Thursday, July 30, 2015

You're The Boy n Shanty Played By Wind Symphony

It has been my dream to have our Singapore popular music from the 1960's officially recognised and played by an orchestra. I had even put the songs up on *a top ten list on this blog in October 2014. It took the people in charge some time but it has happened! 

So here's good friend John to relate about an evening when he and Silver Strings members were invited to the concert where local 60's melodies were played and sung by our boys and girls from 2015.
19th July, 2015
Esplanade Concert Hall
Sunday, 5 pm.
Singapore *Wind Symphony
'Made in Singapore'.

"When the concert Made In Singapore was held, my wife and I were intending to take a trip to Melaka.  However after a bit of deliberation, I decided against it. The reason is obvious.  The traffic situation would be nothing short of chaotic on a Hari Raya long holiday weekend.    So we decided to opt out of Melaka.  I was proudly assuring my wife what to do for the holidays,  that we could go to watch a band performance.

That still left Sunday with nothing planned.  Then I received a message from my buddy Andy Young.  The message included Mindy Lin's (Manager, Singapore Wind Symphony) letter and with Andy remarking that we should all attend the event.  It was almost God sent.  The long weekend was nicely taken care off. 
Not everyone was able to attend but Andy, Ricky Chng (current lead guitarist of the Silver Strings), Audie Ng (leader/bassist) and myself, (drummer) all met at 4.30 pm at the entrance to the Esplanade Concert Hall. We chatted with Henry Chua and Lim Wee Guan of The Quests and other familiar faces.  Frankly I did not know what to expect from the show.

I was impressed by the sheer number of musicians appearing for the concert and they were already in their respective positions on stage. And I always thought musicians for such performances were old and bearded.  How come this group was all so young, including the conductor, Mr Adrian Tan.
Quite understandably, being a Silver Strings member, I was waiting for the Symphony's interpretation of You're The Boy, a song originally recorded by Shirley Nair (deceased) and the group.    Recently it won an award for being the most watched advertisement on  You Tube with about 740,000 viewings!   

When the Orchestra eventually played it, I turned to look at Audie.  I could see him smiling from ear to ear.  Audie had just celebrated his birthday and I told him at the reception after the show that he couldn't have received a better present! The piece played by S.W.S. is very clean and has a very pristine feel to it, the way a love song should be felt by a young girl in love, having just found "the one"!  
(Music Director: Adrian Tan; Composers: Shirley Nair, Henry Chua, Yusnor Ef)

After  enjoying  You're The Boy, I was naturally looking forward to Shanty (Henry Chua/Quests).  When the piece was played and completed I really believe it's awesome, a word that is a little misused these days.  I thought it was very cleverly crafted.  The only recognizable part was the initial verse.  The rest somehow reminded me of some John Williams movie themes. Salute Mr Shun Ng and Mr Jinjun Lee.   I am of the view that all the materials that were used for the Greatest Hits of Tea Dance segment should be recorded and distributed.  That is of course not to say that the other materials should not be recorded as well.  
(Participating: Amni, Gentle Bones, Sezairi, Shabir, Shun Ng, Wicked Aura.)

I am impressed beyond words that a man can compose 250 songs.  It is difficult even to compose two songs but 250!!  Salute to Mr Yusnor Ef (Cultural Medallionist).  And what a fitting tribute to the man to have Amni sing his most prominent compositions. Amni's crystal clear voice and wide vocal range can do justice to any good song and she deserves to be on the world stage.   

As a drummer,  I was naturally attracted to Wicked Aura.  However, in fairness, it is not only the performance of Aura, it is the total package,  the arrangement and the way it is integrated into the vibrant sounds of S.W.S that make the performance sound unique and exciting. 

The timing of the entire team and the S.W.S. is musical precision engineering.   All the other artists and musicians are truly a credit to the whole show as well. What an outstanding cast!  Well done!  Gentle Bones, Sezairi and Shabir, a truly magnificent show guys!
(Arrangers: Benjamin Yeo, Eric Watson, Danial Ariffin, Daren Sng, Gregory Gu Wei, Jinjun Lee, Mohd Rasull, Syawal Kassim, Tan Yang Zhang, Terrence Wong.) 

