Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dr. Goh Keng Swee: 1918 - 2010. The Complete Man And His Love For Music - 91 Years Young

Dr. Goh Keng Swee passed away on Friday, 14th May, 2010:

"'With very innovative ideas. I mean, could you imagine a Scottish Bagpipe Band in Singapore - with all Singapore girls?' President SR Nathan (Chapter 9, page: 171)." When so much has been written about him, how does one pay tribute to one of the main pillars of modern Singapore? And how does one pay tribute to a great man on an insignificant Singapore 60s music blog? I shall try.

Dr. Goh Keng Swee has passed on at 91 years young. When I was reading the book about him (image) by daughter-in-law Tan Siok Sun, I found insights on his love for both popular and classical music. Chapters 2 and 9 are entitled: 'Love in a Time of War' (halcyon days) and 'The Complete Man' (let music be the food of love).
Ballroom Dancing.
"When he was not in school attending lectures and tutorials, or writing essays, he was out attending social functions or visiting the cinema with his male and female friends. He even took an interest in ballroom dancing, spending quite a bit of time patronising the dance halls at the New World and Great World cabarets with his favourite partners. Still GKS (Dr. Goh) was not as light of foot on the dance floor... (page: 35)." I am certain he enjoyed 40, 50s and 60s dance music and the big band sound because that's what they played at these cabarets.

Dr. Goh grew up in a musical environment and as his elder sister Ida Goh (my former school principal) played the piano, he had tried to play the accordion. "Though he enjoyed popular music of his time, his interest in classical music endured throughout his life... (page: 178)." And when he travelled on official business to cities renowned for their great orchestras, Dr. Goh would "invariably ask to attend a concert" as he, "enjoyed these diverting interludes very much. (page: 178)."
2. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra makes its debut performance in January 1979.
In fact, Dr. Goh encouraged the establishment of a small symphony orchestra, "not merely to entertain converted music lovers but to educate Singaporeans in good musical taste..." a special effort to be "directed towards more promising materials such as school children... ( page: 179)." And as Dr. Goh envisaged, The Singapore Symphonia Orchestra Company was formed in 1978 and its first concert was on January 24th, 1979 at the Singapore Conference Hall (image 2).

There was also the Music and Drama Company which he initiated at the Singapore Armed Forces and the setting up of a theatre for Cantonese Opera at his Kreta Ayer constituency in 1969 (page: 177). They were blueprints in his mind but he made them a reality. And, as he said himself, he wasn't a dreamer but a visionary.

Well, I stayed on the music theme and had quotes about a fabulous founding father. I try... Comments?

3. Dr. Goh with Singapore's first PM Lee Kuan Yew and Mrs. Lee.
 Images: 1. Book cover from

Extracts from: "Goh Keng Swee - A Portrait" by Tan Siok Sun. Editions Didier Millet/SNP Security Printing Pte Ltd (2007). This quotations from this posting is only a fraction of the book about the brilliant architect of Singapore's economy. One truly honourable man.

Original article: Andy Lim.


Anonymous said...

I cant imagine what Spore would be like if Dr Goh were to remain and serve in his country of birth Malaya ( later Malaysia ). All Singaporeans truly owe him a lot for the immense contribution he made to the creation of what Spore is today.That he liked music and enjoyed dancing showed he was a cultured person. May he rest in peace. ....Herman Lim

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Herman for your insightful comment. You share the same thoughts and ideas of a close friend of mine, a secondary school principal, that I have known for many years.

Singaporeans will remember him as the "complete man", definitely.

Anonymous said...

Dr Goh was a simple man with an exceptionally brilliant mind. And for nourishment of the soul, music was the answer.
Thank you Dr Goh, but never goodbye because you are with us always.
From one who benefitted much from his policies.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

As wise as he was kind.