Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Art of Teochew Music and Opera

Teochew Building - Ngee Ann Kongsi
It was on hot afternoon Saturday, when my hubby and I went to the most traditional Teochew Music and Opera 2013 located at 97 Tank road. Teochew Music is the most popular form of folk instrumental musicology in the Teochew regions of Guangdong Province, China. The origins of Teochew music can be traced to the reign of the Tang (618-907) and Song dynasties (960-1279) while Teochew Opera is a genre of Chinese opera performed in the Teochew dialect with over 450 years of history. Most popularly among the Teochew speaking population in the Chaoshan province, it travelled with their ancestors as they migrated to countries all around the world.
I was told by my mum many years ago that she was formerly worked as singer opera that sung a Teochew and Hokkien song when she was in her teens years before she set up her own salon shop in Johor, Malaysia. She was a long time supporter of opera since. Most of her opera friends had passed on. I had bought Opera VCD for her to watch years ago and sometimes she watched Chinese Opera on TV when there is a show. And yet she talks to me in Teochew!
Short brief history of Seah Eu Chin (1805-1883): Founder of Ngee Ann Kongsi, Seah Eu Chin, who had two wives Tan Beng Guat and Tan Beng Choo. Seah Eu Chin passed away in 1883 and buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery. About the year in 1845, the late Seah Eu Chin, at that time a prominent Teochew merchant in Singapore and 12 other Teochew merchants then in Singapore, promoted the formation of a fund for the propagation and observance in Singapore of the doctrines, ceremonies, rites and customs of the Chinese religions as observed by the Teochew community. Here is the blog about Seah Eu Chin
They opened their ceremony and their performance on Fri 14 June 2013 with other programmes and thus two programmes on 15th & t6th June 2013 Teochew Gongfu Tea Ceremony (2pm and 5pm) and Traditional Chinese Music presentation (3pm to 4.30pm) where visitors will be treated to their tea and listened to their music performance. Unfortunately, we missed it for two programmes and we managed to snap photos of their traditional instruments as well as art paintings on the wall that beautifully painted designed of all regions.
Teochew Building's entrance doors
Teochew Building's interior doors has three Chinese wordings inscribed on each door comprises three renowned clan associations - Ngee Ann Kongsi (义安公司), Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan (潮州八邑会馆) and others. Recently in April 2013, the founder of  Breadtalk, George Quek age 57 became a new leader of the umbrella body for Teochew clans in Singapore on Monday 1st April 2013 and vowed to unite the community, took over the helm at the 84-year-old Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan, one year after some leaders of the Teochew philanthropic foundation Ngee Ann Kongsi launched a rival Teochew Federation in their personal capacities.
Ngee Ann Exhibition Hall & Auditorium
At least we are glad to be able to see those old traditional instruments of all old times and it displays at exhibitions music hall widely seen clearly on each side by side. Their supportive of festivals from the associations namely; Er Woo Armateur Musical & Dramatic Ass'n, Thau Yong Armateur Musical Ass'n, Nam Hwa Armateur Musical & Dramatic Ass'n, Hwa Siah Musical Ass'n and the Teochew Drama Ass'n for their music performance. And also one of their corporate business, Eng Tiah Huat for exhibiting Chinese musical instruments during 1-week exhibition till 20 June 2013.
Teochew Gongfu Tea ceremony
There was a Teochew Gongfu Tea ceremony which visitors looked forward to how the tea is served in traditional way. There was a master of tea ceremony giving a live demonstration of making tea and brewing art.
Close-up of Traditional Tea set
I had a set of traditional tea of my own that I keep more than 2 decades which is different from exhibits and it is of flowers design comes with red retro-design box and you may look here.
Traditional Tea demonstration 
Beside this, visitors will be treated to the music performance after the tea taste.
Live Musical Performance
There was also a live musical performance at the hall while visitors sat for soothing listen to the music bands from various clan associations. The melodies of the Teochew music are clear and quaint, exuding the classic charm of ancient Chinese music as what I had seen it before long time ago.
Exhibits from Musical Associations
These three exhibits displayed from Musical Associations that they performed a live stage at the hall on 1st first opening ceremony 14th Jun 2013.
Sanxian (left) & Modern Pipa (right) - Four-stringed lute
Pipa (pronounced "pee-paa") is a four-stringed lute, one of the oldest Chinese musical instruments with over 2000 years of history.
