Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rufino Soliano: Farewell To A Singapore Music Icon

Condolences To His Family:

This great music man passed away this morning, according to his nephew James R. Keasberry who made the announcement on my Facebook post:

"It is with sadness to say that Rufino Soliano passed away peacefully early this morning."

May he rest in peace.

"Rufino Soliano (10 January 1932 - 23 April, 2017 Singapore) was an accomplished musician, composer and conductor. He was the former head of the now-defunct Singapore Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra.

Soliano had been active in the local music scene as a violinist, drummer and percussionist from a young age. Subsequently, he took on music arrangement, composing and conducting. In 2013, at the age of 81, Soliano released his debut album of 12 original songs."

Stephanie Ho
National Library Board
Singapore Infopedia.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

La Paloma: Doves Nest In Singapore Home

The dove with twigs between its beak, eyeing me suspiciously during photography.

It's April; springtime is here as birds start to nest. In Singapore it's no exception as a pair of lovely zebra doves (Malay: burung tekukor) has found a nesting place for their Easter eggs. It's a cosy little niche between our home balcony wall and a huge air-conditioner.

The lovely paloma (Spanish: dove) couple started their home building the week before Palm Sunday on 9 April as we were listening to Donald Trump on TV, after his successful meet with China's President Xi. 

We could hear the bird calls at the balcony with one dove picking twigs and flitting, possibly looking for water and fluttering up to the air-conditioner to help the mate build the nest.
The doves were starting to build their nest when we frightened them away for a few days.

When I started using my mobile phone video and camera to take shots, they seemed displeased, left their nest dangling and incomplete. They never returned.

We had forgotten about the whole incident,  On the morning of Easter Sun, when we heard the calls again we were glad to see the nest much bigger with more twigs and dry grass. Huge relief.  Today (19/4/17) one of the birds sits perched on its nest, waiting to lay her eggs.

The pair keeps busy during nesting and we love to hear the vocalization as they go: Kroo-kook-koo. Kroo-kook-koo. The sound is music to my ears.
The children waited patiently, watching the dove in its nest. They were told not to make a sound.

The birds were also keeping two children busy as they loved the presence of the doves. The kids peered through the curtains because the nest was about four feet away from where they stood (image). Our family either took turns to observe the doves nesting or we would crowd at the entrance. But we made sure that we spoke quietly and in hushed tones. 

"Or," as I told them, "the birds will just fly away..."  

I hope to be able to document what happens next.

We've had wild things coming to our balcony. Blessings indeed.

Check out these connections below and read about the monkey, the hornbill and Josh's elephant:
The nest in its final stage of becoming a cosy nursery for the doves. Meanwhile strong winds blew.

This Spanish song La Paloma, a favourite for thousands of Singapore seniors, has been in existence for more than 140 years and written around the 1850's. Easily recognizable and like many in its genre has a tune with a flamenco beat, popular in Spain but later exported to Mexico and to English speaking countries. 

There are about 1,000+ versions of this song and it is one of the most recorded in the history of music. Elvis Presley and Dean Martin sang the English version as, No More

Connie Francis, Nana Mouskouri, Julio Iglesias, Engelbert Humperdinck, Placido Domingo and big bands like Harry James, James Last, Ray Coniff, Acker Bilk, etc. had recorded it in the 1950's and 60's. 
Julio Iglesias - La Paloma is one of the most popular versions available. The English version is 'No More' by Elvis Presley.

Images: A Private Collection using iPhone 6+
Video: You Tube.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Golden Venus True Story A Parallel Universe Horace Wee

 Horace Wee contributes to this blog and I must thank him for his insights on the various aspects of local music. 

He doesn't profess to be a guru but with the amount of encyclopedic knowledge he has of the subject, Singaporeans can be proud that we have, at last, a genuine shifu (师傅) who was on the professional scene for years. 

No fake stories here as he rights some of the wrongs in this short article about Golden Venus and the Singapore jazz scene.

Again, many thanks Horace (image right) for enhancing this blog.

"Many articles that recall the music of the sixties in Singapore have only viewed it from a narrow perspective.  That is, pop bands and music proliferated the whole music scene.

Truth to be told, there were a whole lot of resident bands in clubs and restaurants that comprised of so called professional musicians that played more traditional music that had its roots from pre-World War 2 and the post war years. 

Much of this was American music from Tin Pan Alley and Broadway. Running alongside, jazz was using this music as vehicles for jazz improvisation and the subsequent evolution into swing, bebop, modern jazz and subsequent off-shoots.

