Saturday, April 29, 2017

Tropicana The Musical Connected Friends

No need to review production. The people on duty already drew the crowd: Beatrice Chia (director), Lim Yu Beng, Karen Tan, writer Haresh Sharma, etc, etc.
With a great cast like that and the reverberations of new compositions and lyrics about the 60's, it's already a big success.
 My post is just about how one lady, with her magic, SMSed us and...

Friends connected during the performances of Tropicana The Musical at the Capitol Cinema. It all started with actress  and producer of the show, Kheng Hua inviting a few music people and some who lived those years, for a sit-in at the commencement of the production as everyone discussed 60's music and nightclubs.

Then surprise, surprise, she invited us to the show.

Pictures on the night of 15th April, 2017.
With 2017 award winning actress, Tan Kheng Hua and George Chew (The Burns lead guitarist) before Tropicana the Musical performance at the Capitol Theatre.

With George Chew, Larry Lai, Rediffusion DJ and wife Selina, and the maestro himself, musician drummer, singer, Louis Soliano during the buffet dinner.

With Kheng Hua, Anthony AhKim, international hairstylist, Ms Ann King, a former Miss Singapore 80's, at Corpthone King Hotel.
This gathering was a tea-break for new friends way before the performances at the Capitol.

And with Vernon Cornelius, frontman of The Quests, who still looks as youthful.

The show itself, was a totally Singapore experience, and one of the best local musicals I've seen these last two years.
Thanks to Kheng Hua for the invitation.
The night ended with George Chew and I rushing to the Conrad Hotel, Singapore to watch 60's band, The Silver Strings perform their last 5 or 6 songs. Pix is a side view.

Images: A Personal Collection.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tribute to 60's Country Music Legends: Henri Gann

Here's Henri Gann again, writing from California USA, as he remembers the country classics. According to him many of these great C/W singers are now gone.  He names each singer and song as he goes along.

Thank you Henri.

My Tribute to the Country Music Legends of the 60's

Singapore music in the 60's had its share of American Country Music as many of its hits also made it to the Pop Charts. The recent news on television about
Glen Campbell's wife reveals singer can no longer play guitar (March 20, 2017)
makes me pause to think of the Country Music Stars of yesteryear. And in doing so I found many of the country greats are no longer here with us. 

Whenever I hear about Glenn Campbell, I instantly hear the fine guitar rhythm of his song, "Gentle On My Mind" and his singing of "Rhinestone Cowboy", "Wichita Lineman" and " Galveston". Believe it or not, these were songs popularly requested in the 60s. 

In those days, Rediffusion and Radio Singapore were our primary source of music entertainment and teens either called or wrote in to the station to request songs they wanted to hear. There were hits like "Fraulein" by the late Bobby Helmes  ( 1997 ), "Gone" by the late Ferlin Husky ( 2011 ), "King of the Road" by the late Roger Miller ( 1992 ) and "A White Sport Coat and A Pink Carnation", " Don't Worry About Me" and "El Paso" by the late Marty Robbins ( 1982 ) ; and they all made  it to the weekly charts. 

In later years, it was the late Johnny Horton ( 1960 ) who made it to the most requested list of songs with his "North to Alaska", " The Battle of New Orleans" and " Sink the Bismark."

The other country songs I remember were mostly those from my brother's vast record collection. These were hits of Eddy Arnold ( 2008 ) " Welcome to My World" ; from the late Jim Reeves ( 1964 )  "He'll Have to Go" and the late Don Gibson's ( 2003 ) " Lonesome Me " and "Sea of Heartbreak"; and the late Tammy Wynette ( 1998 ) " Stand By Your Man"; Charley Pride " Kiss An Angel Good Morning " and the late Jack Greene's ( 2013 ).

Then: "There Goes My Everything"; from Leroy Van Dyke "Walk On By"  and by Bill Andersen "Still "; and the late Johnny Cash ( 2003 ) "Ring of Fire " and  Freddie Fender ( 2096 ), "Before The Next Teardrop Falls"; and, the late Skeeter Davis ( 2004 ) "The End of the World " and by Willie Nelson " Always On My Mind"; and finally the late Patsy Cline ( 1963 ) "I Fall to Pieces " and the King of all Country Stars the late George Jones ( 2013 ) " He Stopped Loving Her Today."

When I left Singapore for America, the country pieces that helped me adjust to life away from home were " Abilene" by the late George Hamilton IV ( 2014 ), "500 Miles Away from Home " and  "Detroit City" by Bobby Bare. The lyrics of "Detroit City" really hit home for me when I was homesick. 