Sanxian (a long-necked lute) is a 3-string plucked instrument with snake skin membrane stretched over a resonator. Owing to its distinctive acoustical properties - rich, full tonal quality, great volume and a wide range - the Sanxian is widely used for accompaniment, orchestral and solo performances. Variation in the art of playing the sanxian also enables the long neck to be adapted for different uses. Sanxian is made in 3 sizes: large, medium and small. The large one is used mainly for accompanying story singing and music drama performances.
YangQin Chinese Instrument
YangQin (Chinese Dulcimer) comes in a variety of sizes. The YangQin is a dulcimer played with bamboo mallets, with the size of a chopstick, and one held in each hand, are used to hit strings in pairs. This produces a high and tinkling timbre in its top registers, a soft and beautiful tone in the middle and a strong rich sound in the lower registers. The metallic tone resembles the harpsichord. It has the widest range of scale amongst the Chinese plucked-strings instruments (about 5 octaves).
Zheng (Plucked String Instrument)
Chaozhou Zheng (Plucked String Instrument)
Zheng is an ancient Chinese instrument. It has been developed from a small instrument made from bamboo, originally used by herdsman. It was very popular during ancient times, as early as the Warring States Period and the Qin Dynasty (225 to 206 BC and earlier). The Zheng has an arched surface and is elongated-trapezoidal with 13 to 21 strings stretched over individual bridges. Although metal strings are common today, the strings were of silk in ancient times. The Zheng rests on two pedestals and is played using 3 to 4 imitation fingernails. On the right side of the bridges, both hands pluck the strings and on the left side, the left fingers bend the strings to change pitch or to provide embellishment. Its playing range spans three to four octaves. We had this instrument made when we worked in Chengdu at the music conservatory.
This Chaozhou Zheng is a short distance, effective string with large cross-sectional curvature panel emoting a resonance sound of much intensity. The right hand is used to strike the chord and left hand will employ techniques such as rubbing and pressing. Sharp sound effect to bring out the unique style and charm of Teochew Music.
Zhonghu, Banhu, Gaohu & Dahu
This instrument is a variety of the Huqin and because it uses a wooden sounding board in the sound box. Also known as Bonghu (clapper huqin) because it was heard in the Bangzi or "clapper operas" of the 17th century. It appears during the Qing Dynasty.
The name Banhu comes from the wooden soundboard covering the half globular resonating chamber. Of its many other names the most prominent may be Banghu, referring to its historical use in the northern Bangzi opera in the mid 17th century. Then it came to accompany many other regional operas and popular narratives, spreading over northern China.
The two strings are generally tuned a fifth, or a fourth apart. Strident and bright in tone quality the Banhu is used as a solo instrument and as a group within the bowed strings in the modern Chinese orchestra.
Zhonghu Fig. 1 (two string viola) This middle hu is an alto erhu of large dimensions in the neck and resonator, developed in the 1940s in an attempt to build Chinese instruments in families As in their constructions the two types are similar in performing techniques. Only the alto's strings are tuned a fourth or fifth lower than those of the erhu. As an alto instrument with a two-octave range, the type has a deep and gloomy tone. The zhonghu is commonly used in ensembles and accompaniments, and for solos as well. The zhonghu is tuned as A, E or G, D.
YangQin (Dulcimer)
These Chinese Instruments (above & below) are from Eng Tiang Huat for their generous supports by exhibiting their traditional Chinese instruments as well as Chinese weapons and opera. Jeffrey Eng is the 3rd generation owner of Eng Tiang Huat. Eng Tiang Huat has been promoting & providing Traditional Chinese Cultural Products since 1935.
Exhibition hall
This Souna instrument, I often called Laba (trumpet), firstly appeared in the Wei and Jin period (200-420). The instrument is commonly used in the accompaniment to local theatres or to singing and dancing, and also for solos or ensembles on such occasions as weddings, funerals or other ceremonies and celebrations.
Percussion Instrument (Woodblock)
A woodblock is essentially a small piece of slit drum made from a single piece of wood and used as a percussion instrument. It is struck with a stick, making a characteristically percussive sound. I remember these woodblock was similiar used in ancient times in China when the person tells the time of the day.
Percussion Instruments
Percussion instruments are commonly made use of sandalwood which is known as 'Tanban'. It comprises 3 boards, each with length 27cm, width of 5.9 to 6.7cm, thickness of 0.8 to 0.9cm. When playing with percussion, the left hand holds the bottom, so the first two plates collide to produce sound. It is widely used in folk instrumental ensemble and various opera orchestra accompaniment.
Opera Costumes
Close-up of Opera Costume
Head Gears
Chinese Opera Shoes
There are many types of Chinese musical instruments inscluding Chinese Opera Costumes, Head Gears, Martial Arts weapons as well as Chinese Opera shoes displayed side by side at the hall and even the curtains-like decorations and portraits on the wall too.
