Saturday, May 23, 2015

" Rolling Good Times" Singapore: Behind The Cameras Part 2

The Silver Strings appeared on the premier episode of Rolling Good Times on 17th May, 2015 (Channel 5) but the actual live recording was done on the 4th of May, two weeks before the show.  It is general knowledge that performers had to come in early for the shoot, hours before the audience arrived at 7.30 pm.  We met at Reception at three in the afternoon . Security is always tight so if you're going for a show, don't forget to bring your identification card.

Ushered into the underground studio and beneath the cosy comfort of Caldecott Hill, we faced a large sound stage that had hosted many a variety show in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. It was cavernous enough to seat a few hundred people.  We joined the performers scattered in the front rows waiting their turn to rehearse. (Image 1: Media Corp @ Caldecott.)
Dick Lee, Tabitha Nauser, Reuby, Mathilda D'Silva, Wendi Koh
We didn't wait long when Dick Lee came on stage with 19 year old Reuby, co-host Tabitha Nauser and Singapore's Tina Turner Mathilda D'Silva. They set the mood with Dick's and Tabitha's natural TV chatter as they introduced the show with a song. The resident band that accompanied them was incomparable.

When Wendi Koh performed she went into a spin and transformed the studio into a rock n roll, free for all, disco hall with her singing. We were wowed by all of them.  Such talent and artistry.  When Mathilda came on she looked extremely sexy with her outfit and special hairdo.  You'd think Tina Turner was out there. Then Reuby performed as he eased our nerves with a ballad. (Images 2, 3, 4: Sound studio; Artistes; Resident Band with Silver Strings.)
We knew our turn came when we saw drummer John Cher's throne of kings rolling in. There were drums everywhere on the sound stage with the percussion instrument elevated on a large box.

"And you're going to sit up there?" I asked him laughing.

Then Fender amplifiers were placed, together with the toy Nick Stravens was supposed to tinker with on national television (image above).

The whole session lasted for some time as the camera crew, lighting specialists and sound men went into action testing their equipment.  The Silver Strings managed the routine as Diana was introduced again and again during practice. Paul Anka's famous baby-sitter came alive once more. (Images 5,6: Silver Strings practice with Nick Stravens in the foreground; Audience.)
For the interview segment, we were seated with Dick Lee, and as places were established we thought it was going to be a long session practising but he managed the chat so professionally, we became engrossed in a conversation that went pretty well on screen. All in one take!

After the dry run we had our meals, heavy fried chicken with nasi-lemak, Chinese sweet and sour fish or a bee-hoon dinner, all served with vegetables. Then make-up time as we went into the tiny room filled with mirrors and facing professionals in black.  I thought it was a Batman costume party. Honestly, this group was the quietest and nicest ever as they went about their duty struggling hard to make seniors look like juniors. They had succeeded with Audie, Rickie, John and Nick. (Images: 7, 8: Wendi Koh practice; Rick Astley.)
After the make-up and costumes it was waiting at the wings for our turn as we chatted and met the other participants of the show. By then it was about 7.30 pm and members of the public came streaming in as they filled up the seats in the sound studio.  We watched between the curtains. The audience too had to go through certain routines with encores, sing-a-longs and music quizzes.

The live recording started on time and we did our segment around 8.30pm.  At the end of the evening before our famous guest star came on he managed some photo shots with the Silver Strings  Rick Astley was one of the most friendly and pleasant singing stars.
Andy Lim, Audie Ng, Rickie Chng, Nick Stravens, John Cher (Silver Strings 2015 line-up)
If you've seen last week's telecast, you should know what happened afterwards. I think this first Rolling Good Times was a successful one.

If you have a chance to see it live get a ticket because I understand Media Corp @ Caldecott Hill may close soon to relocate. Uncertain though.

Nice visit for an SG50 family getaway before another iconic building disappears. (Images 9, 10, 11, 12: Rickie Chng, Audie Ng; Make Up artistes; John Cher; Andy Lim.)

Sunday Night: 24th May, 2015: The Dukes, Julie Sudiro, Veronica Young.

