Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My "Room mates"

Those who know me would probably know that I'm the only child to my parents. However, I do not have my bedroom to myself as I have "rented" out a portion of my room to some of my "friends". So far not many people know of that, and I thought I'd like to make use of this opportunity to introduce my lesser-known "room mates" to you.

This couple here came from Taiwan I supposed, but when I met them a few years back, they were already holding Singapore PR, so it doesn't quite make any difference. Anyway, the lady's name is "Fu Ren", or nicknamed "Bo", while the guy's called "Zhuang Yuan", sometimes also known as "Ang".

I'm not too sure if this scar-faced guy here is of any relationship with me (probably distant relative?) because he shares the same surname as me. He's originally from Jiufen town of Taiwan, and so far, other than making a few weird whines, I had never heard him speak, and I believe he is a mute.

This guy here came from Xiamen and used to work in Xiamen International Airport. He told me his name is Yang Zongbao, but I could not verify that because he refused to let me see his identity card or passport. Anyway, he may be very stern-looking and always holding on to his weapon, but so far my other "room mates" have not been hurt by him.

His name is "Dua Tau", also from Xiamen. He likes to do acrobatic stunts like twirling his hat around his head without letting it drop.

This Qing Yi here is called "Qing Yi", because her favourite dress colour is green! She's borned in Shantou, but have been holding a Singapore employment pass for quite some time before I knew her. The last working place I knew of her was at an antique shop in Chinatown.

Last but not least, I do not know the name of this guy, but he's often nicknamed "Lao Da" by the rest, probably because he's much bigger in size. He's of Henghua origin from Fujian province, but had been living in Shanghai for quite a while before coming to Singapore via Ebay.

I'm not sure if you guys have seen them before, but do greet him if you bump them in the streets; they're rather friendly!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Surprise Surprise: Hokkien Marionette Performance Near My Workplace

It was a boring Sunday as I had to work in the evening. Actually it wasn't that bad, if not because I had worked the previous night (which meant I had no off days for this week!). But what perked me up a bit was that there was a Chinese marionette performance near my work place, held in conjunction with the celebration of Lord Guan Ti's celestial birthday. This was rather exciting for me, as I had loved watching Chinese marionette performances since young.

Of course, I could not stay throughout the whole show since I had to work, therefore I could only sneaked out to catch a short peek at their show during the lull periods of my work. The troupe performing was "Sin Ho Peng", and if I am not wrong, they are the only string marionette troupe left in Singapore. Although their marionettes belonged to the Heng Hwa (a sister dialect of the Hokkien dialect) style, the marionette troupe performs in both Heng Hwa and Hokkien dialect, depending on what occasion it is. I was plesantly surprised that they were performing in Hokkien dialect, something which I had not watched for many, many years. There were more surprises coming my way, as I saw familiar faces at the backstage...

As I walked to the back of the stage, I saw Haining (a.k.a. "Teacher Zhuang" or ZHN) in charged of the percussion instruments. Haining used to help our opera troupe in percussions for some of our shows, and was sort of my mentor as I had learnt the basics of percussion instruments from him before (though still not very skillful). He saw me, and eagerly invited me up the stage to have a sit, and when I went up, I saw "Senior Zhuang" (Haining's father) playing the lead string instrument as well. I'm less familiar with "Senior Zhuang" as I had only seen him once, during our latest performance at Taman Jurong Community Club. He still recognised me anyhow.

And then, Haining threw me a "bomb", by asking me to help out in the gongs while he concentrate on his drums! I agreed without much thoughts, but it turned out that it was no easy feat! Although I had played alongside him before, this was much tougher than expected as I didn't know what to expect (since I didn't know how the plot would unfold on stage), and also due to the fact that I had not touched Chinese opera percussions for quite a long time). I felt I had fumbled on stage, but the marionette operators of the troupe thought I played rather well, and Haining came to my rescue saying that I was more used to playing well-rehearsed and scripted shows than palying inpromtu. Indeed, playing inpromptu is not easy, and I had to take my hat off to Haining!

After messing around with the percussions for quite a while, I decided that I had to leave, as I had left my office for quite a while. Before I left ther performance, I bidded both teachers goodbye and take one "final look" at their show down stage (but of course I did return again after an hour or so to catch another glimpse)...

Haining trying to shun from my camera, but I caught him anyhow

"Senior Zhuang" and another fellow musician during their "break" from playing music

Marionette operators in action; don't think handling the marionettes are easy, they're in fact very heavy! (I've one of these at home, so I know)

This is not a ghostly scene; it's just me taking a snapshot in the wrong white balance mode!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pankun and James

Lately when I walk towards my office, I'd see people gathering around a TV display unit which was showing videos of a chimpanzee and bulldog. Well they're no ordinary animals; they're Pankun and James from Japan, which I just found out not long ago. They're comparable to pop idols, for they're simply too cute for anyone to resist. Can you imagine a chimp bringing a dog for a walk, take a ride on a bus and things like these? Here are some of the videos I've found on the net in various languages. Although they're not full episodes of the popular show they were originally featured in, but do enjoy!

Performance on 10th June 2007

It's already Tuesday, 2 days after our opera troupe had a performance at Taman Jurong Community Club. As usual, Amai's the first to have it blogged up. Of course she has got the "advantage" of being the first to get her hands on photographs taken during the show. Juanjuan actually do take photographs at the backstage too, but usually she'd be too busy with other things than to blog it. As for me, I usually don't have much chance to take pictures if I had to perform, either on stage or as an accompanying percussionist. But sometimes, I'd take random video clips before and during the show, or whenever I am free!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rice Dumpling Festival

The Rice Dumpling Festival (Duan Wu Festival) is just around the corner, on 19th June 2007. As such, I'd like to take this opportunity to put up a Rice Dumpling Festival-related music video, with a bit of difference!

