Remember the Days?

Published on 28 October 2014

The buzzword for concerts this season is ‘nostalgia’, with several upcoming shows shrewdly pitched at silver-haired audiences.

TEXT BY PAMELA HO

In retrospect, everything always seems rosier, less complicated and more fun. There’s nothing like a wistful memory to warm the heart, and what better way than by the mention of a once-forgotten name or bygone fad?

Nostalgia is well and truly alive, and post-war baby boomers are buying into it with a vengeance.

Business research suggests that consumers look back most fondly on their early 20s. If that’s true, then ageing boomers should drive a renaissance of all things 1960s-related. The golden era of made-in-Singapore music has always been pegged to the 60s, a vibrant period of local bands, hysterical female fans and tea dances – terms sadly vague and unfamiliar to younger Singaporeans.

Here’s a sampling of nostalgia concerts this month:

Return to the Tea Dance

The tea dances of 1960s were hugely popular, especially with the young. Joseph C Pereira, author of Apache Over Singapore, Legends of the Golden Venus and Beyond the Tea Dance, explains, “It was a good barometer of what was trending, be it music or clothes. And the hours were between 2pm to 6pm, so parents weren’t worried. No liquor was served, only soft drinks.”

The tea dance fell into oblivion in the 1970s, but come 8 Nov, we can relive those days when the Esplanade presents Return to the Tea Dance, featuring The Dukes, The Trailers, Vernon Cornelius from The Quests, and more. Expect to hear hits such as ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘The Young Ones’.

Return to the Tea Dance will be shown at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 8 Nov at 4pm.

Romance of Old Shanghai 

For the Chinese-educated in 1950s and 60s, musical influences came from a different source: Old Shanghai and a genre of fusion music known as ‘Shidaiqu ’ , which referred to catchy tunes sung in Mandarin, but played with jazz instruments from the West.

Renowned singers associated with this era were known as the “Seven Great Divas”: Zhou Xuan, Gong Qiuxia, Bai Hong, Bai Guang, Yao Lee, Li Xianglan and Wu Yingyin. On 9 Nov, you’re invited to enter their grand, exuberant world of Old Shanghai when local artists play tribute to these divas with songs such as ‘Rose, Rose, I Love You’ and ‘Eternally’.

“The production will be a visual spectacle!” promises Desmond Chew, the Esplanade’s programmer for Divas of Old Shanghai. “The artists will be dressed in traditional cheongsams, with vintage hairstyling and make-up.

“We’re also working on suitable multimedia design and props to transform the stage into the famed Shanghai Paramount Cabaret setting,” Chew adds. “So besides seniors, we hope it will also draw younger audiences and immerse them in the nostalgia of old Shanghai.”

Divas of Old Shanghai, Esplanade Theatre, 9 Nov, 5pm.

Memories of Malay Movie Music

The golden era of Malay music flowered in the 1950s. “During that period, we saw a lot of music from the film and movie industry, with stars like Saloma and P Ramlee,” says Hanie Nadia Hamzah, the Esplanade’s programmer for Diva-Diva Kita, a concert that pays tribute to the Malay greats of that era.

“With the influence of bands such as the Beatles, Malay music evolved in the 1960s to Pop Yeh Yeh, and saw an increase in the number of bands like Jeffridin & The Siglap Five, A Ramlie and more,” Hanie adds. “For this concert, expect the enduring hits of Rahimah Rahim, Anita Sarawak, Sharifah Aini and others, who are still household names in the Malay community here.”

Diva-Diva Kita, Esplanade Recital Studio, 7 Nov, 8pm.

Tribute to Teresa Teng

Another treat for those growing up in the 70s and 80s is a show featuring songs by the late Taiwanese songstress, Teresa Teng. Her golden voice has found a reincarnation in Tong Yao, champion of a national competition in China to uncover the best Teresa Teng sound-alike.

Tong Yao has since performed all over China and Southeast Asia, receiving rave reviews as she bears an uncanny resemblance to Teng, in both voice and appearance.

Tong Yao, Rendition of Teresa Teng Songs in Concert, Suntec Conventional Hall, level 6, 23 Nov, 8pm.

Netting the Nostalgic

While these upcoming shows reach out to Singapore’s silver-haired audiences, the by-catch of this nostalgia programming is the young, who are caught up with retro romance.

“The overall feel is very inclusive,” says Christopher Rodrigo, programmer of the Esplanade’s A Date With Friends festival initiative, which targets older audiences. “We want to get the word out to a wider audience, including the younger generation. We want to wow them to say: I want to age like them too, to be able to sing, dance and do everything I’m passionate about when I grow old!”

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