Read Rolling Good Times Part 1. Click below:


Images: A personal collection and from Google.
                                              Rick Astley - Together Forever

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Music Journey Of A Singapore 60's Band Boy

I met this gentleman not too long ago when he joined The Silver Strings as a drummer, replacing original percussionist Danny Boy who had a private commitment.  When I asked him for a write-up about his pop music journey he was kind enough to oblige. 

I must admit that not many local band members who played during those golden years of Singapore music have been so willing as the stories came few and far between. But this music man is an exception. 

John Cher's Music Trail

Started to observe a classmate who could play drums.  I was 13 years old then. He showed me the basic stroke/tempo and was surprised I could do it the next day.

Started to play on biscuit tins of different sizes with chopsticks.  My elder brother was a saxophonist in the Montfort Secondary School Band.  By a stroke of good luck, together with a few of his friends, they formed a band playing music like I Left My Heart In San Francisco and such... I was in Secondary 2.  They were about 6 or 7 years older and were working.  

My dream became a reality when the drummer of my brother's band bought a new drum set.  I started playing on it in the day when no one was around. One day they had a "practice" but the drummer could not make it.  

Reluctantly they allowed the kid to play and were pleasantly surprised that I could do it better than their drummer.  We were playing Danny Boy.

From then on, we had small gigs at weddings, birthdays and the usual.  I always remember playing at Tanjong Inn in the late 1960's for a party  It was my first taste of playing commercially.  Shortly thereafter I joined McGraw-Hill Far Eastern Publishers and was flattered when a girl colleague could recognize me from the gig.  

While at McGrawHill, I started a band with four other boys from the printing department. They were all from K.L.  The band's name was incredible - Raindrops Carnation Revival!  We did the usual party rounds, took part in the RTS Talentime on TV and made it to the quarter finals.

After that everything stopped for about 20 years as we focused on careers and families. I started playing again with the Music Ministry of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  While in this church group, I met my old neighbour and school mate, Peter Chua, who was at that time still singing with SBC.  

Subsequently we played together commercially as well.   The brand new Punggol Marina and its cruise ship The Columbus gave us a lot of opportunities to perform.  My thanks to William Lai,  the boss of P.M.  Together with Peter and the Swing Js, we played just about every 5-Star hotel in Singapore at various private functions.   

These hotels and clubs would include the Shangrila, Ritz Carlton, The Mandarin, Pan Pacific, Tanah Merah Country Club, Singapore Island Country Club and the Keppel Club. 

Together with Tony Kwek (of the Mysterians),  James Choa (of the Flamingos) and  Joe Woon (of Easy Beats) and Veronica Young, we also played several charity gigs for the Lions Club, Changi.
Peter and The Swing Js
Last year, together with Alex Wong and Frens,  we played at the finals of the Silver Carnival on Channel 8.   At about the same time, together with Hans Solo and The Inspirations, we played at The Singapore Swimming Club.

I count myself lucky to be approached by Audie Ng of Silver Strings to do the drums.  We have been performing for a few public shows and there are a few more big gigs line up for the rest of SG50.

Together with the other members of The Silver Strings, we hope to have lots of fun playing the music of the 60's.

Images: John Cher (Copyright).                       


SLIP NOTE: 14th May, 2015.

The passing away of B.B. King was announced. He died in Las Vegas on May 14th, 2015 at 89.  

In 1969 he touched millions around the world with his hit, The Thrill is Gone.  This great music man was one of the most acclaimed guitarists of his generation. With his demise he left a void that has not been filled. 

We send our condolences to his family. Rest in peace Mr King.   

Monday, May 11, 2015

Singapore Heritage Fest: Jiving Through The Ages

Saturday, 16th May, 2015 @ 7pm, outside Cathay Building, Handy Road.

The following are briefs. To read about these pop stars in full, refer to their individual websites: 

She started her profession singing in English at Singapore hotels, pubs and clubs. In 1999 she entered the Canto stage at Marina South, Devil's Bar, Black Velvet, Beyond, Heaven n Earth and Paradigm.

By 2006 she joined St. James Power Station and performed in the Mando Club and wowed audiences in Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Korean and Japanese. She's known as the Zoe Tay of St James.

Signed to Brite Records, she cut a disc and her single, Broken String, charted at #2 for several weeks. She had worked with a number of producers, singers and songwriters from the UK, US and sang overseas in San Francisco and Hollywood.


