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Posts from the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 1) – August 20

The Camerawalls along one of the streets of Singapore.

Arab Street

Singapore has a diverse population made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Caucasians and Asians (of various descent). It isn’t a wonder to find shopping and ethnic districts like Arab Street, Little India, Chinatown, Orchard Road and Marina Bay. We were able to do a walking tour of two of them before the day ends.

Our food trip in Bugis Street was preceded with a walkabout around the vicinity of Arab Street  just a few blocks away. Arab Street interestingly illustrates the Arabian culture. You can easily find conservatively dressed Muslims, beautiful old shop houses lined up on the streets and marvel at the largest mosque in the country – the Sultan Mosque – easily identified by its golden domes.

 

The grand Sultan Mosque.

Some of the many old shophouses common in the district.

Right across the Sultan Mosque is the famous Zam-Zam, one of Singapore’s best know restaurant for all sorts of Muslim-Malay food, which serves their legendary Murtabak (a type of stuffed pancake eaten with curry). Too bad we’re still full from our last meal.

One of Singapore's best known restaurant famous for their Murtabak.

Along Kandahar Street was a long line of street food vendors selling items quite unfamiliar to my eyes. I spotted a table that sells mini Otah-Otah. I asked what it is to which the vendor replied, “Fish cake made of mackarel”. I have never tasted fish cake so to my curiosity I bought some and shared it with the others. It’s spicy and is an acquired taste. I can do for one more hadn’t we moved along.

Later on I found out that Otah-Otah is also sometimes called Otak-Otak. Otak means brains in Indonesia and Malay. (Very close to the Filipino word “Utak” with the same meaning)  and the name of the dish is derived from the idea that the dish some what resembles brains, being grey, soft and almost squishy. Otah-otah is made by mixing fish paste (usually mackerel) with a mixture of spices. The mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf that has been softened by steaming, then grilled or steamed.

 

Otah-otah - a cake made of fish meat.

At Bian’s  Cafe

We chanced upon a cozy looking coffee shop along the same street and decided it’s about time for some caffeine in our system. We took our seats and was greeted by the very nice Chinese owner named Bian Huibin. While we wait for our order he offered us a book to browse: “The Sidewalk Beauty – The Stray Cats Of Singapore” – a photographic journal that pays tribute to Singapore’s street cats. Over 200 pages of beautiful cat photos with humoring captions. We notice most of the cats’ left ear in the photos are snipped. His website mentioned that in an attempt to curb the proliferation of stray cats, most of the strays have been sterilized. The snipped left tip on their ear is the mark of their surgery.

It took awhile before we found out he’s the author/photographer of the pictures in the book. Very entertaining for cat lovers like us. (I have one at home name Doro, Law has one named Bassline, both Ian Zafra and Antonette has one too and Bachie has a dozen!) Quite interesting is the author’s biography:

Bian Huibin graduated from the Faculty of Music at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in 1985, having majored in Percussion and minored in French Horn. In 1991, he graduated from the Beijing Film Academy Photography faculty, having majored in Feature Film Photography. He has been in Singapore since 1995 upon invitation to work in television production here. Since then, he has produced numerous advertisements and documentaries. He is currently the Artistic Director of Hetian Film Productions.

It’s very humbling that a man of his stature is serving coffee and drinks to his customers. I admired him for that. For more photos and info about his book visit straycatsofsingapore.com and singopera.com.sg. I went inside his shop and found a lot pictures on the wall of chinese opera singers in costume. He told me his wife is a Chinese Opera singer and instructor.  Chinese Opera is an old form of drama and musical theater in China with roots going back to the third century. Upstairs is Singapore Chinese Opera Museum (SCOM) in which Bian is also the museum director.

Relaxing at Bian's Cafe below the Singapore Chinese Opera Museum along Kandahar Street.

The Sidewalk Beauty - The Stray Cats of Singapore

Clementine with Bian Huibin (Photographer/Author of The Stray Cats of Singapore)

Some merchandise items from The Sidewalk Beauty.

A chinese opera doll at the entrance of Bian's Cafe and Singapore Chinese Opera Museum.

A wall full of opera singers' photos.

Bian and I had a difficult time conversing since he is not well-versed with the English language. But graciously tried to explain the things he do, showed me around a bit and opened his website for me to browse. He also showed me a sample clip of an actual chinese opera he produced. He asked about my music and I showed him our site and in no time at all the whole coffee shop was blasting “Canto De Maria Clara“, one of our songs from the debut album. And when it was time to say goodbye we took pics and exchanged cards for future correspondence.

A photo in one of the alleys of Arab Street district with the Sultan Mosque at the background.

Children’s Little Museum

There’s wonderful pedestrian area on Bussorah Street located right behind the Sultan Mosque. There are shops and cafes there. Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke. We also checked out a vintage shop called Children’s Little Museum. It has items from 1950s to 1970s. A very nostalgic and enjoyable find!

Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke.

Children's Little Museum - Singapore

A Wurlitzer Jukebox

Bruce Lee and vintage Tellies.

Orange everywhere?

Miniature Vespas!

The Beatles, classic radio and ashtrays.

Old Timepieces.