The Golden Venus (image left) at the then Orchard Hotel, has been portrayed as a hot bed for rock and pop music. This information is skewed and fails to mention that this was only happening on Sunday afternoons as a TEA DANCE. 
All seven nights of a week the place was a restaurant and after dinner club. This was the club that became the center for all local, British Forces and visiting musicians to come together to play and jam. There was a very active jazz movement of various types and the musicians formed groups of their own.

The American Consulate, well aware that this was a significant piece of their culture decided to promote this art form as a series of sponsored concert under USIS (United States Information Service).
Louis Armstrong with the gang. Can you guess their names? And which one is Horace Wee, Louis Soliano and the late Tony Castillo?

These concerts were at the Victoria Theater. A copy of the typewritten program illustrates a good variety of jazz styles and features prominent local and foreign musicians of this art form.

My own contribution in Item 4 was a jazz suite in a then advanced approach to jazz using atonal and modal concepts. A US official told me it reminded him of New York City waking up.  

If you thought rock trios of bass, guitar and drums were original - the format I played was a trio comprising of acoustic bass, drums and myself on alto- saxophone and bass clarinet. That was Fernando Cortez on bass and Terry Tay on drums - Horace Wee."

Don't forget to read the chit-chat under Comment page below.
Article and photographs 1, 3 and 4 are copyrighted and belong to Horace Wee.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday.

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:4 * King James Bible.

As 14 April, 2017 comes to light after a peaceful Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday in Singapore, I was thinking of the lyrics of a song that could be suitable for the rather sombre and quiet period this Good Friday, a day when Jesus died, was buried and rose again on Easter Sunday.

Sung originally as a Christmas Carol, it was made famous by Cat Stevens in 1972 and came from a hymn, first published at the beginning of the 1930's. The lyrics were by children's writer, Eleanor Farjeon using an original melody of a Scottish tune, written in Gaelic by Mary McDonald. 

Neil Diamond: Morning Has Broken: Video by jasonfreakinbang

The song gives thanks to dawn, a new opening of each day, but unlike other days, the words become more significant as we know what happens eventually. Of course, interpretation varies...

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the word

It was translated into English, with a lilt so lovely that the number went to the top of the hit parade in 1972.  The piano arrangement was done by rock group member from Yes: Rick Wakeman.
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world's most famous late 15th Century painting. 

Judy Collins, Floyd Cramer, Neil Diamond, Art Garfunkel, Nana Mouskouri, Aaron Neville, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, Sister Janet Mead, Roger Whittaker and a host of choirs have recorded covers of this beautiful song. 

Looking at it positively, I find the freshness in the lyrics as we praise for the morning:

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass...

When Good Friday morning is broken, I remember it as such, a Good Friday.

Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of a new day.

Have a great Easter everyone.

Any comment?

Image: Google.
You Tube Video: Neil Diamond: Morning Has Broken by jasonfreakinbang

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Mo Li Hua 茉莉花 Trump's Grandchild's Diplomacy

Little Arabella's diplomacy with two Presidents.

The Diplomatic Coup

It is a diplomatic coup and it only took a little child to sing a popular melody, which is already a pop folk classic.

When President Donald Trump welcomed President Xi Jinping to the US for their first meet in April 2017, the powerful pair, together with their wives and Mr Trump's family, were entertained to a rendition of Moh Li Hua (茉莉花)  , a Chinese classic that dates back to the 18th Century.

Already with the poise and personality of her famous mother, five year old Arabella Kushner,  Ivanka Trump's daughter, serenaded the group with more tact and gracefulness that her grand dad could ever do with his Twitter quips.
Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower) sung by Cai Qin: The song is one of the anthems of Chinese Pops: Video from Mehdi Benhenia.

The Song

Mo Li Hua or Jasmine Flower, another favourite song of my mother,'s (where I learnt most of my Chinese songs from) has been on the Chinese Hit Parade list for decades and known not only in China but all over the world. 

Covered by many artistes internationally, the song carried its worth when Westerners heard it as part of Pucini's famous opera, Turandot (1928), covered by Kenny G, loved by Jiang Zemin and has been performed in many opening ceremonies including the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. 

Lately Celine Dione learnt to sing it and there are many recordings both on You Tube, on ring tones, mp3s, CD's and other media.

A historic moment don't you think? A Chinese folk classic sung by a little American girl during the first meet of two great country heads.
The jasmine flower or mo li hua has about 200 species, grown for its fragrance.

Image: from The Star Online and Google.
Video: Mehdi Benhenia.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Pop Singers Aged 80's To 90's With First Hits (1)

Many pop singers who started their singing career in the 40's, 50's or 60's would now be aged 70 and beyond. Some others would have passed on. 

Listed below are vocalists who are still around, documented with their first hits or otherwise, and who are now into their septuagenarian and octogenarian years.