Xuan Man's charismatic personality has made her a household hit amongst Singaporeans. She had made special appearances as guest artiste at SBC and Rediffusion shows and programmes.

In 2011 and 2012 respectively she was the overall champion for both Media Corp's Silver Age Talentime and Golden Age Talentime. She also took the highest accord in the International Golden Lion Awards.

Xuan Man has been engaged in local charity drives and community organisations. She was resident artiste at several up-market lounges in France, Holland, the U.S. and Australia.

Tandy Lim is a recording artiste who sings Zhou Xuan and mimics Yao Shu Rong.  Comfortable with Hokkien and Cantonese tunes, she is popular in this region and Europe. 

She is a respected vocal trainer with hundreds of students who have been under her wings for singing techniques. She had appeared in Voices from the Gramophone featuring songs from the Old Shanghai era.

Ms Lim has been showcasing her talents since the 1980's and "selects her performance platform carefully" since she is renowned for her professionalism, showmanship and technical competence.

With more than twenty years in the business, Judy Theng is not only an accomplished performer, she is an active event planner.

Another voice trainer, Judy has been a judge at many singing competition and has recorded more than twenty solo albums and collaborative ones with her sister Maggie Theng who is also a diva. 

She had recorded the sound track for  a drama series called, Holland Village, by Media Corp TV production.  In the local circuit she has appeared at the Esplanade, is well known in the Executive Clubs, hotels and cruises. Internationally she has performed in Asia, Australia and the US.

The above four ladies are not in a choir nor will they sing as a chorus but it would be a gig hard to beat because these divas armed with glamour, glitz and great vocal folds will be accompanied by well-renowned piano man, Danny Koh and his big band, The Musicators for another hot, sizzling evening singing melodies that were popular since the 1940's.   

Songs for the evening:
Skye Sirena
夜上海 Ye Shanghai
秋水伊人 Qiu Shui Yi Ren
我要你的爱 Wo Yao Ni De Ai
月亮代表我的心 Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin
Irene ( Xuan Man )
天涯芳草 Tian Ya Fang Cao
可爱的玫瑰 Ke Ai De Mei Gui
怀念妈妈 Huai Nian Ma Ma
万里长城 Wan Li Chang Cheng
Tandy Lim
今天不回家 Jin Tian Bu Hui Jia
说不出的快活 Shuo Bu Chu De Kuai Huo
望春风 Wang Chun Feng
一水隔天涯 Yi Shui Ge Tian Ya
Judy Theng
夜来香 Ye Lai Xiang
欢乐今宵 Huan Le Jin Xiao
不了情 Bu Liao Qin
我的心里没有他 Wo De Xin Li Mei You Ta

Ai Shen Te Jen

Images: Supplied by organiser. Copyright.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Singapore Heritage Fest: Jiving Through The Ages

Happening is on Friday, 15th May, 2015 outside The Cathay Cinema, from 7pm @ Handy Road. This show is sponsored by The National Museum of Singapore @ Stamford Road.

Four bands performing within the space of an hour. Except for Andy, these are guitar groups and vocalists who have been entertaining in the local hotels, theaters, nightclubs and private clubs since the 1960s. Listen to them play and sing as they belt out hits like DIANA, MY WAY, MEAN WOMAN BLUES, SHADOOGIE, YOUNG ONES, WORLD WITHOUT LOVE, THE BOXER, RUNAWAY, LA BAMBA, I FEEL GOOD, WOOLY BULLY and many other pop tunes of the 60s and 70s.

The Esquires begin the fast paced evening with their rendition of hits by Queen and James Brown followed by Andy Young singing Paul Anka and Elvis. Then Winston Koh comes on the scene fronting The Trailers with Shadows and Cliff Richard numbers. Terry, Robyn and Friends keep the pulse thumping with their vocals and harmonizing tunes by Simon/Garfunkel and Peter/Gordon.

Before the music subsides Jerry Fernandez hots the Cathay evening's SG50 celebration even more with his Neu Faces echoing Sam The Sham, The Pharaohs and Wild Cherry . Nearly two dozen songs to jitter your nerves and  make you wanna boogy, shake and jive.  So come on down and meet our local artistes and dance to the beat as they prove to you that History, music history that is, can be fun. Play that funky music...