Small Gong
Above is one of the percussion instruments - Small Gong in Teochew music. Tuning is 2 or G.
Xiaocha (Small Cymbals)
Small Cymbals also known as 'Xiaocha' and is made of brass ring and it has smaller and thicker bowl-shaped body, surface of the smaller cymbals in 12cm -14cm diameter, bowl diameter 5cm - 7cm, bowl height 1.5 - 2cm to tie silk cloth on top of the bowl. There are two piece as one pair.
Chinese Martial Arts Weapons - Kongfu and Wushu
As for Martial Arts weapons, there are two main groups - The long weapon includes 'Dan Tou Qiang' (Single head spear) and 'Ba Qiang'. So "Dan Tou Qiang' is most recognised as "King of  Weapons". Also there are short weapons comprises of knife, curve knife and swords. Among the 18 types of weapons, the sword is highly respected as the most ancient form of weaponry.
One of the most history of weapon where the criminals were punished in court in ancient times, thus they used 'Sazi', a form of torture used on female convicts to force a confession. The fingers are placed in between bamboo rods and squeezed tightly when the side string are pulled. As females depend on their hands a lot, and most will succumb under this torture than risk paralysing their hand.
Curtain-like decoration
There are numerous of curtain-like decorations used in Teochew Opera for the door, bed and sedan chair..etc. The bed curtain is used mainly for coverage such as protecting one's privacy. Teochew  Embroidery is one of the four famous embroideries in China, is often incorporated in these curtains.
Earth God mask and Devil mask
Earth god mask is a half face, skin tones mask. Actors usually wear a fake beard to complete the look. For guardian-like roles or characters that often help those in distress.
Devil mask is a whole face, green colour mask, often coupled with ruffled hair wigs. It is usually worn to portray ghost and devil roles.
These 2 masks are one of the main masks in Teochew opera for disguising as specific characters or to depict the inner world of a certain role. But in present, it is not commonly used any more.
Furthermore, there are many Chinese cultures items on displays and if that is interested to you. You may visit to Teochew Building located at 97 Tank Road. Their exhibitions started from 14th Jun till 20th Jun 2013 (11am to 7pm).

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Last Surviving Bungalow at Wilkie Terrace

78-year old bungalow - 13 Wilkie Terrace
13 Wilkie Terrace
HIdden away from the busy streets of Singapore along Mt Sophia and Wilkie Road, standing a 78-year old bungalow that was once lived by Chia family for three generations, will soon be demolished to make way for Condominium developments.
As I was entered the old structure of once in the history of the past and the people who stayed in effort to forget, the moment I stepped in, feeling sad of parting of this historical house.
Facade of A Colonial Bungalow
However, this 9,321 sq ft 78-year old house was sold to one of the property estates - Roxy-Pacific Holdings for $24.5 million early this year. It is believed to be the last of four properties there to be acquired by the real estate firm. Typical of Colonial Bungalow that used to live by the Royalty of the past. This house has a history of her own and yet to bring the memory of the times before it torn down by end of June 2013.
Thick Conrete Wall of old times
The person to whom I chatted with him - Yen Phang who is a member of Chia family and this bungalow was built by his grandfather in 1935.  Yen Phang as being formally trained in law and his background in a discipline is so steeped in linguistic traditions has complemented his informal education in all things as visual. Although Yen Phang would recognise me when my hubby and I went there on 8th Jun 2013 in late afternoon after visiting at 11 Upper Wilkie Road where there was an events - ArtFesta on 8th and 9th Jun 2013.
Yen Phang and I
The buildings in Wilkie Road, there are two notable buildings which are conserved. One is the Church of Christ of Malaya, built in 1958, and the other is Sophia Flats, built in the early 1930s, and one of a few apartment blocks to survive from that period.
Paperwork of Art
Yashica-D - camera of old time
This time, of all questions that made me wonder "Why do people create art?" If you visit the art museum, you can see how true it is. Well, it's so overwhelming and impossible to really take it all in. This event had a great impression for me to look around the bungalow with lots of paintings and artworks that inspired me. I had studied in art during my secondary school days and love arts, paintings and crafts when I was in art class and later switched to technical class.
Painting work and a broken brick
Wall of illusion 
I noticed this painting that I used to call 'Wall of Illusion' that loads with Super String Oscillations that used by lights bulbs all over the 'bare' human body to create an illusion behind the dark wall.
