Sunday, March 18, 2012

Swallows 'La Obe' Decks The Wall Of 8@Q

I didn't believe my eyes when I saw our 60's kugiran (guitar group - above) The Swallows at 8Q Singapore Arts Museum. What? i used to sing with them, and if I remember, only once or twice at the Victoria Theatre, Singapore. They were a great group, with members so co-operative they hit the headlines with their famous song.

I am so glad for them. The Swallows are finally recognised and accepted after 50 years? With lyrics of their composition on the walls of the Museum.

At first I thought Lat the Malaysian artist was dominating the walls of our museum at 8 Queen Street (according to the blurb, 88 steps away from Big SAM - right) but I realised it wasn't his drawings. As I walked up the stairs, on the 3rd floor landing was this giant image of a guitar man singing a song (4th image). 

The lyrics spelt:

Before I was a happy man
But now my heart is sad
Last night you threw me a smile
But why I do not know

I do not know
Why, why my dear
You have changed oh my love
Waiting for you my dear

I felt truly frustrated
I will climb up the mountain 
and come back down to be 
By your side

And I will always remember your face
And the way you move, the way you move...

I could not read the original words which were in Bawean or Boyanese Language (above) but inscribed below was: 'La Obe' by The Swallows. Imagine the surprise. And to have sung with the band once upon a time. Congratulations Swallows. The best pop yeah-yeah group ever! Comment anyone?

Image 1: Erwin Maisch Blog.
Image 2: Singapore Art Museum.
Image 2, 3/original article: Andy Lim Collection.

(This posting is dedicated to Erwin Maisch, Paris, France and Dr. Steven Farram, Darwin University, Australia.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,
Thanks for this one. Actually, I don't understand Boyanese either, so it is good to see a translation.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Oh, oh got the information wrong. Thanks for the correction.

I was totally surprised by the drawing and staggering size of the concept.

My question. Is it the the lyrics the Museum is emphasising or the fact that there are Singaporeans who can write such lyrics? Or is it all about Baweanese culture and the fact that we have Baweanese Singaporeans?

The emphasis cannot be on the band. The words, "The Swallows" as seen on the image are insignificantly small.

I hope someone from the Museum can explain this one.

Anonymous said...

The Swallows were well known too for Malay popular music in the 60s and have recorded EPs (vinyls) since.

Below is an article written in Malay from: Meet UncleJ (Oc.21, 2007). It explains the popularity of 'La Aube' a Swallows favourite from 1965 to '71. Sung by Kassim Selamat, it even featured on German radio and was in the top pop charts in the country. It is unique that a Boyanese song becomes internationally accepted.

“La Aube” dari band The Swallows ni memang antara lagu paling meletup di era pop yeh-yeh dulu – antara tahun 1965-1971. Dulu muzik dan fesyen di era pop yeh-yeh banyak dipengaruhi oleh band dari British seperti The Beatles dan band rock and roll yang lain. Sebenarnya, term “pop yeh-yeh” pun diambil dari baris lagu popular The Beatles, “She Loves You” (“She loves you, yeah-yeah-yeah”.)

Lagu “La Aube” dari The Swallows dengan vokalisnya Kassim Selamat telah dimainkan di radio Jerman dan telah memasuki top chart di radio sana. Hebat jugah lagu boyan nih, dulu lagi dah meneroka pasaran luar negara… kalah Mawi! Mungkin dialek boyan tu lebih kurang sama dengan bahasa Jerman kot…ekeke.

finlandiabopper said...

Dear Mr Andy Young,

I would be very interested in knowing more about the groups You played with in the 1960s.

Did You do any recordings ? I hope You could answer ! with the best regards,

DJ CARLITO: said...

Greetings Andy,

Your comments are always so insightful.. this post especially.... thank you as always for sharing such valuable information relating to this golden era in singapore music


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you DJ. Your comment is always special especially coming from an old buddy like you.

'The Swallows', one of your favourite groups, has 'La Obe' on the wall.

You came to Singapore last year was it not and met the group?

DJ Carlito said...