(A tablet is used since computer is down, so there has been much difficulty producing this post and photographs.)

Images, as provided, from the top: The Esquires; Jerry and The Neu Faces; Andy Young; Terry, Robyn and Friends; Winston and The Trailers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rolling Good Times: Rick Astley, Dick Lee, Silver Strings Ch 5; 9.30pm Part 1

Mathilda D'Silva, Reuby, Wendi Koh, Dick Lee, Rick Astley, Tabitha Nauser, Andy Lim, Audie Ng, John Cher, Rickie Chng, Nicholas Stravens

The Silver Strings will appear on "Rolling Good Times". Line up for the live recording on 4th May are: John Cher, Andy Young, Audie Ng, Mathilda DSilva (Ms Tina Turner), Nick Stravens, Rickie Chng.

The show will highlight our island's music heritage from the 60s onwards and feature pop stars like Larry Lai, Veronica Young, The Dukes, Western Union Band, Julie Sudiro, Ramli Sarip, Jive Talking, Speedway, Masquerade and other local artistes.

Rick Astley With Andy Young
International singers featured will include *Rick Astley, Frances Yip and Johnny Hates Jazz. Dick Lee and Tabitha Nauser will host.  The first telecast in the series that features The Silver Strings will be aired on Channel 5, May 17th, Sunday, from 9.30 pm.
Silver Strings Drummer John Cher and Band Leader Audie Ng with Rick Astley.
*From CNA Website:

SINGAPORE: Singer Rick Astley will be among a host of both local and international artistes who will be performing on the new Rollin’ Good Times, a reboot of the popular 1990's Singaporean music variety show.

The 1980's music icon revealed that he will be performing some of his hits like Together Forever on the show, which celebrates Singapore’s musical heritage, and said he hoped his music will resonate with Rollin’ Good Times viewers.

Apart from recording the first episode, alongside local band The Silver Strings and singer Wendi Koh, Astley is also in Singapore to perform on the first of a two-part special of The 5 Show on Tuesday (May 5), which aims to raise funds to help those affected by the recent deadly earthquake in Nepal.
Click to read Part 2:

Images from top: Silver Strings on stage; Mathilda DSilva aka Ms Tina Turner; R.G.T. poster; Dick Lee interviews Strings; Andy With Astley; John Cher, Rick Astley and Audie Ng.

                      Rick Astley: Never Gonna Give You Up

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Without The Gift of Song In Aberdeen, Scotland.

Serene, University of Aberdeen
A Story About Heritage

I will never forget the lesson I learnt in the early 1980's when I attended a British Council course at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. There were four representatives from Singapore, myself and three ladies.  We had been selected to attend an English Language, English Literature and Linguistics programme.

Since a good number applied  at the Singapore office, candidates had to go through an interview but we had been lucky and managed to get a place.  For the attractive summer holiday, post-graduate course we were provided text books, meals, lodging and visits around Aberdeen's neighbourhood. Daily lectures and workshops by **distinguished professors were usually held up to lunch time. There were none during the weekends.
Singapore representatives. Thistle among the flowers?
After our arrival and having settled in at the university we were ushered into a large room the second evening, where our course students met for a cultural get-together.  Most of us were quietly ready for a night of food and fun but surprised by what happened next because as Singaporeans we had not been prepared for the 'task' at hand.
Cultural Night at Aberdeen University
After a full and fancy meal, Scottish style but without *haggis, we found ourselves shaking hands with the young and old from many places around the world.  They had come from Asia, Europe and Commonwealth countries. That night, each country representative was supposed to entertain the gathering with either a song, a dance, a reading or a sketch.

Yes, my dear readers. Everyone was prepared. But Singapore? No, because we had no song to sing. Don't forget it was the beginning of the 1980's and the national songs that had been composed were only available from 1984. We had come a little early. If only we had arrived in Aberdeen two years later, then we could be so proud singing, Stand Up For Singapore. Or if we had come in 1986, Count On Me Singapore would have been available.

Panic. The four of us huddled together trying to think of one we could sing as a foursome. I told them there was one. It was called, Singapura, a pop song. But it wasn't a patriotic song.  And I remember it was by Sandra Reemer an Indonesian/Dutch singer. How could we be singing a song that wasn't composed by our countryman.  Although we knew the melody, we didn't know the lyrics. Then there was our National Anthem.  But we couldn't be singing the anthem for amusement.

