Monday, November 27, 2006

Hectic Sunday: Potato Live In Concert

After our performance at Chong Pang Community Club, I quickly removed my makeup and made a dash to Golden Mile Complex to catch my favourite Thai rock band, Potato in concert. Luckily, I arrived there at 10 minutes past 11, which means I only missed out 10 minutes or so of the show.

As the concert was held in a discoteque, there was a cover charge of $25 per person. It was sort of expensive for me, since I can't consume the beer that comes with the cover charge as I was riding a motorbike, and secondly I won't be staying throughout the entire concert as I wasn't feeling really well, and that I still had to work the following day. Nevertheless, I still paid for the admission, since it won't be easy to catch Potato in Singapore!

The discoteque was already packed with lots of people, just like what a friend of mine had fore-warned me. I managed to find a good spot quite near to the stage, but then the distance was still too far for me to actually video-record clearly the band performing on stage. Potato is a really good band, and they managed to make the people on the dance floor high. The group of people behind me enjoyed the music so much that they were jumping up and down while singing loudly to the songs. I guess Pup, the lead singer, noticed them too, as he kept pointing towards my direction from time to time during the songs. I wanted to be as crazy as them, but I can't, as I had completely lost my voice due to my flu, and that I don't really know the lyrics to all their songs and hence am not able to sing along.

Potato singing รักแท้ ดูแลไม่ได้ (Ruk Tae Doo Lae Mai Dai)

Potato singing ไม่ให้เธอไป (Mai Hai Ter Pai)+ กล้าพอไหม (Glaa Por Mai) medley

I was enjoying myself, but alas, it was soon midnight and I had to leave unwillingly. The news of this concert came to me out of a sudden, and hence I wasn't able to plan in advance. If I had known of this concert long ago, I could have requested off day for the following day as well to "recuperate" my health. Hopefully I can catch Potato again live, and it was indeed a unforgetable experience attending their concert!

Original MV for ไม่ให้เธอไป (Mai Hai Ter Pai)

Original MV for กล้าพอไหม (Glaa Por Mai)

Original MV for รักแท้ ดูแลไม่ได้ (Ruk Tae Doo Lae Mai Dai)

Hectic Sunday: "Butterfly Lovers" Performance

It was a hectic Sunday, as I had 2 events to attend to, one after another. The first was our opera troupe's performance of "Butterfly Lovers" at Chong Pang Community Club in the evening, and another one was Potato's live concert at Thai Disco, Golden Mile Complex at night. Luckily for me, both events do not really clash with one another, but since the concert was to start at 11pm, and I don't expect my performance to end before 10.30pm, the north-south travelling time would be a bit of a problem.

For our performance, we do not just solely put on a show like in the past. We were told by our organisers to hold a small opera exhibition as well, showcasing some props, costumes and information on our opera. Luckily for me, I had to act on stage, so I was spared of the task of introducing the various props and costumes to the member of parliament VIPs, who had been invited to host the opening ceremony to the show. Art was not acting in this show, hence she was delegated this task. She was afraid that her knowledge might not be adequate enough to give an introduction, but I thought she did a good job, as I can see that the VIPs were very pleased.

Chong Pang Community Club was our stronghold performance venue, partly due to the fact that there were alot of Hokkien opera lovers living in the area, and also because our performances there had so far been free of charge due to some generous sponsorship. The crowd yesterday was huge as usual, but it seemed larger than previous times. Perhaps "Butterfly Lovers" was an all-time favourite among opera watchers, hence they do not mind watching it again although they might have watched it years back when we performed the same show at the community club. It is always a good feeling when the turnout rate is good, because it will boost one's morale in acting. I remembered once we performed at a temple fair, and the foul weather then resulted in almost no audience, and it really made us moody.

Our performance started at 7.30pm, and ended at around 10pm, which was actually quite early, but not to the community centre's staff, as they knock off at 10pm sharp. The response from the audience was great; they applauded thunderously during the finale of the show, when 2 butterflies emerged out of Shanbo's grave after Yingtai jumped into it. This is an indication saying that our show was overall a success, despite various hiccups along the way.

The show may have ended, but my day had not come to an end; I still have to rush to catch Potato live in concert! (to be continued...)

