Singapore and from our neighboring countries like Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and even Thailand.

Pop concert sponsors and those interested in promoting our talents introduced these young and budding artistes to recording companies. Philips, RCA, Cosdel, EMI and a few other well-known ones took the opportunity to contract them for vinyl releases.

The singers were paired off with local guitar groups and papers were signed and sealed. One of the most respected recording companies, Philips, used the studio at Kinetex Singapore and had David with his backing group The Jets to accompany him singing four songs.
Two of them were covers from the fifties; "Jezebel" by Frankie Laine and "Yours" by Vera Lynn. The other two, originals by Alan Poh (image: 2nd from right) and bassist with the Jets were, "I'll Never Be Mad At You" and "I Love To Be By Your Side." It was necessary by then to have original songs in the repertoire for local releases.

The fact that David was also Singapore's answer to Elvis Presley made the recording and advanced publicity all the more important for its success. Below is the write up on the back sleeve cover of "Wilson David accompanied by The Jets."

Some Sleeves Speak:

"Born on October 4th, 1940, Wilson David started his singing career when he was only sixteen.  Slowly but surely he managed to build himself up to such an extent that for the last three years he has been able to maintain his position as the beat king all over Malaysia. Yes Wilson is undoubtedly the teenage solo singing craze nowadays, for every time he makes a public appearance, it is only with great difficulty that he tears himself away from his screaming, clapping audience.
Wilson's greatest assets are a good mellow voice with an equally good range and style, and a terrific sense of rhythm and showmanship. Wilson is a perfectionist by nature and is never satisfied with his own performance regardless of how well he is received.  He always feels he should have done better since his one aim is to satisfy his listener to the fullest.

From the muscle wrenching glory of the athletic track to the limelight in rhythm and blues to the torrid tempos of the bongos, that's the life of Wilson David, who is currently the undisputed idol of the local teenage pop fans..."

How come today's Singapore boys and girls are not screaming for our own home grown artistes?

Images: Personal Collection.
Article: Original and Back Sleeve Cover Write-up.
You can read more about these artistes by clicking on Labels below.