What about Sing Your Way Home? Was that a Singapore song?  I knew that one. As we racked our heads, I remember songs we taught our children back home. These were, Chan Mali Chan and Di-Tanjong Katong and Rasa Sayang.  I knew them in Malay but they weren't really our songs.  We shared them with our neighbours when we were part of Malaya.
A Dance from Greece
Meanwhile during the show, some of the students danced so well as they demonstrated their intricate steps and swayed to the rhythm of their own hand clapping.  I remember a rather stout gentleman who was so lithe and vibrant when he did a Greek dance and pranced the floor with his arms outstretched for a good ten minutes.

Others sang their national songs as duets and trios, some with guitars while a few brought their own musical instruments to accompany their singing. The people there were such a talented lot! Poetry recitals in European and Asian languages, short skits that threw us into laughter and even a parade of Shakespearean soliloquies.
Sketch or recital? 

We applauded, looked at each other and gave the three titles to the lady in charge and made preparations to sing it. But here's the strangest part. Up till today I cannot remember if we ever went up on stage.  I searched for the photographs of this performance but now I am not sure if we sang that evening.  
I found one picture though (image above) and this photo jolted my memory because I realised I did a sketch with this bearded gentleman from an Arab country. He was friendly, quick witted, full of humour and I will never forget what he told me,  "Take pictures Lim. Immortalize yourself so when you look at them 50 years later you will realise how young you were when you came to Aberdeen." 
In newspaper wrapping
It was such a relief when the night was over. We enjoyed the performances by other nationals, the food and camaraderie.  We became friends and the ice was broken. Ice? We realised, as we left the room, how cold it was as the doors opened.  But the beautiful Scottish air refreshed us. A little foggy perhaps. "Hark when the night is falling, / Hear, hear the pipes are calling..."

Campus with its Scottish charm.
After a good night's rest we ended up the next morning bright and early outside the university grounds, grouped together and heading for famous Bennachie Hill.  It was the week-end and I had my first genuine fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper (no not in a five pound note) at the Fish Market.

On the way to town I saw this lone figure in front of a castle.  He was the finest bagpiper I've seen, dressed up in the most elaborate Scottish costume and blowing his pipes in the gusty wind.  It was a beautiful sight. "Wild are the winds to meet you, Staunch are the friends that greet you... "
The Lone Bagpiper. Unimaginable.
So you see folks, if you have been complaining about our patriotic songs being played day in, day out and night in, night out on TV, radio and everywhere else before National Day, remember out plight that evening when we had none to sing.  We need these songs as they are representative of Singapore to remind us of our own sunny isle and national heritage.

Of course we were too proud to tell our Scottish hosts and the other delegates from the other countries that we didn't have folk songs. Singapore was only about seventeen years old then. But today?  Today, we've got plenty and you can "count on me to give my best and more..."  Today we've got the gift of song.

So join Sing50 in August, 2015 and belt them out.
Cowdray Hall, Girdle Ness Lighthouse, Bridge of Don, Fish Market.
A 1980's Postcard.
*Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onions, oat meat, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal's stomach.

**It has been some time since I left Aberdeen but I still remember the music, moments, places and people, especially lecturer Ms Avis who drove me to London from the university in 12 hours flat when she offered me a ride back in her tiny Ford Fiesta. We only stopped for lunch at noon and had tea in the car. She was about 60 years young when I met her in the early 80's. It's hard to forget a kind lady like Ms Avis. God Bless Her Soul.

1980's Hit Songs in UK

1    Dexys Midnight Runners: Come On Eileen
2.   Survivor: Eye Of The Tiger
3    Irene Cara: Fame
4    Tight Fit: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
5    Culture Club: Do You Really Want To Hurt Me
10  Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder: Ebony And Ivory

University of Aberdeen, Scotland; British Council Summer Course; U.K., British Council Scholarships; Cultural Night, Scotland; Fish and Chips in Newspapers; Haggis from Scotland, U.K.; Bridge of Don, Scotland; Fish Market, Aberdeen, Scotland; Girdle Ness Lighthouse; Singapore Patriotic Songs; Singapore Heritage, Sung50

Images: A Personal Collection and Google.