Testing mic. time for our actors

Our show in action from the backstage

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Opera Rehearsal for "Butterfly Lovers"

Yesterday, we had our 2nd last rehearsal for "The Butterfly Lovers", which was to be staged next Sunday at Chong Pang Community Club. I haven't been attending rehearsals regularly due to me doing permanent afternoon shifts at work nowadays, and I am not able to get regular weekend offs.

Though it was just a week away from our performance, we're still not totally prepared, and we encountered hiccups along the way. Nevertheless, our leader did not flare up as much as in previous shows, hence the atmosphere during rehearsals was still calm. Lucky for us!

"The Butterfly Lovers" will be staged on 26th November 2006 at Chong Pang Community Club Multi-purpose Hall, 7.45pm. Admission to the show is free of charge, but members of the audience are to obtain admission ticket either from Hokkien Konghuay or Chong Pang Community Club directly. This performance is in conjunction with Northwest CDC Arts Festival

Friday, November 17, 2006

Potato Is Coming To Singapore!

Lately, I have been seeing posters of Thai pop group Potato being pasted in parts of Golden Mile Complex, the place where I work. However, a few days, I noticed that the posters had been amended to include some text. Upon reading, I realised that they are coming to Singapore soon to perform!

I got to know of this fantastic group in 2003 when I was browsing through some CDs in a music shop in Bangkok. I came across their album "Go... On", and it was available for preview listening. I found the tracks in the album very nice, and instantly bought it, although I had no idea what they were singing. Anyway, this five-man band album was one that had many ups and downs in their music career as they have experienced two changes of members over 5 years. The first change took place somewhere before their release of their second album (which was in fact "Go... On"), when their lead singer Pee passed away in a freak accident, and another member Nuch (guitarist) left the band to concentrate on her studies. Pup, the other lead singer at that time, became the main lead singer while two new members, Win and Ome, were recruited into the band subsequently to replace the two empty slots in the band. However, by their third album "Life", which was released in 2005, another pioneer member, Note, left the band as well. Now, Potato was reduced from a quintet to a quartet. Hopefully the one another pioneer member Bom won't be the next to go, neither do I want to see any change of blood again!

Back to Potato's performance in Singapore, they are scheduled to perform on 26th November at Thai Disco in Golden Mile Complex at 11pm. I was very excited, as I finally had the chance to meet them in person. But the only problem was that I had a performance on that night, and even if I rush down to Golden Mile Complex straight after my show, the place would be too packed by the time I arrive. I'm still considering if I should go attend this concert, as if I don't go, I don't know when will they be coming to Singapore again, and it's not quite possible for me to fly all the way to Thailand just to catch them in concert!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Singapore Hokkien Festival - Cultural Performance

The Singapore Hokkien Festival, organised by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, was was held at Bras Basah Complex last weekend. It is the first of such festival to be held locally, whereby different Hokkien groups like the southern Min (mainstream Hokkiens in Singapore), Fuzhou (Hockchew) and Putian (Henghua) get together to showcase their cultural essence. Other than having stalls selling traditional Fujian food at the festival venue, there was also a makeshift stage where different cultural performances like music, dance and opera were put up by various societies and performance troupes. Another event in conjunction with this Hokkien Festival was the cultural performance over at Drama Centre, just a street away, which showcased excerpts from classic shows of various Fujian opera genres.

Our troupe was one of the participating troupes, and we were scheduled to staged 2 shows, "The Street Paddler" and "The Storm Pavillion", at the makeshift stage on Saturday afternoon. The weather was still clear when "The Street Paddler" was being staged, but by the end of it, the sky turned dark, and it started to rain heavily. The rain was so heavily that even the ground got flooded and our percussionist had to stand on her feet to play her music! I joked that this was one of our most "successful" version of "The Storm Pavillion", as we had got real rain to compliment our sound effect. If we'd acted "Flooding the Golden Monastery", the effect would be even better! Jokes aside, it was tough acting in this kind of weather as the actors and musicians had to beat the rain in terms of volume, and I wonder if the audience downstage could hear us at all.