Congratulations to all who were involved in this event led by Mr Adrian Tan, musical director of the symphony and manager Mindy Lin.  A lot of work and planning went into the production. However its success can easily be measured and appraised by the number of happy and contented faces I saw as the audience was reluctantly leaving the concert hall. 

Bands such as The Thunderbirds and vocal group The Crescendos whose works were also featured and others like The Silver Strings and Quests have been around for the last 50 years or so.  After witnessing all the talents who appeared in Made in Singapore I am confident that the Singapore music scene is here to stay!"

Did you attend the concert? Tell us your views.
Apologies to the other talented composers and artistes if their works and names have not been specifically mentioned or included in this write-up. 

My thanks to John Cher (left) who wrote this article faster than greased lightning.

*A wind symphony provides all voices from a traditional orchestra using only wind and percussion instruments. That is, there are no string sections: violins, violas, and cellos. This is done by adding many more brass and woodwind players and percussionists playing both pitched and rhythm instruments. A wind symphony may employ the occasional harp or string bass and soloists on any instrument.
[Symphony Friends: Rickie Chng, Andy Young (Silver Strings), Yusnor Ef (Composer), Ho Chee Mun (SWS Chairman), Audie Ng, John Cher (Silver Strings), Henry Chua (Quests).]

Images: Souvenir Programme, You Tube, Google, A Personal Collection.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Silver Strings LIVE: NTUC @ Promontory Marina Bay 7th August, 5pm

Silver Strings perform from 5.50 to 6.25 and 7.45 to 8.30 pm. 
Irene Ang and Moe Alkaff will MC.

Silver Strings: Rickie Chng, Andy Young, John Cher, Audie Ng, Nick Stravens: "Rolling Good Times" Line-Up.

Program includes: Community Percussion, Skit, Cajon Drumming,
Stand Up Comedy and Cha Cham Bo.

The Promontory:

MC Moe Alkaff
MC Irene Ang

Images: Google

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dr Lim Boon Keng's Kampong @ Paterson Hill

                       *Grace Chang: Ja-Jambo: Video MrHuang HK
Ms CY Lin has been a regular contributor of this blog. In a recent reply to my last posting about Hari Raya songs and kampongs, she mentioned the happy days she spent living in a bungalow with a unique roof and playing with friends of different nationalities. Below is her letter.
Hey Andy,

1 Paterson Hill in the 1950s - 1973 fits the category of a kampong where different races lived in close proximity, and children played and learned from one another.  This was the residence of Dr Lim Boon Keng, a pioneer physician and social reformer who founded Singapore Chinese Girls' School.

My family of six rented a room ( S$30/- monthly rental raising to S$50/- in the later years) in his huge two-storey bungalow which had an atap roof.  He and his family lived on the upper floor and leased out some rooms on the same level to British forces personnel.  The ground floor rooms were for the locals. (The image is only an illustration and not the home of Dr. Lim. Image 2 is a S$50/- Straits Settlement Singapore currency which was still used in the 1950's.)

Each room was relatively large but all tenants shared a common bathroom and a toilet. Having a benign landlord in the good doctor, my ingenious father was able to single-handedly partition three small bedrooms, a washing area and a kitchenette.  Later, with us as his helpers, a toilet was added - talk about child labour!
An outhouse was turned into a sawmill run by a three-generation Chinese family.  Another became a motor workshop.

My siblings and I played with Dr Lim's grandchildren, his Malay gardener's children, the Chinese  kids and some Indian-muslim ones from the house on Grange Road.  We spoke English, Malay, Hokien and Cantonese.

There's **a big field in the compound with fruit trees for the picking - cherries, rambutans, chikus, pakia (guavas) and buah susu (passion fruit).  The larger trees offered respite when the weather was hot - we'd be climbing and resting in our little tree house.  

Those were happy days.  And yes, 1 Paterson Hill was also the birth place of the pop group ***The Decibels. 



*Grace Chang, with her beauty and vivacity , could have been an icon even today.  She had appeared in more than 30 movies from 1953 to 1964.  Her 1957 movie Mambo Girl was a very big hit. Chang was one of the most popular stars from town to kampong. She would be 82 this year (2015).

