Online Profile: Chok Kerong

Published on 12 July 2017

Credit: Benjamin Ong

Musician Chok Kerong revisits the roots of his love for music and expresses these explorations in his upcoming concert and latest album Tales They Told Me.

BY MELANIE LEE

As a nine-year-old, Chok Kerong enjoyed listening to pop music of the day, and would try to figure out the inner workings of the songs he heard on the piano.

A few years later, his piano teacher at the time, Eugene Dairianathan, showed him a score of a piece by Chick Corea (an American jazz musician) and that, to him, was “a defining moment”.

“I had never heard sounds like that before. I was intrigued and really started investigating music. I would buy music whenever I could. Jazz was my starting point,” the 34-year-old says.

While this multi-faceted keyboardist and composer has built up a reputation as one of Singapore’s most talented jazz musicians, Chok embraces a much broader approach to music, and has worked with musicians such as indie singers Charlie Lim and Dru Chen, as well as classical ensemble T’ang Quartet. In August, pipe organist Margaret Chen will also be performing a piece he wrote that was commissioned by the Singapore Symphony Group for the Victoria Concert Hall Organ Series.

This worldview is also evident in his upcoming second album Tales They Told Me.

“For this album, I’m more concerned with simplicity and getting to the point musically. I will be presenting songs that really reflect what I’ve always liked about music, way before I became a professional musician. These pieces, though from seemingly unrelated genres, are brought together in a meaningful way with Tales,” he explains.

Tales They Told Me is also partly inspired by Chok’s time as a jazz performance student at the Manhattan School of Music from 2008 -2010 (he was the first jazz musician to be given an overseas NAC scholarship). “I learned a lot of things outside of class. I was around like-minded people with different experiences, and we rubbed off on each other when we played together. I might hear someone playing something and I would ask him to show it to me. He, in turn, would tell me he learned this from someone else. This informal passing down of music is very much like how folklore becomes part of a community. It’s a universal human experience.”

Besides his performances, Chok is also a music educator at LASALLE and School of the Arts (SOTA), and is one of the instructors for the Esplanade’s Mosaic Jazz Fellows programme, mentoring young jazz musicians. He advises all his students to find a meaningful connection with the music, and finds it heartening that many of his students are going beyond the technical aspects of performance.

“The whole point is to figure out what music means to you, and communicate that to other people when you play,” he says.

Esplanade Theatres on the Bay

Find out more about Chok Kerong’s upcoming album and concert Tales They Told Me in this video:

Chok’s concert “An album launch by Chok Kerong: Tales They Told Me” will be on Friday, 28 July 2017 at Esplanade Recital Studio. Click here for more information.

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