Oldies from the sixties get digital re-issue

Oldies from the sixties get digital re-issue
Sakura Teng (left) and Rita Chao (right), popularly known as the A-Go-Go Queens at the height of the dance craze in the 1960s.

The sixties were arguably a golden age of music for Singapore - week in, week out, there were new releases by homegrown acts and fans followed their favourite bands with Beatlemania-like fervour.

Author Joseph Pereira, who has written three books about the local music scene, says competition was fierce among record labels as they actively spotted and signed talents.

By his estimation, the 61-year-old reckons that there were several thousand works put out by a few hundred local musicians during that period.

Unfortunately, many of those recordings have been lost over the decades and few ever made it to the compact disc format - at least not until the local Universal Music office worked with Mr Pereira to release Singapore 60s, a five-disc box set featuring the likes of Naomi and the Boys, The Cyclones, The Crescendos, The Thunderbirds, Veronica Young and more.

All of those acts were signed to the Philips label and the 100-track compilation became the first proper documentation of the birth of Singa-pop. It was originally released in 2009 before going out of print when the initial run sold out.

Last year, when a YouTube video paying tribute to the nation's pioneer generation went viral, interest in the box was rekindled, especially as four tracks on the video featured surviving members of pop sensation Shirley Nair and the Silver Strings.

"There was a real buzz after that video came out and we had retailers as well as the public asking us about the compilation again," says Lim Teck Kheng, marketing director of Universal Music Singapore, "And with SG50 just around the corner, we felt it was timely to re-issue it."

The re-release last month also marks the first time Singapore 60s and its double-disc sequel, More Singapore 60s, will be made available for download and streaming on digital platforms like iTunes and Spotify.

Mr Lim explains that the move is to attract a younger generation of listeners who might be curious about the roots of Singa-pop but are not used to buying music on physical formats.

Fans of vintage Singapore pop music will be glad to know that there's more to come - Mr Lim reveals he is collaborating with Mr Pereira once again on a new compilation that will feature local hitmakers signed to Philips' rival label, EMI, during the same decade. Set for release around August, it will feature the likes of The Quests, The Straydogs and more.

Mr Pereira, who grew up with those bands as a teenager during the sixties, notes that while EMI did not sign on as many artists as Philips did, it spent more time and effort developing its talents.

Hence, it scored talents like a-go-go queens Sakura Teng and Rita Chao - both not only made it big here but even managed to put Singapore on the world music map by cracking overseas markets like Japan.

However, Mr Pereira stops short of calling that decade the golden age of music for the local scene. "That may be too presumptuous but in terms of productivity, it has never been surpassed," he says.


This article was first published on June 5, 2015.
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