The song, Ja-Jambo could be a musical representation of what the world was in the 1950's, raw, wild and waiting. We had WWII, and after 15 years of settling in, would have awakened to a new dimension in life. 

**Could be why the area is called Orchard Road since an orchard is a big field with lots of fruit trees.

***Read about The Decibels:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

(1) 1950's Hari Raya Songs, Kampong Rendezvous. (2) Singapore Wind Symphony Plays Local Music

                               Selamat Hari Raya by Saloma

Songs with a festive theme are always in demand.  According to Guinness World Records the best selling single up till today is Bing Crosby's, White Christmas with a sale of about 50 million copies internationally. 

In certain South East Asian countries, the Chinese New Year song He Xin Nian and the Malay festive song, Selamat Hari Raya are also pop hits but on a much smaller scale.
On Friday the 17th of July, Muslims would mark the end of the fasting month by celebrating Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.  Selamat Hari Raya is a popular song that will be played and sung by those who celebrate the occasion.  But there are many different compositions with the same title.  

Two of the earliest ones recorded were the most popular. The first Selamat Hari Raya song was composed by Zubir Said.  He was the person who also wrote our National Anthem, Majullah Singapura.  The second Selamat Hari Raya song was by a well-known musician and band leader from the 1960's called Ahmad Jaffar. 

I spoke to long-time friend Mr Yusnor Ef, well-known author, Pop Yeh Yeh lyricist and Singapore Cultural Medal Winner, who tells me that there is a long list of Hari Raya song compositions ,including his, recorded and sung by many Malay artistes.

In a book published by PERKAMUS called, *Seven Magnificent Composers, four such songs were listed.  These versions were the two I mentioned and another two composed by P. Ramlee and Kassim Masdor. 

The former was a famous actor, film director and composer. The latter was a well-known Singaporean composer and music professional. There are actually more than fifty songs that have this theme and very many more today.

Patronising the Queen's Cinema on the Paya Lebar side of Geylang to watch movies, I started becoming familiar with these songs and some other Malay and Chinese pops.  Near the cinema were two Malay kampongs. One was called Kampong Wak Tanjong, just across the road from the Paya Lebar Fire Station and Sims Avenue.

The other was Kampong Melaka, near Sandy Lane where City Plaza now stands and where I came to know many Malay friends when I visited them during Hari Raya. Ketupat, satay, lontong, sayur lodeh and rendang. And F&N orange to down the lot. A feast it was for a wide-eyed teen.

I still remember Moya my Bawean friend from Kampong Melaka who taught me my first basic chords on his acoustic guitar. I never went beyond chords C, F, G7 and Am.  It was within this environment that I learnt the lyrics of my favourite Hari Raya song from Saloma. Significant lines I remember include:
Queen's Cinema (Shaw Brothers Property)

Di sana kelihatan
Bermacam kueh, ketupat dan rendang
Minta-ku kueh sepotong 
Saya mahu makan kernah perut kosong...

Queen's Cinema was a magical place where I absorbed English, Chinese, Malay and a few Hindi movies.  It was Singapore in the mid 1950's and as I paid fifty cents to watch a film I was transported through celluloid to other parts of a simple and peaceful world. 

My main occupation then was watching musicals, the ones from Hollywood, and the Chinese and Malay ones from Shaw Brothers. Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse were the mainstay. Grace Chang, Li Li Hwa, P. Ramlee, Saloma and Maria Menado, completed my simple music education.
Selamat Aidil Fitri
Kepada saudara sertak saudari...
Dam dam dum mercun berbunyi 
Merayakan hari yang mulia ini...

Write to us about Malay songs you love and Hari Raya visits you made.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri to all my Muslim friends and readers in Singapore and around the globe. We miss the "mercun berbunyi."

*Seven Magnificent Composers published by editorial team PERKAMUS (2002).
This posting is original and copyrighted.
Images: Google.
You Tube Video.



As part of Singapore's golden jubilee, the Singapore Wind Symphony pays tribute to Singapore pop music with our greatest hits performed by some of today's most exciting local artists! Featuring The Gentle Bones, Wicked Aura, Shun Ng, Sezairi Sezali, Amni Musfirah and Shabir. 