Upon my first return to Singapore in 1980 which was about fifteen years after I had left home, my brother took us (the Trekkers) to Shangrila Hotel where Matthew and the Mandarins were performing. They played an impressive version of Johnny Horton's "North to Alaska" and Del Shannon's "Runaway" which brought back many fond memories of Singapore in the 60's.

Here's my Spotify list of the Country Music of Yesteryears that I like to share with you and my new discovery of Freddie Fender singing " Matilda" , a song the Trekkers played at the Town Convent Girls' School now known as CHIJMES. 
Publication and Images: Henri Gann.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rufino Soliano: Farewell To A Singapore Music Icon

This particular posting has drawn 2,400+ viewers since 23 April, 2017. It is a record breaking one, not achievable since this blog started in November 2008.  Dated today: 30.04.2017.

Condolences To His Family:

This great music man passed away this morning, according to his nephew James R. Keasberry who made the announcement on my Facebook post:

"It is with sadness to say that Rufino Soliano passed away peacefully early this morning."
"Rufino Soliano (10 January 1932 - 23 April, 2017 Singapore) was an accomplished musician, composer and conductor. He was the former head of the now-defunct Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) Orchestra.

Soliano had been active in the local music scene as a violinist, drummer and percussionist from a young age. Subsequently, he took on music arrangement, composing and conducting. In 2013, at the age of 81, Soliano released his debut album of 12 original songs. Stephanie Ho NLB, Singapore Infopedia."

"I teach them how to feel the music, how to be passionate about music. You can learn all the music theories in the world, but it's not enough if you play without love and passion - Rufino Soliano, Lifestyle STP."
Hands: Gift of a Generation -- Mr Rufino Soliano. Video from: irememberSG. Thank you.

In the 70's and 80's big names performed in Singapore. These included Shirley Bassey, Matt Monroe, Johnny Ray, Buddy Rich, Louis Armstrong and Sammy Davis Jr. Mr Soliano was very active then and learnt much from the experience when he accompanied these super stars.

"This posting has been set up in respect of a well-known and well-loved musician, who was always in the background. He was on drums but he was an establishment in himself and I will always envision him as such. 

His name reminds me of the big RTS band that I used to watch when television was in its infancy in Singapore and when it was such a joy to see Mr Soliano performing on the small black and white screen. He was part of this team that thrilled and entertained audiences who lived in the 60's.

You deserve that big holiday in heaven, Rufino. May you rest in peace - 
Andy Lim."
Images: Google and Lifestyle - Straits Times Press, Singapore.
Video: You Tube irememberSG.

If there are copyrights issues, write to me and I shall delete this posting. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

La Paloma: Doves Nest In Singapore Home

The dove with twigs between its beak, eyeing me suspiciously during photography.

It's April; springtime is here as birds start to nest. In Singapore it's no exception as a pair of lovely zebra doves (Malay: burung tekukor) has found a nesting place for their Easter eggs. It's a cosy little niche between our home balcony wall and a huge air-conditioner.

The lovely paloma (Spanish: dove) couple started their home building the week before Palm Sunday on 9 April as we were listening to Donald Trump on TV, after his successful meet with China's President Xi. 

We could hear the bird calls at the balcony with one dove picking twigs and flitting, possibly looking for water and fluttering up to the air-conditioner to help the mate build the nest.
The doves were starting to build their nest when we frightened them away for a few days.

When I started using my mobile phone video and camera to take shots, they seemed displeased, left their nest dangling and incomplete. They never returned.

We had forgotten about the whole incident,  On the morning of Easter Sun, when we heard the calls again we were glad to see the nest much bigger with more twigs and dry grass. Huge relief.  Today (19/4/17) one of the birds sits perched on its nest, waiting to lay her eggs.

The pair keeps busy during nesting and we love to hear the vocalization as they go: Kroo-kook-koo. Kroo-kook-koo. The sound is music to my ears.
The children waited patiently, watching the dove in its nest. They were told not to make a sound.

The birds were also keeping two children busy as they loved the presence of the doves. The kids peered through the curtains because the nest was about four feet away from where they stood (image). Our family either took turns to observe the doves nesting or we would crowd at the entrance. But we made sure that we spoke quietly and in hushed tones. 

"Or," as I told them, "the birds will just fly away..."  

I hope to be able to document what happens next.

