Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ioleen Chia: Ovation In Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia

I first met Ioleen by chance late last year (2011) when she was chatting with a friend at the Lido Cinema in Orchard Road. She was carrying an expensive Ovation (image) and when I asked about her guitar and introduced myself she remarked, "I thought you look familiar." With my grandson beside me, I requested Beautiful Sunday, his favourite. Ioleen whipped out her guitar and burst into the Daniel Boone classic. She still busks today, at the Orchard Road area.

During our conversation I was surprised when she revealed that she is the daughter of the late Mr. Chia, who used to run the Garrick Cinema at Geylang Serai in the 1950s and when young Bollywood was trying to woo the world with its music and dance fantasies.

I remember long lines of Indian, Malay and Chinese Singaporeans queueing for movie tickets at this cinema which was situated at the entrance of Onan Road. It ran for four decades, from the 1920s until 1965, when it became the more sophisticated Galaxy Cinema. When I told her I have a blog and my keen interest in documenting 60s bands she agreed to tell her story.

Here's Ioleen's experience from mid 60s to early 80s:

"I started playing the drums, which is my first love, at the age of 13. My brother who was also playing in a band inspired me. He taught me my first tempo which was the twist. After he left the group I took over the drums and with 4 other members called our new line-up D'Aces. We did a lot of singalongs, current pop songs and even played jazz numbers.

Eventually we did gigs at the Royal Air Force Singapore during the weekends and this contract lasted for a couple of years. We also appeared on local television, at tea dances at the Golden Venus and played with the Trailers during their stint at the club. Other nightspots that we performed at included the Barbarella Disco at Ming Court, Talk of the Town at High Street and even at the Garrick Cinema.
            Ioleen Chia with her band Oldies But Goodies before performance.

I played with the Valiants too (a Singapore group and not the one from Malaysia). Because of my studies I left the group. We disbanded and could not take up an offer to play in Europe.

After completing my studies, I went solo doing the circuit and accompanied myself on the guitar. I was contracted to play at the Imperial, Cockpit and Equatorial hotels. There was a period when I was singing duet with Simon Koh who played the keyboard. l learnt a lot from Simon.

I performed in Japanese cities like Nagoya, Fukuoka, Kumomoto and on Kyushu Island. After Japan I entertained the folks in Taiwan for a couple of years and also had stints in Malaysian nightclubs and engagements in Kuching.

In later years I performed at the Marco Polo Theatre and the Golden Million Lounge at Peninsula Hotel. Those were memorable years. By the end of the 70s, bands playing western music weren't much of a draw at the pop clubs, hotels and entertainment establishments were hiring Filipino groups rather than local musicians. They were inexpensive to engage. By then Chinese music was getting more popular too.

I had stopped playing music for many years but since I was missing all the fun I decided to come back on the scene and started busking about 2 years ago. It is less wearisome and stressful and I have more time for myself. As a music maker I am an all rounder and it isn't difficult to please the passing crowd with my repertoire of songs. I try to play all types of music."

When I left Ioleen that day with my grandson beside me she was singing and strumming a jazzy version of Charles Chaplin's evergreen, Smile as we said our goodbyes. Thanks Ioleen, for the memories.

Please support Ioleen and all our local buskers always.

Images 1: Along Orchard Road. 2: Oldies But Goodies outside a hotel. 
Andy Lim Collection (Copyrights Reserved).


Anonymous said...

Your latest post is very interesting.

However, the name Ioleen doesn't ring a bell but the bands D'Aces and Valiants do.

I just might make a trip to the Orchard underpass to hear her sing.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi JC,

Thanks for reply. Yes, do visit Ioleen. She sings well, feels her songs and gives all she can.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Boone (also known as Peter Lee Stirling, born Peter Charles Green, 31 July 1942, Birmingham, England) is an English pop musician who became a one-hit wonder in the U.S. with the single "Beautiful Sunday" in 1972.

The song was written by Boone and Rod McQueen and racked up millions in singles sales worldwide. It peaked at No. 15 on The Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the summer of 1972, having already reached No. 21 on the UK Singles Chart earlier that same year.

In 1972, Boone was the recipient of the "Most Likeable Singer" award from Rolling Stone magazine.

From: Wikipedia

Anonymous said...

"Smile" is a song based on an instrumental theme used in the soundtrack for the 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times.

Chaplin composed the music, while John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics and title in 1954

In the lyrics, the singer is telling the listener to cheer up and that there is always a bright tomorrow, just as long as they smile.

"Smile" has become a popular standard since its original use in Chaplin's film.

From: Wikipedia.

Definitely more than 60 singers and instrumentalists have covered this song.

Joe Peters said...

Dear Andy,

This is a great page.

You are cordially invited to this performance (with your colleagues whom you nominate) by the NUS Rondalla on Tuesday 28 February at 8pm at the University Cultural Centre THEATRE, Kent Ridge Campus. This show is presented under the Exxon Mobil Campus Concerts by the Centre for the Arts.

The rondalla is a tremolo music group made up of rare musical instruments from Spain, Philippines. Italy and more. This is the only performing group in Singapore. It may be of interest to your readers at your blogk.

NUS Rondalla marks their 30th year with a special highlight with a multimedia presentation “The C-10 English Pantun Show” which tells of how the pioneering students of the band, together with their well loved band director, Mr. Gerry Soliano, made an old chemical storage room (Room C-10) into the first dedicated space for music in the Bukit Timah campus. The combined forces of the C10 Alumni, Gunong Sayang Association and the NUS Rondalla will stage this.

The English Pantun is a work-in-progress in a bid to make the art of Malay “patois” pantun more accessible.

If you can attend then let me know how many tickets you need and I will have them for you at the reception desk on the concert day. There is no ticket charge.

Bye for now


READ more on Fiesta Rondalla 2012 and the English Pantun:

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Joe. Sounds like a treat so if you are keen just get connected.

Fiesta Rondalla 2012 said...

Click the connection above.

James Seah said...

Hi Andy,
Thanks for your latest blog about Loleen and fellow senior citizen
musicians and singers in the 60s band.

Everyone to support our elder buskers and our friends.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Andy,

How's your 2012 so far? It is so nice of you to advocate the support for the buskers.

Catch up soon.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you both for your comments and reply.

Buskers are musicians who need support from the general public for the entertainment they provide for passers-by.

Do help them.

Ryhan Mohd Yazid said...

Hi Andy,

I'm not sure if you do interviews but I'm going to try my luck anyway.

I'm currently working for a production house and we are producing a documentary for Okto. The documentary will discuss the way Singapore was in the 60s as compared to know.

I chanced upon your blog while I was searching for information about Golden Million.

Do you think you could perhaps let me know if you're interested to just meet to talk about the music scene in Singapore back then?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope to hear from you soon.

With best regards,

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

please leave an email address so I can write to you and leave particulars.

Joey Chong said...

Ioleen has been providing passer-bys along Orchard underpass from Wisma towards Shaw Centre/Lido Cinema for coming to 2 years now. I work at Shaw House, and that's how I got to know her. Whenever I have a stressful work day, I will take a stroll to the underpass and try catch her playing...such soothing voice she has. I suppose with her great repertoire of oldies music, which I could relate well, the beautiful tunes always 'take my troubles away'. Sing on, Ioleen!!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Joey for your comment about Ioleen. Yes she has a pleasant voice and a good fan base around the Orchard Road area. If only more people would write in and give our buskers and musicians a pat on the back...

Thanks also for visiting this blog.