Made in Singapore takes you down memory lane while offering you a glimpse into today's vibrant music scene. Highlights include a special arrangement of Wicked Aura's Fight and Shun Ng's tribute to the hit song Shanty by The Quests and the Silver Strings, Shirley Nair's original, You're The Boy.

Co-presented with Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, Singapore Wind Symphony's Singapore! A Musical Celebration series celebrates our unique music heritage through national songs, musical theatre and jazz, as well as through collaborations with some of our nation's music icons including Dick Lee,  Jeremy Monteiro and Yusnor Ef's Aku Dia dan Lagu.

Beyond the concerts, these arrangements, specially created by local composers and arrangers for the orchestra, are made available to school, community and professional symphonic bands, so that future generations and audiences have the opportunity to perform and learn about Singapore's unique brand of music.
Rickie Chng, Andy Young (Silver Strings) Yusnor Ef (Composer), Ho Chee Mun (Chair Wind Symphony), Audie Ng, John Cher (Silver Strings),  Henry Chua (Quests).
With Wind Symphony Musical Director Adrian Tan.

Images: Esplanade/Singapore Wind Symphony and Personal Collection.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

1950s To 1960s Pop Music Quiz by Andy Whittle

Pop Quiz 10 Intros (Golden Oldies)

Hi Folks, I  had fun trying out the quizzes. Here are two by Andy Whittle. Name each song title and singer or group from each video.

Answers are at the end but try to guess all before you check them. You can stop the track and replay using the pause button. Not so difficult except for a few odd ones. Images below to help. 

To change the format a little and to help those who are not too familiar with the music, below are singers and groups who could be part of the quiz.  All the best. No prizes but I can buy kopi...
You Tube Video by Andy Whittle.
Images: Google.
If you enjoy the quiz there are more by the man himself at:

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Vancouver BC Elvis From Singapore Wows Crowd

Happy Tay, who contributes frequently to this blog, writes about his recent Elvis Presley appearance at a Hawaiian Theme Party in his hometown in Vancouver, Canada. He migrated to British Columbia in the 1970's and is the city's official Elvis Presley. 

Open and frank, he was a police officer, both in Singapore and Vancouver, a Jalan Besar footballer, an ardent movie and music man and friends to many of our pop 60's stars today. One good friend, he says, is 90.5 FM front man, Brian Richmond. 

Tall, good looking, Happy definitely has the animal GRROWL factor in him when he sings Elvis, so read on and find out how he made the ladies faint...

Aloha Andy,

Been quite a while since we last communicated.  How have you been doing?

Just to update you on my recent Elvis performance at a charity Dinner & Dance, with a "sell-out" audience of 300!  I agreed to come out of my Elvis Tribute Performance retirement to help out a good cause and was pleasantly surprised by the reception I received.
I had actually retired but when the Knights of Columbus from the Parishes (there's 4 in Richmond, Vancouver), approached me to help them in their charity fund raiser, I felt obliged to help out.  The theme was Hawaiian and the Dinner & Dance event, which was held last month, was a sell out.  I did three songs, Blue Hawaii, Can't Help Falling In Love, and How Great Thou Art.

The black suit I wore for that occasion was purchased in Graceland, Memphis, on my last visit two years ago.  It was from the same tailor that Elvis had all his suits made.  This particular one was the replica of the suit he wore in a come-back concert but fashioned on a much smaller scale.
I was pleasantly surprised that my performance literally brought the house down with some of the ladies swooning and rushing to the stage with their handkerchiefs and scarfs but fortunately, nothing much more personal.  In fact, two of them insisted that I gave them a kiss too.

Wow, now I know how The King felt, receiving all those attention - albeit, mine was only on a much smaller scale though.

All in all, everything went well, and I thank the good Lord for all the beautiful things he has provided me; good health, singing ability, a great family and wonderful friends and most importantly, being Happy!

Hope we'll get to meet during my coming visit to Singapore.
Happy Tay
Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Images: Happy Tan (Copyright).

So watch it Jimmy PresLee, Happy Tay's coming round to Singapore. And it might prove Girl Happy time for the ladies on our island.