We've had wild things coming to our balcony. Blessings indeed.

Check out these connections below and read about the monkey, the hornbill and Josh's elephant:
The nest in its final stage of becoming a cosy nursery for the doves. Meanwhile strong winds blew.

This Spanish song La Paloma, a favourite for thousands of Singapore seniors, has been in existence for more than 140 years and written around the 1850's. Easily recognizable and like many in its genre has a tune with a flamenco beat, popular in Spain but later exported to Mexico and to English speaking countries. 

There are about 1,000+ versions of this song and it is one of the most recorded in the history of music. Elvis Presley and Dean Martin sang the English version as, No More

Connie Francis, Nana Mouskouri, Julio Iglesias, Engelbert Humperdinck, Placido Domingo and big bands like Harry James, James Last, Ray Coniff, Acker Bilk, etc. had recorded it in the 1950's and 60's. 
Julio Iglesias - La Paloma is one of the most popular versions available. The English version is 'No More' by Elvis Presley.

Images: A Private Collection using iPhone 6+
Video: You Tube.

Blog Comments Highlighted

8,035 Comments Since November 2008:

Hi Andy,

Thank you for sharing. I had enjoyed it. I like your blog which is purposeful, unlike social media which is too crowded. I like that your blog is becoming a digital space.

Clinton Carnegie:
I've been following your blog for a long time. What a great body of work. Keep up on your wonderful site.

Joe Peters: 
Great blog.

Dawn Tan: 
A great chance meeting Andy Young, while filming for Money Mind CNA.

Mr X:
I'm not a huge fan but Gaga's half-time show 51 was the best in history.

Christopher Toh:
Hope you had a good day spent in Rooster year.

Irene Hoe:
Keep 'em coming.

Chris Ho: 
Interesting blog.

Also notice the large number of followers.

Dr. Lee Yan San:
Glad to know that you are still very active and doing such an excellent job.

Tan Soo Khoon: 
Good article by Michael. Captures the early days succinctly.😊

Larry Lai:
Nice post, Andy.
Clareese X:
I'm a research intern with NU Baba House... came across your blog... arrange an interview with you?

Laurence Lim: 
Just finished reading your blog. Well done. If only it were commercially done. Jack Ma might make you an offer.

Thank you for the great song. Rita sang beautifully.

S. Leng:
Just my kind of music. Saw those old photos once in the papers. Did wonder if Andy Lim is you.

Tan Soo Khoon: 
Good article by Michael. Captures the early days succinctly.😊

Henri Gann: 
I consider your blog as part of my morning read.

Faris K: 
Sir, I am currently a student in NUS. I hope you will be able to assist me.

Marsha Wright: 
Great to meet you Andy, Singapore Music.

Adrian Wang: 
Do you have the Nestle Milk Jingle in English.

Fred Ching:
Thanks brother. These are some of my favourite Malay songs which I idolise during by teenage years.

Ooi Chong Hock:
Thanks for your very informative story of Feng Fei Fei.

Yen Chow: 
Thank you for sharing. Didn't know about bubble-gum music.
Rimi Basu: 
Nice post. Thank you for sharing.

John Cher: 
Michael Bangar is one of the best for history of local bands and musicians.

Patrick Chan: 
Thanks for your post.

The above are only a few of the comments published. Thank you.

Images: Google.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Golden Venus True Story A Parallel Universe Horace Wee

 Horace Wee contributes to this blog and I must thank him for his insights on the various aspects of local music. 

He doesn't profess to be a guru but with the amount of encyclopedic knowledge he has of the subject, Singaporeans can be proud that we have, at last, a genuine shifu (师傅) who was on the professional scene for years. 

No fake stories here as he rights some of the wrongs in this short article about Golden Venus and the Singapore jazz scene.

Again, many thanks Horace (image right) for enhancing this blog.

"Many articles that recall the music of the sixties in Singapore have only viewed it from a narrow perspective.  That is, pop bands and music proliferated the whole music scene.

Truth to be told, there were a whole lot of resident bands in clubs and restaurants that comprised of so called professional musicians that played more traditional music that had its roots from pre-World War 2 and the post war years. 

Much of this was American music from Tin Pan Alley and Broadway. Running alongside, jazz was using this music as vehicles for jazz improvisation and the subsequent evolution into swing, bebop, modern jazz and subsequent off-shoots.