The rain was still pouring after both shows ended, but that was not the end of our work. We still had another performance at the Drama Centre, which was just across the street. Hence, we had to brave the rain in umbrellas while trying to avoid ruining our makeup and costumes. Over at the Drama Centre, there was another cultural performance in conjunction with this Hokkien Festival. This time round, fortunately, was an indoor performance. However, this Drama Centre performance was more stressful to me as compared to the outdoor one, as we would be acting alongside professional troupes from Fujian Province, among them were Experimental Major Liyuan Opera Troupe and Gao Jia Opera Troupe from Quanzhou, Experimental Minju Theatre from Fuzhou and Putian Academy of Arts. Though stressful, I was still excited in this performance, as I would have the chance to meet some of my favourite artistes like Zeng Jingping and Zhang Chunji from Quanzhou Experimental Major Liyuan Opera Troupe. I did not have time to interact with them on Saturday, but I managed to catch them during their afternoon break on the following day when I was not acting, and got them to autograph on my Liyuan opera DVD. They were very friendly and they left a great impression on me.

It was a great experience to perform together with these fine professional artistes, even though we may not be acting side by side at the same time. Hopefully there'll be a second year for this Festival, and that we would be able to meet up again, to interact and to perform together!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cai Luong Finale

This shall be the last of my posts on Cai Luong, unless I've got something new which I think I should strongly recommend. Anyway, this is the first Cai Luong video which I've found on the net, sung by popular singer Manh Quynh.

Actually, this is not authentic Cai Luong, but a parody version meant to make people laugh. Nevertheless, it was this video clip which made me more curious to know how does Cai Luong looked like, as I had previously seen promotional pictures of Cai Luong shows over the internet. Futhuremore, from what I had read before, it has got strong influences from Chinese opera, though not as strong as Hat Boi (Hat Tuong), the Vietnamese rendition of authentic Chinese opera. Unfortunately, I've only managed to see a few small and blurred pictures of a Hat Boi performance, but not any video or music, hence I won't be able to comment much on how Hat Boi is like. However, I do hope that one day, I'd be able to catch it in action somewhere.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Loy Krathong in Singapore

(A continuation of my previous post...)

To be honest, I was oblivious to the fact that Loy Krathong Festival was approaching until last Friday.

On that afternoon, on my way to work, I decided to drop by a music stall just a stone’s throw away from my office. I noticed that they had got these lotus lanterns on display at their counter, and it was only then I was reminded that Loy Krathong Festival was just around the corner. I asked the sales assistant when Loy Krathong Festival was, and she gave me a surprised look before telling me that it was on Sunday. I then asked her where do the local Thais float their lotus lanterns, and she told me that most of them do it at Kallang River, which is just a traffic light junction away. That was exciting! I didn’t know Kallang River was the venue for floating the lanterns, and if I had known it earlier, I could have celebrated it for the past 2 years. Anyway, I did not buy any lotus lantern from her yesterday, as I didn’t want to buy too early only to have a dented or damaged lantern on the actual day of Loy Krathong. Hence, I promised the sales assistant that I’d return to buy the following day.

On the following afternoon, before I go for my Chinese opera rehearsals, I purposely make a trip down to the stall again to buy lotus lantern. There were a number of colourful lanterns for sale, with price range from $5 to $10. That seemed a bit expensive, but then again, the “labour cost” as well as the cost of the raw materials is not cheap either, so I still decided to get one anyway. The cheaper ones did not appeal to me, as they were only decorated with some ribbons and I felt it looked too plain and not worth the money. I decided to get the $10 one, which was decorated with real fresh flowers and banana leaves. It looked nicer, and what’s more, it’s more environmentally friendly! After buying the lotus lantern, I suddenly remembered something; I had to work the following evening, and I wasn’t sure if I would have time to float the lantern. The sales assistant rest assured me that the floating of lanterns will start as early as 6pm, and would carry on until late in the night.

On the evening of Loy Krathong, I was greeted with bad weather, and I was worried that I might not be able to celebrate the occasion if the weather did not improve. Luckily, the rain stopped as fast it came. I then proceed to Kallang River happily with my lotus lantern. I guess it was still early, as I did not see anyone launching lotus lanterns into the water. I was about to head back to office and come back again later in the night when I saw a group of 4 elderly people carrying lotus lanterns in their hands. They were speaking in Hokkien, and I thought they might be able to help me find a place to launch the lanterns. It turned out that this group of elderly people were fans of my Chinese opera troupe, and one of their nieces was actually a dancer in our dance group too. It seemed that fate had drawn us together, and hence I decided to just follow behind them.

