Pop stars among Singapore women honoured

Pop stars among Singapore women honoured
The 1970s pop divas Anita Sarawak (left) and Rahimah Rahim will be the first popular singers inducted into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame (SWHF) later this month.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The 1970s pop divas Anita Sarawak and Rahimah Rahim will be the first popular singers inducted into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame (SWHF) later this month.

Two early broadcasters will also be inducted, posthumously, as well in a new category for media created this year.

The virtual SWHF was launched by the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) in 2014 to recognise outstanding contributions by women to Singapore.

Three other women will also gain posthumous honours, and the seven will join the ranks of 133 women, ranging from advocates and doctors to adventurers and scientists.

SCWO patron Mary Tan, wife of President Tony Tan Keng Yam, will present the women or their representatives with trophies at the fourth gala dinner on March 24 at Shangri-La Hotel.

Local composer and performer Dick Lee said the inclusion of Anita and Rahimah was important for the music scene in Singapore.

Noting that few recipients of Singapore's highest arts honour - the Cultural Medallion - are pop music artists, Mr Lee said: "It's time to accept that popular culture is part of our culture in Singapore."

Another veteran, musician Jeremy Monteiro, said: "Anita has done Singapore proud, blazing the trail for others, and Rahimah has been a wonderful mentor to me."

Sixty-one-year-old Rahimah, who will be performing at the award ceremony, said she was "truly honoured" to be selected.

"I'm usually speechless," she said. "At the ceremony, my speech will be through the songs I choose for the night."

The Straits Times understands that Anita, who lives in the United States, is unable to attend the ceremony.

Broadcasters Aisha Akbar and Wong-Lee Siok Tin will be posthumously inducted for their work in the media. The former wore many hats - music teacher, songwriter and author - while the latter devoted her life to journalism.

Singapore's Helen Keller, Ms Theresa Chan, so-called because she lost her hearing and sight as a teen, is also one of the honourees this year. She died last June, aged 72.

The selection panel is chaired by Singapore's ambassador-at-large, Professor Tommy Koh.

Chairman of SWHF committee Margaret Thomas said the women had all helped to shape Singapore, but it is easy to forget their legacy.

"This is a shame because their stories are so inspiring. They deserve to be remembered and their contributions recorded," she said.

"Some played more prominent roles, others worked behind the scenes. None should be forgotten."

Women of substance


Pioneer bridal wear designer Sylvia Kho.Photo: ST file photo

A pioneer in local bridal gown design, she turned a dressmaking hobby into a home-based enterprise. At one point, she owned four boutiques, which are now closed. She died in 2013, aged 96.


The late Majorie Doggett.Photo: Facebook/ACRESasia

She once disguised herself as a laboratory technician to see how animals were used in research.

Mrs Doggett co-founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Singapore. She died in 2010, aged 89.


 Mrs Aisha Akbar.Photo: ST file photo

This broadcaster and singer-songwriter also wrote stories and taught music. In the later part of her life, she made jewellery, painted and did volunteer work. She died in 2015, aged 84.


Mrs Wong-Lee Siok Tin.Photo: ST file photo

Early in her career, she impressed then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew with her reporting and accompanied him on many official trips.

In 1978, she became the first woman to head the Ministry of Culture's department of broadcasting. She died in 1993, at 55.


Cinema still: Be With Me starring Theresa Chan Poh Lin.
Photo: Zhao Wei Films​

After losing her hearing and sight, she learnt Braille in Singapore, studied in the US and topped her class in mathematics.

She also starred in film-maker Eric Khoo's movie Be With Me. She died in 2016, aged 72.


 Anita Sarawak.Photo: ST file photo

Born to an actor-director and an actress, Anita's first foray into the industry was as an actress - but singing was her forte.

Anita, 64, lives in Las Vegas and has kept a low profile.


Veteran singer Rahimah Rahim.Photo: BH

She would sneak into nightclubs to sing with her father and later won a singing contest in Japan. Now 61, she is a household name and still accepts some singing and acting engagements.

This article was first published on March 9, 2017.
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