        Elvis Presley - Girl Happy - Video: SoundAndArt2010

Read Happy Tay's other articles:

Images: Happy Tay Copyright.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wild Attractiveness: Taiwan Lady Drummer A Hit

              Drummer Luo Xiao Bai: Video: koreaboo
Seen this video nearly a year ago but if you missed it, turn the speakers out loud.  This percussionist's stories is all over the internet.  She has more than three million views and about 200,000 likes on her Facebook.  So Danny Boy, John Cher, Oliver Bala and the other Silver Strings drummers who helped us during our gigs, can you beat this one? 

She has confidence and plenty of class! From the You Tube recording by koreaboo this young and pretty lady does an eyeful and entertaining street performance with the drums before her. 

Yes, she is a busker on the streets of Taiwan.  But what a busker!  According to a comment on this posting, her name is Luo Xiao Bai (羅小白) but calls herself S. White (Small White = Xiao Bai?).

She is not giving a drum display but is accompanying a song she is listening to from her ear-piece.  Watch her right hand and drumstick twirls. She's at one with the percussion, an artistic blend. Enjoy!

DkS398 says:

I'm a young drummer myself (17) and I wasn't really that impressed with her skills, like everyone else saying she's a amazing and stuff.

The title 'amazing' goes to guys like Marco Minnemann, Buddy Rich, Louie B., Chris Coleman, Royster Jr, Steve Gadd, Gene Hoglan, Mike Mangini, Mike Portnoy, Steve Adler, Bernard Purdie, John Bonham, Keith Moon and list continues. 

Those guys are amazing and great drummers. I'm not trying to be rude but from an honest, experienced drummer's point of view, she's not bad. Really she's not, but she is definitely not amazing.

min suga says:

Damn, this girl so unbelievably amazing and the thing I really, really love other than the awesome drumming, is the way she looks. I don't know if anyone else noticed but she looks so, so, so happy and is enjoying her time. I love it !

At her level, she is pretty amazing. You can't compare her to Gene Krupa can you?

Comment anyone?

Name: Luo Shiro (羅仕茹); Stage Name: Luo Xiao Bai (羅小白) S. White; DOB: 23 May; POB: Taipei, Taiwan; Zodiac Sign: Gemini; Religion: Christian; Height: 161 cm; Favourite Food: Marshmallow; Colour: Blue, White, Black; Singer: Hebe (田馥甄).

Images: Google.

Video and Personal Statistics from:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Irene Hoe Walked Into The 80's With Her Walkman

I had wanted to introduce stories about cassette tapes on this blog so when journalist *Ms Hoe sent this anecdote, I thought it could do just fine. Hope you like the song selection Irene. Thank you.

"Just the sound of James Taylor's voice carries me back to campus days.

My brother Roger had let me have his old cassette player - I think it easily weighed two kilos - and I would play over and over again a cassette of James Taylor's first album that someone had copied for me.

It wasn't till 1980 or thereabouts that I spent the princely sum of $390 (yes I was THAT music mad) to acquire what was then called the **Sony Soundabout (as marketed in the USA and a few other places) and would later be renamed the Walkman (the original Japanese name) that I bought my first "original" music cassette. It was, of course, James Taylor's first album.

I sold the Soundabout to an "air hostess" (yup, that was what we called them then) on my way home from a trip and I had enough money only to make a telephone call and ask if someone could come and give me a ride home.

I was bereft of portable music till I had earned enough money to buy another. But this time, it was called a Walkman. And I still have it somewhere, though not the original headset. The sponge tended to disintegrate rather quickly.  As someone who works in an office sometimes and takes planes every so often, headphones are a must.

The quality of some of those old cassette tapes was really good. My Walkman still holds The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett."

*Ms. Hoe was research officer in our Civil Service, leader / feature writer at New Nation, one of 7 editors who launched The New Paper and is copy editor for Digital Life.

** The original Walkman was marketed in Japan in 1979. From 1980, the Soundabout was sold in many other countries including the US, Freestyle in Sweden and the Stowaway in the UK.

Article inspired by:

James Taylor - A Big Part of my Story is Recovery from Addiction.

                      James Taylor - Carolina in My Mind - Video - Rusty Brewer

Images from Google: James Taylor. Keith Jarrett.
Video: You Tube.