Thursday, March 03, 2016

In Remembrance Of James Choa On His Birthday

John Cher remembers James Choa who had passed away on the 27th of March, 2011.  As usual, the gentle heart that he is, John contributes yet another story for this blog. My thanks again for his generous contribution. 

Each month means different things to different people.  For me, the month of March will always be about the birth of my eldest son. I am so grateful to God that he is enjoying his career in a local bank and enjoying his family life even more!

The Ides of March or the 15th March will forever mean the day Julius Caesar was assassinated, by some of his most trusted friends too!  Then last year, 15th March, my youngest grandchild arrived. She will be one year old in a few days!

On  March 3rd,  for many years, I spent time with my buddy, James Choa (image: in red).  I would call him to wish him, "Happy Birthday" and he in his cheerful and amicable ways will thank me for remembering.  

One of his very favourite lunch places was a coffee shop right at the end of Sembawang Road (image: end of article).  The place has a very Malaysian "feel" to it. James loved the Malay *nasi padang there and would always order more than enough when we were there.  After a hearty meal, we would then swing back to his home to do a few songs on his keyboard.  On hindsight, sometimes we may have annoyed his wife by doing one song too many! My sincere apologies Mrs Choa!

James was a member of a few notable bands; The Gaylads, The Flamingos and for a while with The Mysterians as well.  In the 1990s, we were together in a band called The Swinging Js, backing former SBC singer, Peter Chua.    

About this time, we were also involved with The Lions Club, Changi. Our dear friend Sally Chia (previously with SBC), Veronica Young, Lawrence Lee, Tony Kwek, James Choa, Peter Chua, Victor Lum and Joe Woon were also members of the Club's band. 

We did quite a few charity gigs together and we were all proud to have in small ways contributed towards the Club. Talking about the Club, it's inevitable that we remember our good friends and our bosses at The Club, Charlie and Dora Chan.

In 2006, James was given the Passion for Life Award. The awards were organized by Baxter Healthcare. James was unwell in 2001 and not in good health for more than a year. .  

After a hiatus of more than one year, the self taught pianist returned to the House of Peranakan Cuisine in Meritus Negara Hotel to sing and to play the piano. In his own words " I like to keep myself occupied, and I like meeting and talking to new people.  The important thing is your attitude in life". 

James had a large following at Hotel Negara and his regulars included High Court judges and ministers. One night when I was with him, #Mrs Goh Chok Tong was there with some friends. She requested for Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, a Country and Western classic.

On another occasion, the brother of President George Bush was in town and he was taken there for dinner as well.  It's not unfair to say that the visit caused quite a bit of security inconvenience to the other diners and hotel guests!

Today is again March 3rd and what I would give to trade for the chance to have nasi padang and to sing a few songs with James!  James loved music, whether playing, singing or just listening to others perform and nothing made him happier than to play music.  He told me many times that if not for his passion he would have died "a long time ago".

There are still so many more songs to be sung brother James!  Thanks for your years of friendship.  Thanks for all the fun we had together!  I know that you are still with all your friends in spirit.  And no, I did not forget. Happy Birthday James!

Until we meet again, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.  Today, and always!

Read more about James Choa. Click connection:



*Nasi Padang = Rice eaten with Malay dishes like Satay, Curry Chicken, Rendang Beef, Chilly Squid and Prawns, Fried Fish, Vegetables with Coconut Milk, Potato Patties, Malay Salad or Gado Gado, etc.

#Wife of the previous PM of Singapore, after Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

An Original Article by John Cher (above, on drums). 
You Tube Video: Have I Told You Lately That I Love You by paolo1.
Images: A Private Collection; Google.  Copyrights Reserved.

This article does not promote any food product or shop.



Hi Andy,

Thanks again.

I had fun writing the Trekkers Story for your blog. I look forward to reading the story on James Choa. He was also a Katong boy and lived only a few streets from me. Did I ever mentioned to you that he taught me my first chords on the guitar ? I think it was a Kingston Trio song like Tom Dooley. I was about 12 years old than and was very much impressed by his singing group with Charlie called the Gaylads.

With my connection with James together with Susan Lim singing at 12 in our jam sessions, you can now see what was one of the favorite past times of the Katong kids in the 60s. Do you think that may have something to do with the sea breeze we had in Marine Parade. JK !

Henry of the Trekkers

Anonymous said...

Hello Andy,

Many thanks to John Cher for the article. As members of the Lions Club, we certainly enjoyed our light moments with James Choa, a jolly good fella. He was humble, soft spoken and a true gentleman.

James must be singing his favourite songs in heaven.

Fabian Foo


Hi Andy

Thanks for the posting.

After reading John's write-up, I remember him as a quiet and humble person. Anyway, I met him only once playing a gig together with John, Joseph and Serene and if I am not wrong, it was a Christmas Party at Goodwood Hotel. He was playing the keyboard and the group lead singer with Serene.