The Golden Venus (image left) at the then Orchard Hotel, has been portrayed as a hot bed for rock and pop music. This information is skewed and fails to mention that this was only happening on Sunday afternoons as a TEA DANCE. 
All seven nights of a week the place was a restaurant and after dinner club. This was the club that became the center for all local, British Forces and visiting musicians to come together to play and jam. There was a very active jazz movement of various types and the musicians formed groups of their own.

The American Consulate, well aware that this was a significant piece of their culture decided to promote this art form as a series of sponsored concert under USIS (United States Information Service).
Louis Armstrong with the gang. Can you guess their names? And which one is Horace Wee, Louis Soliano and the late Tony Castillo?

These concerts were at the Victoria Theater. A copy of the typewritten program illustrates a good variety of jazz styles and features prominent local and foreign musicians of this art form.

My own contribution in Item 4 was a jazz suite in a then advanced approach to jazz using atonal and modal concepts. A US official told me it reminded him of New York City waking up.  

If you thought rock trios of bass, guitar and drums were original - the format I played was a trio comprising of acoustic bass, drums and myself on alto- saxophone and bass clarinet. That was Fernando Cortez on bass and Terry Tay on drums - Horace Wee."

Don't forget to read the chit-chat under Comment page below.
Article and photographs 1, 3 and 4 are copyrighted and belong to Horace Wee.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday.

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:4 * King James Bible.

As 14 April, 2017 comes to light after a peaceful Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday in Singapore, I was thinking of the lyrics of a song that could be suitable for the rather sombre and quiet period this Good Friday, a day when Jesus died, was buried and rose again on Easter Sunday.

Sung originally as a Christmas Carol, it was made famous by Cat Stevens in 1972 and came from a hymn, first published at the beginning of the 1930's. The lyrics were by children's writer, Eleanor Farjeon using an original melody of a Scottish tune, written in Gaelic by Mary McDonald. 

Neil Diamond: Morning Has Broken: Video by jasonfreakinbang

The song gives thanks to dawn, a new opening of each day, but unlike other days, the words become more significant as we know what happens eventually. Of course, interpretation varies...

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the word

It was translated into English, with a lilt so lovely that the number went to the top of the hit parade in 1972.  The piano arrangement was done by rock group member from Yes: Rick Wakeman.
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world's most famous late 15th Century painting. 

Judy Collins, Floyd Cramer, Neil Diamond, Art Garfunkel, Nana Mouskouri, Aaron Neville, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, Sister Janet Mead, Roger Whittaker and a host of choirs have recorded covers of this beautiful song. 

Looking at it positively, I find the freshness in the lyrics as we praise for the morning:

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass...

When Good Friday morning is broken, I remember it as such, a Good Friday.

Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of a new day.

Have a great Easter everyone.

Any comment?

Image: Google.
You Tube Video: Neil Diamond: Morning Has Broken by jasonfreakinbang

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Mo Li Hua 茉莉花 Trump's Grandchild's Diplomacy

Little Arabella's diplomacy with two Presidents.

The Diplomatic Coup

It is a diplomatic coup and it only took a little child to sing a popular melody, which is already a pop folk classic.

When President Donald Trump welcomed President Xi Jinping to the US for their first meet in April 2017, the powerful pair, together with their wives and Mr Trump's family, were entertained to a rendition of Moh Li Hua (茉莉花)  , a Chinese classic that dates back to the 18th Century.

Already with the poise and personality of her famous mother, five year old Arabella Kushner,  Ivanka Trump's daughter, serenaded the group with more tact and gracefulness that her grand dad could ever do with his Twitter quips.
Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower) sung by Cai Qin: The song is one of the anthems of Chinese Pops: Video from Mehdi Benhenia.

The Song

Mo Li Hua or Jasmine Flower, another favourite song of my mother,'s (where I learnt most of my Chinese songs from) has been on the Chinese Hit Parade list for decades and known not only in China but all over the world. 

Covered by many artistes internationally, the song carried its worth when Westerners heard it as part of Pucini's famous opera, Turandot (1928), covered by Kenny G, loved by Jiang Zemin and has been performed in many opening ceremonies including the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. 

Lately Celine Dione learnt to sing it and there are many recordings both on You Tube, on ring tones, mp3s, CD's and other media.

A historic moment don't you think? A Chinese folk classic sung by a little American girl during the first meet of two great country heads.
The jasmine flower or mo li hua has about 200 species, grown for its fragrance.

Image: from The Star Online and Google.
Video: Mehdi Benhenia.