Monday, April 26, 2010

Frankie Cheah - To Sir, With Perfect Diction


When I heard Frankie Cheah, a Malaysian Chinese, singing *Woman In My Life for the first time, I didn't believe he is Asian. He has perfect diction that is practically non-existent amongst singers in this region, with a strong and clean voice to match, one that suits the ballads he sings. His interpretation of this lovely song has an appeal that is still fresh today. It will definitely be a big hit if released again and is one of the very few songs by a local singer that I appreciate.

Frankie Cheah was a mathematics teacher from across the causeway at Segamat, Johore Bahru, Malaysia and recorded with giant EMI. His other big hit, Cheryl Moana Marie, also won accolades and Cheah is as much a household name in Singapore as he is in Malaysia and the region. During pop concerts in Singapore, Cheah's performance usually draws a full house at the National Theatre (Tank Road), the Early Bird and Musical Express gigs at cinema halls in Singapore.

In the early 70s, besides recording in EP and LP format in English (produced by Reggie Verghese of The Quests), he has also recorded some Malay songs. His English selection includes popular ballads like Chotto Matte Kudasai, It's Impossible, You've Got A Friend, Lovers, Help Me Make It Through The Night and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.

The above image shows a bootleg EP which has My Name Is The Wind, Love Story, Song Of A Sad Man and Why. Because his records sold well, as they were all number one in the Malaysian Top 20 in the early 70s, the Pirates took advantage as usual.

Even with his Malay album, Cheah sings with feeling and conviction keeping to the difficult rhythm of the Malay 'asli' beat. The selection includes one very popular EP with Amalan Suci (ReggieVerghese/Ismail Haron). The other three songs are Putera Putri (Jimmy Boyle/Dol Baharin), Putus Sudah Kasih Sayang (P. Ramlee) and Syurga Pura Pura (Ismail Haron).

Cheah has since retired but his achievement in the pop music field did not go unnoticed as he was recognised by the Malaysian music industry and awarded the Anugerah Sri Wiramar (2004). He was at EMI (UK) in 1977, headhunted by Warner Music, Malaysia and managed it a year later. When he left, he started Pacific Music which was bought by BMG Malaysia/Singapore where he rose to Chairperson.

*Has been recorded by Bobby Vee, Engelbert Humperdinck, Dutch group called, Left Side.

Information: YouTube/keithyoong.

Image/Article: Andy Lim Collection.


Anonymous said...

Nat King Cole has perfect diction.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes I must agree. He reads Phonetic symbols too and is able to read foreign words correctly.