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Posts from the ‘Instruments’ Category

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 3)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2) – August 20

The past two weeks have been a little tied up and I’m lagging behind on blog updates especially the ones from Singapore. I mustered enough drive to rummage into my files and resume this compendium of episodes during our trip inside the Lion City.

Alice In Bali Lane

Along the street of Bali Lane opposite Golden Landmark.

Bali Lane is one of those little streets in Singapore (like Haji Lane) that seem edgy and spirited during the night gauging on the kind of shops one can find along the streets. Too bad we manage to pass on a bright afternoon. Apparently it’s the area where one can find Straits Records, the local underground record label and gathering place for Singapore’s indie bands and music lovers.

Alice of Alice88th

We did a stopover in one of the convenience store to grab some bottled drinks. Ian Zafra chanced upon a shop called Alice88th that display what seems like punk clothing and went in to check it out. We followed after a few minutes and found him chatting with a bubbly owner of  the place predictably named Alice. Turns out its a Japanese Sales and Rental shop of clothing and accessories with themes ranging from Anime, Manga, Gothic, Lolita, Punk, Party and Masquerade costumes even wigs, shoes, dolls and much more.

She was the most conversational person we met or probably was quite eager to engage in one judging on the fact there isn’t much passersby during those periods. So we stayed there for a bit checking out both odd and pretty items for sale. You can see what’s in store here: http://alice88th.blogspot.com

In between testimonies and recommendations (what do do and where to go) for first timers in Singapore, our exchanges also covered the story of her beloved cat Ming-ming. The subject was brought up when we noticed a cute but snob feline friend roaming around the store while I pointed at a photograph of a cat displayed in one of the glass display table. Surprisingly she told me the one in the photo was a different one and only looks identical to the cat she currently houses.

Alice's beloved cat Ming-Ming. Lost but never forgotten.

She lost her cat when she left Ming-ming under her neighbor’s care, caged and all during a long trip outside the country. She was never treated that way and her theory is based on the trauma and agitation her cat experienced. So when the opportunity for escape presented itself, Ming-ming left and was nowhere to be found. It was an agonizing three months of grieving and searching, even spending some days sleeping on the sidewalk just to find her. Alice told us she almost went crazy, couldn’t eat and sleep. It was never the same without Ming-ming sharing her bed during cold nights.

Alice's new companion. Closely resembling Ming-ming.

The sad tale was preceded with lighter diverse topics I can no longer recall till we bid her goodbye and invited her to our gig at Esplanade. We continued our course following Ophir Road going Northwest and crossing Victoria Street, Rochor Canal Road and Jalan Besar till we reached our next stop – Little India.

Little India Walkabout

At Serangoon Road, Little India

Along the way we entertained ourselves watching people and buildings, taking more photos, occasionally conversing with stray cats and mingling with a bunch of pigeons. We notice something odd in some residential high-rise buildings. A number of them have at least five removable pole fixtures protruding from the  lower portion of their apartment windows which tenants use to hang dry their clothes. A rather unusual find.

I found an illustrated walkabout of Little India on the back of our city map and we all decided to follow it. It begins at a point besides Tekka Market/Center along Serangoon Road.

Little India is another ethnic neighborhood in Singapore with cultural elements of Tamil people. Tamilians are a linguistic and ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in Southern India. The language, literature, art and architecture have been given classical status. They have been referred to as the last surviving classical civilizations on Earth.

From Tekka Market we crossed Serangoon and went inside Little India Arcade – a labyrinth of shops selling all things Indian (arts, crafts, sweets, snacks, medicine). As we march along the busy streets we marvel at the wealth of the culture.

Strolling inside Little India Arcade.

Another thing we noticed everywhere we go are installations on the streets of tents with food offerings, Chinese lanterns and pots for burning items like paper. Antonette, our roadie, explained that in Chinese tradition, August is a month of bad luck where activities like weddings and traveling are suspended. Further research led me to sites explaining the Chinese Ghost Month – the most inauspicious time of the year.

The Chinese seventh month, usually August, apparently is the most ill-fated time of the year. It is called Ghost Month, and its climax is the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. Like a one month holiday for the dead during a time when spirits of the dead wanders, Chinese offerings and prayers are taken seriously anywhere in the world. Even in the streets of Little India.

Performances are also common to entertain the dead. We went near one of the stage and took notice of two young Chinese kids rehearsing on a Hammered Dulcimer and some drum percussion.

A stage in one of the streets of Little India with young Chinese kids rehearsing.

A hammered dulcimer.

