Monday, June 20, 2011

First 1910 Pop Band In Singapore @ Raffles Hotel?

During a recent relaxing cruise around the region I stumbled upon another coffee-table book in the ship's library. It was a large collection of Singapore 500 Early Postcards. What attracted me to this book (Cover: image 1) were the never-before-seen pictures of very old Singapore.

I feasted my hungry eyes on scenes of opium smokers in the 1930s languishing in their own private lounges, rice-cake hawkers under shady trees selling their ware to labourers, rickshaws beside vintage cars on the streets of Orchard Road and the Victoria Memorial Hall in its orginal, colonial splendour. 500 of the best snaps!

*Private collector and author of the book, deltiologist Professor Cheah Jin Seng donated his local postcards to the Singapore Philatelic Museum in 2007. He estimated that between the late 1890 and 1940, two hundred thousand postcards were published. Another researcher Chris Mortimer estimated that half a million postcards were sent from the Straits Settlement during the postcard boom around the 1900.

Again, what has all this to do with music? As I flip through the pages of time, what interested me most was one picture, a photograph of 'the first ballroom in the East' at the Raffles Hotel (image 2) dated 1910. Imagine a big band playing in Singapore exactly 100 years ago? I have enlarged the image and highlighted the band (image 3) performing on the raised platform in front of the ballroom. The 10 musicians can be clearly seen with the grand piano, guitar, drumset , double bass and other instruments (?).

What music could the band have been playing then as the couples, possibly only caucasians, ballroomed their way across the polished wooden floor? What dance steps were popular so early in the 20th Century? Is the date correct? 1910?

Anyone familiar with this period of popular music, both Western and Eastern? A check with Wikipedia revealed songs that I have never heard of. They include, Ma Blushin' Rosie, Strike Up The Band, Tell Me Pretty Maiden, Violets and many more.

I am interested in this period of music in Singapore. If you can contribute some, please write in.

Original article: Andy Lim.
Images 1,2: Singapore 500 Early Postcards: Cheah Jin Seng 296 pages. Published 2006. lst edition. ISBN: 9789814155984.

Image 3: for clarity, is my own enlargement of image 2.


Anonymous said...

Sent by email on 12.5.2011

Hi Andy,

My name is Joseph and I am an independent producer currently doing research for a documentary about Singapore music in the 1960s particularly the years before independence.

I came across your website in the process and very much enjoyed your writings and insightful observations on the scene then.

I wonder if it's possible for us to arrange to have a short interview with you to find out more?

Many thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you :-)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Reply on 15.5.2011

Hi Joseph,

Would you like to send me your questions about 60s music before we meet? It would be easier for me so we could discuss along these lines.

I must tell you that I can meet you from about 11.30 to 2pm in the afternoons.

Anonymous said...

Reply: 23.5.2011

Dear Andy,

Hope you have been well :-) I have listed out a few questions below and hope you may be able to help me out with them. (9 questions were forwarded.)

As per our chat before, we're attempting to form a bigger picture of music during the 60s through the personal recollections of individuals like you who have experienced it first-hand.

For this, we'll be most grateful if you can lend us a hand :-)

Many thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you! If you have any questions for me, feel free to drop me a line or give me a ring any time!


Anonymous said...

After the meet. Response on 29.5.2011:

Dear Andy,

Sincere thanks for taking time out to meet with me. It was a great honor and a great pleasure.

Your astute observations has armed us with significant insights and a much sharper and fuller picture of the 1960s and its music than when we first set out on this task.

Many thanks again for sharing your stories with us. It was delightful to be able to listen to you and I hope you will offer us another opportunity soon :-)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

(I have produced the following letters above with J's permission.)

I have met readers on the condition that the interviews are for research purposes only and not for commercial gains.

I must also emphasise that I am no expert on this subject. I am still learning... as I have learnt from the people I meet.

Thank you.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Also thanking Ronnie See from The Burns, who took the trouble to answer a similar set of questions I sent.

Mr. See was a participant for many years and witnessed the Singapore 60s music scene from a vantage point.

Anonymous said...

28th Jun 2011. 'Singapore’s earliest band?'
Posted by 'noelbynature' under Lifestyle (0) Comment • (397) Reads • Permalink

Andy is looking for information for this band, last seen playing at the Raffles Hotel in 1910. Yes - that’s 101 years ago. Where was this image from?