This song was sung by Thai-Chinese singer Kim, and even though it has been made into Thai, the lyrics of the song is still revolving around rice dumpling. I first heard this song when it was played in one of the karaoke restaurants at my workplace. Being curious, I started looking for this song in the CD shops there, and I managed to find it yesterday.

Happy Rice Dumpling Festival!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tsunami In My Room

Lately I have been dropping more hair than usual. Partly because of my recent rebonding, and partly because I'm pulling out hair as my room was messy as if it has just been hit by Tsunami.

Why is my room in such a mess? Why, my father suddenly had the idea of changing the "geomancy" of my room, and everything in my room, with the exception of some wall shelves, were shifted around. Some of my CD cabinets and shelves had to go in the process, and hence by the time my father had finished with his work, I was left behind to clear up the mess my father left behind, particularly my CD collection, which I can conservatively say, is more than a thousand pieces. It'd still be relatively easy for me to pack if my collection of CDs don't span into multiple genres, but unfortunately that's not the case. I listened to a very wide range of music, from Thai pop to Chinese folk to Spanish Bolero, and organising them is simply agonising, especially so when they're now thrown all over the place.

Halfway through "damage control" after "wreakage" of my room

But then, I guess this is a good time to do stock-take. While packing up, I realised that there're some CDs which I have almost forgotten I used to owe them. I've also found some duplicate CDs, to which I don't quite recall why on earth did I buy 2 same albums for!

Two same albums: Z Chen's "May I Love You". Why on earth did I buy 2?!

Now my room's almost 80% cleared, and it has taken me over a week to just do so. Well, at least my room looked much neater now. Previously due to lack of storage space for my CDs, many of them were stacked above my speakers, which were at risk of toppling over whenever I try to take an album in the middle of the stack (imagine the game Jenga). But that's still not the end of the whole story. In the next few years, we'll be shifting out, and the same process is going to happen again!

I have 11 sets of Wuxi opera VCDs in my collection...
... But wait! There's still 7 more which had just arrived!
Can I safely (and proudly) say that I have the largest collection of Wuxi opera VCDs in Singapore?

An entire shelf dedicated to Taiwanese Gezi and Minnan Xiangju opera alone.
(My mum said it looks like those herbal shelves found in traditional Chinese medical halls!)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Rediscover T'ang

The Drama Centre Theatre has been sort of my latest hangout of late, for the latest 3 performances that I've catched were held there. In fact, I just returned from another performance there; it's "Optical Identity", a music concert by UK's Theatre Cryptic and Singapore's very own T'ang Quartet.

For those who doesn't know (I believe many of my close friends don't know either), I'm a big fan of T'ang Quartet, to the extend of giving up another show just to catch them in action. Well, I had actually intended to watch Hainan Province Hainanese Opera Company's opening show "The Pearl Pagoda" at Kreta Ayer's People Theatre tonight, but when I realised that T'ang Quartet's performance schedule clashed with that show, I decided to give that a miss, although it was already in my plan for over a month (but I haven't got the tickets to "The Pearl Pagoda" yet). There was another occasion years back where I actually go all the way down to Plaza Singapura to see them perform at Yamaha Music Plaza, even though it was just a small informal performance to promote their range of silent violin products. Sounds like a very die-hard fan? Well, not really. I'd try to make it to their performances as and when I knew of any, but for the past 2 years or so, I had been too busy with work, and keeping up to date with the latest arts happenings around me was hard, let alone spare time to catch performances.

So why do I like them? I don't quite know, but I supposed it's not just their talent in music, but they simply had this captivating charm which I don't quite see in other bands or quartets. Especially their cellist Leslie Tan. I like to observe him when the quartet is performing, because he's so full of expression. I always believe that in order to play music well, one has to blend into the music, and I think he is a good example of that (I could be slightly biased, because cello happens to be my most favourite musical instrument!). Besides that, I like their music too. Although all four members were classically trained, they play contemporary repertoires equally well. Tonight's performance is one example, but is unlike their previous concerts which I have attended.

Tonight's performance "Optical Identity" is not just purely music, but more of "visual music". The quartet was playing contemporary pieces from Kevin Volans, Rolf Wallin, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh and Joby Talbot in "award-winning furnitures and designer clothes". A lot of other visual effects like video backdrops and co-ordinated lighting were used to enhance the performance, all thanks to the highly creative director Cathie Boyd. As she said in the post-performance talk, the turn-out for such concerts are dropping over the years, and hence she's making use of technology to create a more "complete" experience for audiences. Despite being non-traditional, the quartet didn't seemed to have much problem adapting themselves to this form of performance, as they said the production was still more music-focused, and every department, from lighting to video has to listen to what the quartet was playing and follow accordingly, instead of the quartet having to play according to the various stage or lighting cues. The quartet even said that the stage manager had to read their scores by the side of the stage to know exactly where they had played to, and therefore they don't even have to worry much as they knew they're in safe hands. Well, that's one aspect worth learning!

Now as I type, my mind was still on the concert. It has been so long since I last saw them in performance, and 80 minutes of music was simply not enough. But anyway, I'm still quite happy I managed to catch it; the quartet is still the fabulous T'ang Quartet I had known, and this is the first time I've actually seen them talking so much on stage (other than during the promotion of the silent violin series at Yamaha Music Plaza, but that doesn't quite count!). Hopefully they'll hold another concert soon, and am really looking forward to it!