A place to drool and marvel.

Continued at Our First Day in Singapore (Part 3)

Of Mice & Men

After two and a half years I finally decided to sing an Orange & Lemons song via a tribute gig to remember what was once an exciting venture. The songs I have written for my former band still haunts me. And what better way to reminisce but invite musician friends to celebrate that journey.

Joining The Camerawalls on the 30th of January at Route 196 are label mates Turbo Goth, The Bernadettes, Your Imaginary Friends and The Gentle Isolation plus guest artist The Satellites as well as Ian Zafra who came all the way from Cebu to do a series of solo perfomances. The small watering hole was packed with roughly over 150 people that consists of music fans, families and friends. It was so much fun at The POP Shoppe! it was inevitable not to allow ourselves to be a little bit intoxicated. So we did.

The Satellites performed “Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot” and “Rock-A-Bye.” A great start for the evening and kinda suited their indie rock sound. The Gentle Isolation did girl pop versions of  “Cycle Of Love” and “Days And Nights” while Ian Zafra did a stripped version of “Hey, Please” letting the crowd sing half if not the entire song. It was amazing how everyone knew the words to it.  “Heaven Knows (This Angel Has Flown)” and “Lihim” was the cover of choice of Your Imaginary Friends. Turbo Goth did a laid back version of Sarah Gaugler’s all time  favorite “Just Like A Splendid Love Song” with Paolo trying to impersonate my guitar playing at one point. The Bernadettes did a rocking version of  “I Feel Good, I Feel Fine.”  I immensely enjoyed all of it. Hearing my songs covered by my favorite bands is quite an experience. Too bad we missed the set of Patience Dear Juggernaut. He was too ill to perform.

We were the last band to play and by the time we were onstage I was already feeling a little tipsy from the scores of vodka shots I was helping myself from Jeff Saw’s table. (Jeff is The POP Shoppe’s official photographer). It was almost 2 in the morning. As I fix my guitar strap I looked around and there were still a lot of people inside the bar waiting for us to perform. Most of them standing. After a couple of songs from Pocket Guide To The Other World, we did a familiar tune from 2003. The first track from Love In The Land Of Rubber Shoes & Dirty Ice Cream called “A Beginning Of Something Wonderful” written during my college days in the late 90s.

To everyone who shared the night with us, it wouldn’t have been as much fun without you all. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. To those who missed it, enjoy the video. In the future we will try to cover more of my songs from O&L. That I promise.

A Beginning Of Something Wonderful
Clementine
Orange & Lemons

Your gentle means
And all seems to commence
A brand new pace in me
Hope it’s not a blunder
Especially when I uncover, dig deeper
And I wonder

When I get near you
I feel something deep within me
You know you bring me to new heights
I’m like a big balloon filled with hot air
Ready to explode
Each and every time I kiss you

The more I’m with you
The more it feels like
This could be the beginning of something wonderful
Yeah, yeah…

Your lips are movin’
Your voice is so oh, so soothin’
You wear a face that lives in my dreams
Where did you come from
And I wonder

When I get near you
I feel something deep within me
You know you bring me to new heights
I’m like a big balloon filled with hot air
Ready to explode
Each and every time I kiss you

The more I’m with you
The more it feels like
This could be the beginning of something wonderful
Yeah, yeah…
The more I’m with you
The more it feels like
This could be the beginning of something really wonderful…

I have avoided singing my own songs in public for quite a number of reasons. After Orange & Lemons disbanded in a loathsome manner I just couldn’t allow myself to be reminded of the very people I once called friends, the very people who tried to fire me from my own band without proper decorum and stab me in the back by telling everyone lies. It was a situation unheard of. Sure, key leaving members in popular bands is everything but normal. Ely Buendia left The Eraserheads. Rico Blanco left Rivermaya. Johnny Marr left The Smiths. John Lennon left The Beatles. It would sound ridiculous and downright outrageous if Ely, Rico, Marr or worse John Lennon will be fired from their own band. It was like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

In all the published works of O&L I have written lyrics for 32 songs, music for 39 songs plus 2 poetry. I sang 19 recorded tracks as main vocals, have painstakingly arranged, layered and recorded hundreds of guitar tracks alone. I have spent more hours in the studio during recording, mixing and mastering than any member of the band. Collaborated with sound engineers, directors, stylists, session musicians, advertisers, label people, etc. Booked and arranged all band rehearsals since day one.

I taught Mcoy how to play the guitar and how to fake it as a beginner during our early years of live gigging. He never recorded any guitar tracks in the album. I did. Ace Del Mundo auditioned to me and I was the one who hired him as a drummer and later on his brother JM to fill in for Law’s absence. I equally shared songwriting credits in the first two albums of O&L with Mcoy Fundales as a gesture of goodwill although he hasn’t contributed anything to most of the songs in terms of composition and intellectual property. So until now he has been receiving royalties for songs he did not create. I spent a year recording and conceptualizing and developing the last album Moonlane Gardens only to be fired a week after the album launch. I dedicated 11 years building the foundation of O&L and seeing it rise to the top and falling hard face-flat on quicksand. A classic example of losing heads in the clouds.