Close up of photo that printed with Diasec Mount
All I could say that this dancer, Soren Niewelt was sitting on the stool facing the door where there is a long corridor ahead of it. This photo on the wall is photographed by Matthew G. Johnson who is a Fine Art Photographer based in Singapore.
Ahem! Is that you..Soren Niewelt?
Seeming unnoticed of my presence, just stood in front of him to be able to snap a photo surprisingly, well posed and glued to his laptop, seriously.
Ceramic cups and bowls
Close-up of ceramic bowl
 By observing of the cups and bowls that displaying all over the places that only be seen at the 2nd level at the corner of the courtyard near the kitchen. I could make out to be ceramic cups and bowls that was formerly imported by South-east Asia regions during early years. This ceramic cups and bowls are fragile items and have to be careful when handled with care. My household have these ceramic cups and bowls since that being shifted from an old house in Havelock Road where my-in-laws once lived.
Saga Seeds and paint with variable size
On the floor lies 8000 saga seeds are reminiscent of deep emotions and passion and this gift from nature is often used by many as tokens of love and affection; sometimes it's also symbolic of one's earnest heart to apologize. So pick it up and pass it on to the one you care. This saga seed is inspired by Nicola Anthony who is an artist/writer based in Singapore.
My Saga Seeds
(Photo taken by mobile phone Sony Ericsson)
Saga Seeds in Vase with dry flowers
(Photo taken by mobile phone Sony Ericsson)
My mum and I have this saga seeds that keep for years till now. We use these saga seeds for other purposes. We can put saga seeds in vases, bottles of any shapes and sizes for decorations. My mum's neighbouring blocks also come and ask for these nowadays for other purposes. My mum and my childhood friend's mum (lives on the 3rd floors of her block) collected these saga seeds near their house along the old trees many years ago.
Vintage of an old piano
This rustic of an old piano that caught my eyes as if I was on the way back from the past to where one of my aunts lived, who had an old piano with beautifully designed that made of teak wood that can lasted for years. But somehow, its colour faded and yet tips of the piano keys are still intact.
Recycled clothes and mixed media
Along the backyard, is a spiral staircase that reminded me of one of my uncle's 3 storey bungalow that I climbed up the staircase, round and round till I reached the top of the building. But this spiral staircase is different as it's only one level up that too narrow. This recycled clothes that I believed to be hanged on the pole at the edge of the spiral staircase that one person would climb up. Recycled clothes is created by Yen Phang.
Look through the rusty grille window
An old rusty grille windows of the past that being replaced by aluminium windows of the modern bungalow that came to light. Look through the grille would remind me as a toddler where my mum's house was once had metal grille gate door that similar to this one.
Close-up of rusty grille window and blind shade shutter window
Those were the days when there was a bungalow that built with blind shade shutter windows in the early years. These old blind shade shutter windows can be seen at pre-war houses in Singapore.
Corridor to the past
As I walked to the corridor that remind me of the past and it is a historically meaningful route throughout which people or goods have been moved; where evidence exists while at the same time turning rooms into a series of dead ends. This route to where you walk to each of the room that represents your childhood of the room that you belong..
Balcony door linked to brick roof tiles
Noticing the balcony locked door that linked to brick roof tiles as if the owners of the house need to clean and wash up the root tiles and or repaired the roof tiles when the rain season come. It would be dangerous to walk on the brick roof tiles that might be slippery when wet.
Modern Kitchen
Tucked away at the corner of the 2nd level, where the balcony door located - Modern Kitchen where the Chia family used.
Round Bakelite Electrical Light Switch
This Authentic Round Bakelite Electrical Light Switch on the wall that is more than 4 decades ago. This art deco round toggle switch is still in functional use and mounted with wooden block could cause fire risks if not careful.
Green stained glass window
Close-up of Green stained glass window
A green stained glass window can be found in high-rise buildings and houses. It is very pretty with the reflections. And the angle isn't that good,  I couldn't really access it well. It only opened at the angle 90' and not widely open to a fullest scenery outside.

Muted Landscapes
The deep 'red' muted landscape represents one of the deepest sense of belonging and therefore is not what I see but a way of seeing places in this room. These two landscapes are created by Kanchana Gupta who is a artist of Indian origin, who lives and works in Singapore.
Spacious of Living Hall
This huge living hall is where the Chia family used for gatherings that bonded together for a chat, work and play, thus watching TVs that are homes to be called, loved, hurt and the  laughters from the living hall to be heard. 
Old Romance screening on 8-9 June 2013
At Displacements' event, this living hall is used for Sota students who dance at the living hall on 1st week of June 2013 and movie screenings 'Old Romances' on 8th and 9th June 2013 at 8pm.