Their ages are shown as of April 2017 and in order of:
Name of Singer - Age - Date of Birth - Song - Year Recorded💗

Doris Day               95 - 1922 - Sentimental Journey - 1945
Charles Aznavour    92 - 1924 - J'ai Bu - 1950; She - 1974
Tony Bennett          90 - 1926 - Because of You - 1951
Harry Belafonte      90 - 1927 - Banana Boat Song - 1956
Cleo Laine              89 - 1927 - You'll Answer To Me - 1961
Fats Domino           89 - 1928 - Blueberry Hill - 1956
Burt Bacharach       88 - 1928 - The Look of Love - 1967
Vic Damone            88 - 1928 - You're Breaking My Heart -1949
Rolf Harris              87 - 1930 - Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport - 1960
D. J. Fontana          86 - 1931 - Drummer - Elvis Presley Hits - 1950's

Des O'Connor         85 - 1932 - I Pretend - 1968
Loretta Lynn           84 - 1932 - I'm A Honky Tonk Girl - 1960
Petula Clark            84 - 1932 - Downtown - 1964
Little Richard          84 - 1932 - Tutti Frutti - 1955
Yoko Ono               84 - 1933 - Open Your Box - 1971
Quincy Jones          84 - 1933 - The Eyes of Love - 1968
Willie Nelson          83 - 1933 - Hello Walls - 1961
John Mayall            83 - 1933 - Room To Move - 1969
Charlie Pride          83 - 1934 - Kiss An Angel Good Mornin' - 1971
Shirley Jones         83 - 1934 - Oklahoma (Movie) - 1955
Images: Fats Domino, Shirley Jones, Des O'Connor, Petula Clark - Google
Information: Wikipedia.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Don Rickles Is Gone @ 90. Laughing All The Way

Mr. Don Rickles is gone. At 90 years young on 6 April, 2017. 

Watching Rickles gave me the tickles. His acidity doesn't burn. It just flows into your blood stream and alerts your funny bones.

"I couldn't sell air conditioners on a 98-degree day. When I demonstrated them in a showroom, I pushed the wrong button and blew the circuit."

I used to wait for him, Bob Hope and Jonathan Winters when they had their moments on black and white television in Singapore. The family only had them when television came to Singapore in the early 60's. 

These moments were their Specials, which were shown once in a way when they had one hour segments all to themselves, with their guest stars and shown on national TV, beaming in living rooms on our little island. 

If we were lucky we get Christmas or New Year Specials with these super comics appearing.  It wasn't till these imported shows came before we were able to enjoy them.
We didn't have You Tube or What'sApp to watch them at our own time. I guess I could say that Rickles, Hope and Winters were the late Robin Williams' teachers in great American comedy. Fast flowing with a straight face, each having his own unique element of originality, and a punchline which was a TKO.

So good-bye Mr Rickles. With these three other people, you will surely create much rib-tickling guffaws in the sky. What with Johnny Carson hosting and Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Frank Sinatra at the side-line, we won't be enjoying the fun from earth. 

But I'll be looking out for more of the toasts on You Tube from Mr Rickles and the other greats.  Singapore TV comics could learn much from these kings of comedians and learn the tricks of the trade. 

"Compared to what some of the young comics use for material today, I'm a priest."

May you Rest In Peace, Don Rickles.
Don Rickles at the Johnny Carson Tonight Show 1978 Video: Archilochus Moz.

Images: Google.
You Tube Video.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Matt Tan Bassist 'Fried Ice' Writes From Canada