I cite these facts not out of bitterness nor anger but to answer the question a lot of people have been asking: “Why don’t you sing your songs from O&L and perform it with The Camerawalls?” Clearly my response is an emotional one. When I fought my way from preventing my ex-bandmates from using the entity Orange & Lemons without me (which i eventually succeeded), I posed a challenge to myself  and unto them to start from scratch and create our own music instead of banking on the success of O&L music. A challenge I knew they will not accept as they continue singing the songs they did not create during live gigs after disbanding mainly for profit.

The human spirit in me obliged to the challenge. An innate drive to create something unique and new from my raw individual experience with O&L and the desire to overcome the painful journey. The need to be challenged is so strong that we sometimes make things more difficult than they need to be just so we can rise to the occasion and overcome the obstacles we ourselves have created.

I refused to sing O&L songs during the early stages of The Camerawalls nor use any of my existing and unpublished recordings or demos or songs I’ve written during my stint with O&L. I started from scratch and with the help and collaboration of my new band mates we were able to produce songs that will eventually be the tracks for Pocket Guide To The Otherworld. I’m proud to say the tracks in Pocket Guide is the most recent and most mature work I ever did. They may not be as catchy or as youthful as the songs I contributed for O&L but it sure is a beginning of something wonderful once more.

THE BEST LAID SCHEMES OF MICE AND MEN.  A popular phrase which means the most carefully prepared plans may go wrong. As did my plans for Orange & Lemons. Taken from Robert Burns‘ poem To a Mouse, 1786. It tells of how he, while ploughing a field, upturned a mouse’s nest. The resulting poem is an apology to the mouse:

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy.

The poem is the source for the title of John Steinbeck‘s 1936 novel – Of Mice and Men.

+Clementine

Sid & The Legend Of Condo Guz

For once I’d like to deviate the attention on this blogsite from The Camerawalls by sharing a piece of documented relevance with answers to the question “Who was Ian Sarabia before The Camerawalls?”

Ian is a music enthusiast who calls San Francisco his home during the duration of his stay in the US to study Film & Art, trying to live a life less ordinary. I don’t recall the reason why he went back to the Philippines, all I can remember is that he used to help manage a family owned bar he named Amoeba (after that record bar in Haight & Ashbury streets) situated in the same spot where Club Dredd in Eastwood Citywalk now operates. He grew tired of the place one night and randomly found his way in a Makati watering hole called Gweilos where Orange & Lemons regularly perform. We met and it wasn’t love at first sight… he just loved what he heard and the original music we performed, a breather from his distaste for popular OPM he simply cannot relate with. That was 2004. So from then on he continued to patronize my old band till we became best buddies. He goes by the name Bryan.

Ian & Clementine after an O&L gig. (August 18, 2004)

Bryan and Clem after an O&L gig at Gweilos Bar (August 18, 2004)

We shared the same level of passion for music particularly with Britpop. We often hang out at his place getting intoxicated with alcohol and Beatles records/videos/documentaries (among others) and endless talks about music, life and love. He introduced me to the music of The Stone Roses, one of his musical icons and to Vodka, his daily nourishment. I was amused with his idealism and free-thinkin’-not-a-care-in-the-world attitude and his love for Madchester.

Bryan appears to be a Pinoy version of Ian Brown especially when he is in the zone while the baggy beats is on air and alcohol is kicking in. We even call him “Monkey Boy” for that near perfect display of ‘Mank Attitude.’ This amusement made me want to form a band for Bryan.

Enthused with the idea we embarked on a search for proper band mates ending up with a who’s who line up of musicians to back him up like Boom Jose of Violent Playground, Dylan Vizcarra (NU 107 DJ/Jack TV Host), Jerome Velasco of The Teeth/Daydream Cycle and KT Dela Cruz. And the following year CONDO GUZ was born with reference to endless nights lazing in his condo unit.  Accordingly, Bryan christened himself with a new name to suit his ultra cool, rock and roll imaging. From then on he was known as SID.

condoguz

Condo Guz (from L-R: Boom, KT, Dylan, Nick, and Sid)

I have no idea how they pulled it off since things started getting busy and crazy with O&L promoting a new album, Sid and I hardly had time to catch up. And one night our music coincide with both of us playing in the same venue. His band and mine on the 9th of November 2005 performing baggy music no one dares to. And yeah, we were greatly entertained. Watch the video below of Condo Guz performing an excellent cover of a  Stone Roses tune called “She Bangs The Drums.”

Little do we know that the two of us will eventually end up as bandmates after 4 years of friendship bringing everything to another level. However uncertain I am on how Condo Guz came to an end, or how inexperienced Sid is behind the drumkit. I have every reason to follow my instincts of offering him a proper career as a musician. Friendship, passion, strong values and principles  — key ingredients for a lasting relationship as a band.

Many scorned at the idea. Some even called me desperate. I was approached by a number of seasoned musician with tempting offers. I just shrugged it off and patiently went on and christened him with a new name which is a duck soup to pronounce but spells two of the most influential music icons (Joy Division and The Stone Roses)  — IAN.

Now tell me, did I made the right choice? Oh, yes I did… since day one. 

– Clementine