Wow.. this blog post is great!!! I have to visit some of Singapore's museums next time i visit (hopefully this summer) -- I wonder if my friend Erwin has seen this post yet... I will send him the link. Btw, thank you for your compliments on my blog Andy... have you seen my other blog on my research of Pop Yeh Yeh/Pop Melayu? I managed to interview Encik Kassim Selamat (Rahmat) on the last day I was in Singapore. If there is anything you see there that you might be able to shed some light on, please leave a comment! (pls start with the June 2010 posts and read from there!) thanks again for everything you do!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi DJ,
I sent Erwin Maisch the connection.

Our museums have lots to offer and you should take some time to see it when you come over.

I have read your blog on your visit since you wrote to me about it some time ago but I shall go through it again, and if I can, try to 'shed some light' as you put it.

I am not a pop sixties guru but someone who had some first hand experience.

Again, thanks for visiting.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

To finlandiabopper:

Hi Peter,
I have since written to you providing you all the answers.

Hope to hear from you.


Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,

Yup... I heard about the Swallows mural. It was done by an artist who had no clue what Boyanese and the song La Obe was all about ... and so it ended up on the wall!


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Erwin. I believe that what you mentioned is true. It's always their adage: get things done first, correct information later.

Status has been edited. You can check.

Joel: said...

Great postup sir, my dad is Gerald Dionysius(lead). Would love to have a copy of the songs. How can i go about this. Kindly advice , Sir.

The band is still performing but without John.

Gerald Dionysius would love be in touch with you.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Joel,

Thank you for the kind words. I shall contact you if you leave me your email address which I shall not post on this blog.

I doubt I can record the songs as I do not have the machine to record vinyl to CD.

Thank you for visiting.

Anonymous said...


I am so sorry to have read this blog post late. My name is Farizwan Fajari aka Speak Cryptic I am the artist responsible for the mural. The work in itself was entitled "Kakhé" and was a part of an exhibition called "The Singapore Show:Future Proof".

The work in itself was an exploration based upon my own identity as a Singaporean malay of Baweanese descent. The entire piece was about 3 floors long and it was based upon a personal narrative with a section dedicated to my own impression of Baweanese culture. The intention of the mural was to shed some light to some misconceptions that some people might have about Bawean and to serve as a platform for dialogue and discussion for other people who are interested to find out more about the culture, myself included.

"La Obe" to me has always been regarded as an anthem for the Baweanese people, especially to those of us who are living in Singapore. Initially, I had wanted to draw it in it's original context but didn't want to alienate those who are not familiar with the Baweanese language. I myself, am not able to speak the language but was able to roughly translate it to English with the help of a curator from the museum.

Below is the artist statement for the mural:

"The word Ka-khé is Baweanese for "naughty" or "stubborn". The artist remembers hearing that word very often as he was growing up and felt it was the only real link to his ancestry. Speak Cryptic's interest in his Baweanese heritage only resurfaced after a recent conversation he had with his mother where he learnt a lot about his grandfather's life.

Being heavily involved with street art in the earlier part of his career, his works often lamented the human condition in the wat they employed the repetition of certain motifs like skulls, knives and slogans that confronts and forces its viewer to think. This piece of work, featuring a variety of symbols and characters from his research, is the result of his study of Baweanese culture and in remembrance of his initial struggle with identity. The artist spent time alone for several nights, painting the four levels of stairwell within the 8Q building, turning it into a monchromatic narrative through the use of the building's architecture, drawing inspiration from ancient Roman columns that depicted military victories."

I would like to apologize if I might have represented the song in a light that might be deemed as negative to some people, but I only have the best intentions.

If you would like more information, you could get in touch via email at Also, if you would like to see more pictures of the mural, you could do so by following this link -->

Thank you!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Mr Farizwan Fajari aka Speak Cryptic for the interesting and enlightening information you provided.

I hope readers who are keen to pursue this topic will click to the connections available on the comment provided.

I have a few good friends who are Baweanese but have lost touch with one of them. He is MOYAH a childhood friend I used to visit at his home in Kampong Malaka where the present Lion City Hotel is situated. It is not far from where I used to live.

Moyah interested me in the guitar and whenever I went to his attap home he had never failed to play and sing songs with his guitar.

If you know the whereabouts of this kindly gentleman please write to me on this blog. Moyah should be in his 70s or early 80s now.

Thank you.