Old box luggage with old vintage items
I noticed this old fashioned box luggage is more than 6 decades ago where my beloved father-in-law had one at my place which he kept for more than 95 years and now I still keep it.
Artworks of all places
Artworks splattering around the rooms and hall as well as courtyard that painted on the wall in red that created an atmosphere around the house. Public can look out for displays along the wall of corridor to each of the rooms.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Look through the mirror on the wall that reflects its movement, time and energy of the moving objects or living things by the look angles of reflection.
Ladder of Performance
I think the power ladder of performance as the road to universe including national awareness, balancing of our weights if sitting on top of the ladder facing the wall. To regain our good posture is an easy and very important way to maintain a healthy mind and body.
Weight of the staircase
This sight of the 'short' stairway leading to the various rooms and a living hall. Stairway should not end at a door, such as the front door, or face a bedroom door. This stairway may pose a danger especially fallen from the steps if he or she is in the hurry or dash to the kitchen nearby. A rustic steps or rough stone piers cement would be safe to be build if chosen wisely for safety of the family members.
Stick with S Pen pointed on the Samsung Note
Close-up of the S Pen draws circle on Samsung Note
Came across one of the creative arts that many people have in mind by using a few stick tightening up with strings to the end of S Pen (see pic above). And thus these people had this ideas by creating a circle by pointing S Pen onto their Samsung Note using a stick standing upright straight. I didn't know the lady was sitting on the chair none other than 'Pei Yun Cheng' whom is one of the bloggers who wrote her visits to Displacements. Click Here of her blog. 
One-Armed Swordsman by Boedi Widjaja
The guy standing to whom I rarely know his name and well, I figured it out would be one of the artists - Boedi Widjaja whose origin was from Indonesia and lives and works in Singapore. Based on this guy whose works are internally-charged and drawn from 1st-hand experiences and noticed on the wall of his drawing of 'One-Armed Swordsman' this iconic martial arts film about disconnections - a missing arm, a broken sword and a half-torn manual. I recalled one of the Hong Kong filmed which was featured in 'One-Armed Swordsman' is a 1967 Hong Kong wuxia film produced by the Shaw Brothers (SB) Studio. Was directed by Chang Cheh, was his first of the new style of wuxia films emphasizing male anti-heroes and violent swordplay since.
Cat Welfare Society
Close-up of the kittens
As I was walking down the staircase in the afternoon, there I saw three cages of adults cats and kittens for adoptions drive on 8th and 9th June 2013. For cat-lovers who are missed it and they will have a chance to adopt them. For I as a animal lover, who had a beloved cat for 15 years and passed on since 2003. I will be sad if I adopt a new kitten and I will think of my beloved cat.
'Whitewash' painted on the wall in present time
Travelled back to the past in time (original shot)
The wall of courtyard is where I saw from the pre-war houses that travelled back to the past in time and I snapped a shot of the wall building to make it look like an old photo (no edited) in the past. This 'red whitewash' painted on the wall is created by an artist, Elizabeth Lim
Courtyard beautifully arranged
Close-up of Orchid flower and marker board 
At the corner of courtyard, there was freshly 'Orchid flowers' display with a pinky vase placed on the bar table to welcome you.
Yen Phang working on the cashbox
Before I leave the house, I would manage to say 'Goodbye' to this house and I saw him busy counting something which I may not say, onto the cash-box.
Stairway to the future
Stairway to the past
As I was walking up the stairway to where the courtyard was, leading the store room at the corner end but now I was walking down to the main road where the film photographer was filmed and photo shot of the wall of the building.
Film photographer shot a film of the façade wall
So curious as I was, I shot them at a distance far from the Christian Assembly church where I stood at the end of the road. Seeing them closely, I would make out their steady holding camera with tripod pointing on the wall with dry grass pasted it. These grass (on the wall) has been there for a few weeks till it went dry without water as if the grass had burned under the hot weather during this period. These grass was there early when this bungalow opened before end of May with loads of school childrens' events.
Will this no 13 letter box be conserved?
It will be good if this no. 13 letterbox be conserved for the Chia family for memorable of the historic house.
Well, at least, I am delighted to be able to visit this heritage 78 year-old bungalow on 4th June 2013 and on the 8th June 2013 with my hubby. This event was organised by Displacements' teams, for the whole month of June 2013 and the last entry will be on 23 June 2013.
Behind Closed Gate
13 Wilkie Terrace has history of her own and would therefore be encouraged to come and visit them before their parting way of the long standing house they once lived.
For more information, you may look at their website here.