Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Have Ukulele Will Travel.

Early in 1972, I chanced upon a press release by the Singapore Jaycees who were looking for 4 Oustanding Youths to represent Singapore on the 2nd ASIAN YOUTH VOYAGE and to participate in the 1st ASIAN YOUTH CONFERENCE to be held in Naha,Okinawa. They called on youth leaders everywhere to apply. On the application form, I saw a problematic caution, " Applicants must be able to speak Japanese or is undergoing a course in the language."
Unk Dicko here could not speak Japanese nor was at that time attending any course. Problem?
Fortune favours the Brave!!! I will blog about the actual interview another day. It is most interesting and revealing! Fast forward....despite my clear"handicap", I was selected out of more than 400 strong applicants to be the official Leader of Singapore's Delegation, 3 guys and 1 lady. The entire trip, voyage, homestay programme was sponsored by Japan Jaycees. There were many others from Asia and Japan itself, more than a thousand participants. We sailed on board the Youth Ship, the SS Coral Princess. I brought along my only ukulele ( the one I bought from my classmate Gebian). As I said in my previous post, back then, Ukulele players were almost unheard of in our part of the world. I was the only Ukulele player on board! And provided most of the music throughout too. At the Farewell night on board ship, while heading for Japan, our host Japan Jaycees surprised me by presenting me with a gift of a Ukulele...( see photo in previous post, LUNA Brand, Tokyo 1972). And they requested for me to tune it and perform impromptu...on stage. I was away from home for more than a month..June/July 1972....a very difficult time for me emotionally as my daughter D3 was about 8 months old then.
And she was very close to me and vice-versa. Fortunately, D2 held the fort very well while I was away. I carried a photo of D3 and proudly showed it to one and all. "A-ha, Dickosan's Akachang" they would all chorused in Japanese! " Hai! Hai! my akachang (baby) !" was my reply.
( see photo above ).

This black and white photo showed me and a friend performing at Hotel Negara, Kuala Lumpur in a Ukulele - Guitar Duet....in 1973. The uke is actually a perfect instrument to go with the guitar. But they need to be synchronised ( tuning ) together.

From experience, I found that it was much easier for me to accompany a guitar player on a song than the other way around. This was because most guitarists then were not familiar with the ukulele chords or playing style. Since I was also a self-taught guitarist, I could follow a guitar player on any song we knew.
That's what was taking place here.
We were playing a non-stop medley of catchy songs and got everyone in the mood and swing of things!

In April 1999, I received an urgent message through my boss ( Principal). The message said I was specially requested for by the 2nd Perm Secretary of MOE, Mr Chiang Chie Foo to entertain our guests at the Farewell-Thank You Dinner of the 34th South East Asian Ministers of Education Conference. After a couple of phone calls to find out more, I was told to bring along my Ukulele. Those invited to appear with me that night were like me, excellent entertainers who can sing in harmony

with NO prior rehearsal or practice. We were truly all very busy and engaged in our work in school then. We did a couple of numbers that went down really well with the distinguished crowd. Then....by popular request, the one song that many who heard us sing before in perfect harmony, was shouted out. " We want the Lightning Express ! " A song made famous by the Everly Brothers. I went to the mic and adlib...." and now, join the ELDERLY Brothers as we sing you our version of.....".
In the photo above: Roger Lim( also a magician ), unk Dicko on Ukulele, Saifudin ( ex-talentime winner ).


Ferunk said...

Can't wait for Jordy to have his first ukelele lesson! Wonder what his first song will be, will it be the same as mine? You taught me "Yellow Bird"!

uncle Dick said...

Good thing you remember!
For S and Y, the first 2 songs I used to sing them to sleep was "Puff the Magic Dragon" and " Mama-Boo-Boo-Teh" by Harry Belafonte. For Tyan, I added a new one I discovered while Googling on an Irish folk song site..." Do-Da-Dei"...the same one I am using to croon to wee Jordy!
Yellow Bird...why not? Yes!

Lam Chun See said...

My sister also used to join this Jaycee club.

uncle Dick said...

So your sister must be very active in the Jaycees then.I was not a member but got to know some of the top people back then in 1972 and a few years on.

yg said...

i did not know lim kay heng is also called roger. that's his christian name?

unk Dicko said...

Yes...Roger it is.
But,many of us still call or refer to him by his bona-fide name K Heng. However,whether it is K H or Roger..many will refer to him as"the magic man".