We walked for a short while before coming to a spot where we saw people crowding around. Some people had already launched their lotus lanterns while some were taking pictures with their lotus lanterns. We then decided that this would be the place for us to launch our lanterns into the water. I then realised that I had forgotten to bring out a small paper packet, inside which consist of a few strands of my hair and fingernails. You see, the sales assistant told me that before launching the lotus lantern, what some Thais do is that they would snip off a bit of their hair and clipped their fingernails, and place them on top of their lotus lanterns. As the lotus lantern floats away in the water, whatever bad luck and illness which you had for the previous year would go away with the lantern too. I then quickly searched my bag for my scissors and starts snipping a bit of my hair and fingernails. I guessed it must have a funny sight, as I noticed some Thai people looking at me in a strange manner. Anyway, I managed to get some of my hair and fingernails just in time to launch the lotus lanterns together with the 4 elderly people.

I felt happy and relieved once I saw my lantern floating away in the river, as I had finally realised my wish of celebrating Loy Krathong Festival again. Hopefully, the next time I celebrate this occasion would be in Big Thailand itself and not in “Small Thailand”!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thai Floating Latern Festival - "Loy Krathong"

It is the fifteenth of the 9th lunar month for us Chinese, but for the Thais, it's the fifteenth of the 12th lunar month for the Thais, a very important day as it coincides with Loy Krathong festival.

Loy Krathong, also known as festival of light or floating latern festival, is the day where the Thais would launch small floating lotus lanterns into the canals and rivers. There were many sayings with regards to the significance of the festival. As this period is the time of the year where the farming cycle for the year comes to an end, the Thai farmers would "loy" (float) their "krathong" (lotus lantern) to thank the River Goddess for the good year they've had, as well as to seek forgiveness for polluting her waterways. Another saying was that this act of floating the lotus lanterns is to pay homage to Lord Buddha's footprint which He had left at the bank of River Narmada in India. There is another Hindus interpretation that this lotus lanterns were offerings to Lord Vishnu, who meditates in the center of the ocean. Whatever the real significance it is, this festival is nevertheless a beautiful one comparable to the Chinese mid-autumn and Yuan Xiao festivals, as the candle-litted lotus lanterns filled up the canals and rivers on this full-moon night, complimented by fireworks in the air. In northern Thailand, Loy Krathong festival is also celebrated with beauty pageants as well as the rising of "Kome Loy" lanterns (similar to the Chinese Kongming lantern) into the night sky.

In 2003, I had the chance to experience this festival on my own in Bangkok. On the night of the celebration, I headed out to Lumpini Park after the sunset, and along the way, I saw stalls selling Krathongs. Some were very simple lanters, with just a styrofoam base and some shredded ribbons and lace on top of the base as a decoration. There were others which uses real banana leaves and decorated with real flowers, and these were of course more expensive. I bought one from a stall at the park's entrance and proceeded inside. There were already people launching their lantern vessels into the pond. I walked up to the pond and choose an ideal place to float my own lantern. However, as the banks of the pond were wet and slippery, and that I was wearing slippers at that time, I almost lost my balance and fell into the pond. If I fell, I'd have become a gigantic krathong myself! Anyway, it was a beautiful sight to see so many lanters floating in the pond. I tried taking photographs of the scenery, but alas my digital camera just could not take photographs in such low lighting, and most of my photographs turned out blurred or grainy.

As I was about the leave the park after floating my krathong, the sky was suddenly lit with fireworks. It was indeed magnificant; lights in the sky as well as on the water surface! I quickly bring out my camera again to try snap some pictures, and though the quality was not very good, it was much better than the earlier pictures I tried to take of the krathongs in the pond.

Loy Krathong festival is truly a very beautiful festival, and one have to experience it yourself to see it's beauty. I hope I would be able to experience it again in Thailand next year or so. In the meanwhile, I've bought a krathong at my workplace, and I shall be floating it in Kallang River tonight!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Another Clip From "Manh Le Quan"

This is another clip from "Manh Le Quan" (Legend of Meng Lijun), but from a much newer remake by pretty pop singer Phi Nhung. Listen to the songs; there were more familiar tunes!