Matt Tan, former bassist for local band Fried Ice left for overseas to study. That was in the 60's and 70's. He read my blog a few years ago and we corresponded but lost touch. After an absence, Matt Tan and I got together again on email. Here he is to retell his story. He lives in Canada today.
Thank you Matt.
Life after Fried Ice by Matt Tan.
By now, I had left Fried Ice to go to London to see the bands that started to interest me other than just playing Jethro Tull, Hendrix, Cream, TYA, Deep Purple.
The one that influenced me most were Focus (Jan Akkerman) and Yes (Peter Bank). In London I had also discovered T2 at the Cafe LesArtistes who were playing there during the nights I went there after the regular nights at the Mitre Pub in Paddington where I lived. It was at Paddington while coming home with my Shepherd's Pie and chicken from my friend's takeout owned by a lovely Italian woman, that I chanced to meet Jeff Beck, the man who scared the hell of me so much that I decided not to play lead guitar and kept to bass.
I had heard Truth after graduating from John Mayall's Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, etc. when I heard Jeff playing I Ain't Superstitious... that got me to wonder, "What is this dude playing?" and threw my guitar aside.
Mind you, I was brought up on Julian Bream which explained why I naturally got to play Yes music, when Steve Howe replaced the greater Pete Banks. Banks, in an interview with Melody Maker and NME, was also the one who got me to listen to the "greatest band in the world" at that time, Focus, with the "fastest guitarist in the world" Jan Akkerman. I believed Banks at that time for his claim, but later on realised that Jan, although responsible for my first taste of fusion, was not the "fastest" nor was his band the "greatest", ie. Django Reinhart, Paco de Lucia, Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, ... were. (LOL)
Anyway, back to Beck. I was waiting to cross at the zebra crossing beacon (thus, the monicker I took for my "band" when I first signed with mp3 dot com in 93... zbraXingwith Matt Tan, the title of my first indie cassette released locally in Ottawa and later on mp3 CD )... when then came a bloke in a flashy blood red Corvette. I was impressed; no, not by the bloke, but the Corvette. But as soon as I look at the driver, I realised that bloke was none other than the scary Jeff Beck.
I ran up to his side and went , "Holy smoke, you are Jeff Beck?"
And he blushed and shyly said softly, "Ya!"
The lights changed and he said, "Let me pull over the curb and we can chat on".
Cut to the chase, I told him what an incredible day that was, after watching (Yes, Rory Gallagher, ya Elton John too... zzz) at Crystal Palace, Albert Lee (HHF), Mark Farner, Peter Frampton an Steve Marriot (Humble Pie) at the GFR Hyde Park free concert.
I now meet the man himself who both made me switch to lead guitar (Yardbirds) and quit playing lead (Truth), to stick with Jack Bruce (bass and vocals). I asked who he got to replace Rod, for which he said, he was in fact on his way right then to try a bloke named Bob Tench. He had also wanted I think he said the guy who sang in Jesus Christ Superstar (no, not Ian Gillan, but Ted Neeley), before Bob Tench and I think Alex Ligertwood... all great vocals.
Anyway, I finally told him I shouldn't keep him, and asked for his autograph. We could not find a piece of paper, nor was his ballpoint working, so he told me to run across to the corner shop to get a pen, and he waited for me to return.
He signed my cheque book. In 1998 I gave that autograph to a colleague, an Irish boy, who swore he was a staunch Jeff Beck fan, so since I was already "retired" from music, I gave him the autograph of Jeff's. By this time, I had also sold my recording studio's equipment, and all my guitars Gibsons (Les Paul, SG, EBO, 330,SD175), Fenders (Stratocaster, Telecaster) guitars which I had bought with my earning playing with pub night bands like Winterfield and my own band Ceberus.
Finally, the man who had the greatest band in the world? No, it wasn't Jimi Hendrix nor Cream, it was Mahavishnu Orchestra who played the National Arts Centre, at Regina, Saskatchewan, when I first arrived in Canada. I went to the concert with my flat-mates Pinky and Gordon and their wives, who owned the house, and sitting beside me was Diane Fay, who was the first beautiful Canadian that made me pay more attention to, instead of my Gibson SD175.
That night in 1973, I sat there dazed and confused even more than Jeff Beck did me, as I witnessed Micheal Waldren and Jean Luc Ponty interplay with the great John McLaughlin with his gorgeous double axe.
After the concert, Diane asked me if she could drive me home since it was late, and it was on the way to her flat.
I told her, "No, just let me down at the park in Scarth Street."
It opposite the Saskachewan Hotel where we usually drank at the pub. I sat there in the deserted park until 3 am, before walking home to my parents' Cameron Street house. I was at that time, deciding again to give up playing lead guitar. The 3rd time... the first hearing Jeff, the second hearing Django, the 3rd, Mahavishnu.
Later the next year, Jeff did also come to Regina to play at the Exhibition Park in an arena smelling of horse manure... He blew us away too, with Jan Hammer and his band Fernando Sanders and Tony Smith, who also later became John McLaughlin's other super sidekicks, worst", Kiss, at a concert with Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Savoy Brown.
I met the great Joe Pass too at a jazz clinic in Fort C'appelle, where he told us that joke about how after he asked some heavy metal or grunge band if they wanted to tune up first, and the guitarist said, "Oh, no need for that, our equipment were tuned at the factory."
Last but not least, in Saskatoon, the next year, we also got to watch, "The world's best..."
I was very much "way done gone" and left Hendrix, Cream... and Fried Ice at the crossroads.

This article and 2 photographs of Matt Tan are copyrighted.
Copyrights Reserved by Matt Tan.
Video 2:
Published on Apr 9, 2017
matt tan solo guitarist from canada performs his tribute to jimi hendrix. one guitar alone . please enjoy and send encouragement to the artist by visiting his music site, ( see intro / credit to videos for details). this is a non-profit musical project, all in the name of music. cheers, matt J.S. tan (MJST zbraXing).