Sad to know that he was long gone. Hope he is still singing up there somewhere.

Unknown said...

Hi Rickie. Yes I remember the gig too! However I believe it was at the Singapore Island Country Club instead of Goodwood Hotel. Cheers!


Yes super gentleman with an open heart full of giving and we have fond precious memories of him plus I've lots of photos of James.

I used to call him at least once a week and always sing with him whenever in SG and his favourite is NO REGRETS but I sing in French. We had so much fun during our Lion club time. James went with me to check on a piano and today this piano is in my house.

Eddie Foo (from FB) said...

Even I have shared a song with him!


I met him when our Nativity Music Ministry and The Lions club, Changi, joined forces to perform at a charity gala at The Meridian in either 1990 or 1991. There I also met Sally Chia, Veronica Young, Lawrence Lee, Tony Kwek and JOe Woon.


The article that John Cher wrote on James is incredibly touching. I knew only the young James and the article reminded me alot about him.

Take care Andy and keep on trekking on your blog.

Unknown said...

Richard Ho (The SAW-MAN), Finalist RTS TALENTIME 1968 held at the National Theater;

After reading this article, although I do not know him personally, James has certainly
inspire me. He has done a lot to the local music scene with his talent. Thank you James!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you all for comments.

James is just as popular today as he was when he was still around. The TOP TEN MOST POPULAR READ went to his posting, attracting dozens of readers within two hours.

I wish to thank John Cher for contributing regularly on this blog. I think, without him I would have to spend more time posting stories. John has the proper connections with many 60's band friends and because of his flair for the English language and his ability to write so clearly and sincerely, I am grateful that he has now become an integral part of this blog. Always helpful, always insightful. That's John.

I wish more readers, like John, would write in and tell us their stories.



Just after we were in contact, I sent you the idea of 'International No Screen Day - 9th March, 2016' and you seemed enthusiastic about publishing it on your blog.

As it's now only 8 days away, I hope that you may still be interested in my little project. In the meantime, I have joined twitter and Fb in an attempt to circulate my special day but cannot make head or tail over how to use them. The next idea was to write a blog so that I could send everyone a link that would say it all clearly, and here it is.

Anonymous said...

Readers can view the movement on RIGHT BAR MAIN PAGE of this blog.

JIMMY TAN said...

I first met James when a friend brought him to our open mic jam at izzibar@ngee ann. He was an instant hit with the patrons and the band We were a "gazak" hobby band playing for free beer so we were thrilled when James asked if he could join us every Tuesday.

We had fun every Tuesday until his passing. Like John I had the pleasure of jamming at his flat and lunch at the Nasi Padang stall. He raved about the food as much as he did about music; his music as well as music performed by others. Our lives and music are enriched by a kind and gentle man.

GKF said...

Hello Andy

Is this blog still active, I'm the drummer from The FAiITH band that played at the pub and I have a lot of info to share.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The letter above is from the posting on 27th July, 2013:

"Barry Walker Says Local 60s Bands Of Exceptional Standard Part Two"

Yes this blog is active all the time from Day One. Please write to me again and if you wish to contribute stories. I'd be grateful. Leave me your email address but I shall not publish it.

Thank you gkf. I hope to hear from you.

[I have published this note on my first page story about James Choa (3rd March, 2016) to prove that this blog is very very active.]

Thank you for your visit and interest.

Unknown said...

Peter Chua (appeared on RTS Talentime in 1976, 1978 and 1980. Full time singer with SBC for about ten years from 1980); James was a father figure to me. He was also one of my favourite singers. I used to enjoy listening to him singing the jazz standards. Had the opportunity to work with him for a few years, both commercially and for charity gigs. Rest in peace brother James!

Unknown said...

Dear John,

I came across your post while I was searching for videos or write ups of my late aunt Sally Chia. I remember Uncle James from when I was very young, around the age of 5 or 6 when he used to sing with my aunt. I'm sorry to read of his passing but so Glad to know that he impacted so many greatly.

Gold bless,

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you, Felicia, for your note. I'm sure James heard you in heaven. Just like all of these friends and readers who have written on this posting will remember his kind and lovable ways.

Please visit this blog again.

JOHN CHER said...

Comment transferred from another posting:

James was a great friend. His birthday was on 3rd March. Each year I would call him and have some makan together.

He passed away on 27th MARCH and we had a wedding gig on that day (It was a Sunday).

I called him on his mobile but he did not reply. I found out later that he had died after his last gig at the Peranakan Restaurant.

Rest in peace brother James.
John Cher

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The reply I gave to John Cher's message above:

Thank you, John, for the comment about James Choa. He was truly a great friend and musician, so dedicated to his art that he played on his keyboard whenever he could. We will never forget James.

If you could, please provide me with your email address by writing again on this Comment page. I shall not publish your letter.