The lovely sound of the dulcimer made us pause for a while to observe and listen. It’s a musical instrument typically trapezoidal in shape with strings graduated length are stretch on the sounding box and is played by being struck with hammers or mallets made of wood. First time I heard and seen it being played in close proximity that I even have to ask what instrument it is. If you are curious what it sounds like watch the clip below.

We finished a third of the walkabout route before deciding to head back to Dunlop St. to find an authentic place to eat. Our excitement level is still high but the 5 hour walk around the city already made us a little worn out. Funny enough, Bachie (our drummer) is already complaining of blisters.

We found a nice random place to eat called Sakunthala’s which serves a variety of South Indian cuisine. Later on I found out it won various recognition from the media. Lucky for us to find such a place in the busy streets of Little India. We tried their Mutton meal, a Poori Set, Chappati and Massalla Onion. True enough it was the best tasting Indian food I’ve ever had.

Masalla Onion

Mutton Murtabak Meal

Chappati

Poori Set

A renewed strength swept over us after that orgasmic delight. Dusk was falling rapidly as we left the restaurant heading back to our hotel happy and contented. Along the way we took a different route and found ourselves walking along the road where the Sri  Krishnan Temple and the Goddess Of Mercy Temple were located and brightly lit. It started to drizzle so we hurried along to rest for a a couple of hours before we catch Techy Romantics’ set plus other bands at the Arena in Esplanade.  – continued at Our First Day In Singapore (Part 4)…

The Use Of Rondalla Instruments

Incorporating Rondalla instruments on records has been a trademark of mine for quite sometime now. Very evident in the last two records I arranged and co-produced: Orange & Lemon’s last album “Moonlane Gardens” and The Camerawalls debut “Pocket Guide To The Otherword.” From time to time I receive quite interesting feedbacks and inquiries about it. So I decided to apprise everyone with some historical and relevant information.

What is a Rondalla? A quick search from wisegeek.com gave me this:

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The Banduria (sourse: reflectionsofasia.com)

The Banduria (source: reflectionsofasia.com)

A rondalla is an ensemble of plectrum instruments, stringed instruments played with a plectrum or pick. It originated in Spain, but became one of the traditional forms of Philippine folk music after its introduction to the islands in the 19th century. Philippine rondalla instruments are made of native Philippine wood and played with a tortoise-shell plectrum.

The word rondalla is from the Spanish ronda, meaning “serenade.” The core instruments of a Spanish rondalla are the guitar, the mandolin, and the lute. The musicians are accompanied by at least one singer, and sometimes also by handheld percussion instruments. Though the ensemble of stringed instruments existed in some form in Spain since at least the 16th century, the rondalla dates from the early 19th century. It soon thereafter traveled to the Philippines, at the time a Spanish colony.

The major Philippine rondalla instruments are the banduria, the guitar, the octavina, the laud, and the bass guitar or double bass. The banduria is the central instrument of the ensemble and, along with the octavina and laud, unique to the Philippines. The guitar and double bass each have six strings, while all other rondalla instruments have 14 strings grouped into six tuning units to produce a richer sound.

The Octavina (source: relectionsofasia.com)

The Octavina (source: relectionsofasia.com)

An eight-piece rondalla should have four bandurias and one of each of the guitar, octavina, laud, and double bass. Many rondallas are quite large, with 30 or 40 members, especially for important social events. A 30-piece rondalla has 16 bandurias, three piccolo bandurias, three guitars, three octavinas, three lauds, two double basses. The number and type of percussion instruments is optional for any size rondalla.

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My father has been a Rondalla instructor since 1965. It is no wonder why I’m fascinated with the instruments especially my intent on its application on contemporary music. I grew up tagging along with him and experiencing at a very early age the aesthetics to appreciate such, listening to Philippine folk songs and kundiman (serenades) arranged for a Rondalla ensemble. I took a certain liking for the Octavina. It gives out a rich mellow sound comparable to the effect of the Cello in a string quartet, apparent in the instrumental section of our single “Clinically Dead For 16 Hours.”

Other songs in Pocket Guide To The Otherworld where i threw in some octavina and banduria sections includes the following from subtle to the obvious:

1. Markers Of Beautiful Memories – a single high note tremolo attack of the banduria towards the end of each chorus.

2. I Love You Natalie – a simple banduria instrumental sequence followed by a clean electric guitar solo.

3. Canto De Maria Clara – the most relevant piece for a rondalla arrangement would be none other than a poem from our National Hero – Dr. Jose Rizal. The combination of banduria and octavina gives a very rich texture to the song with a vintage and patriotic feel over acoustic guitar jangles.

4. Lizards Hiding Under Rock – a perfect example of how powerful and effective the banduria is with call and answer solos over a semi rock tune.

To listen to the songs visit our MySpace account. Enjoy!  –  Clementine