Meet S'pore's 78-year-old rocker granny

Meet S'pore's 78-year-old rocker granny

SINGAPORE - 78-year-old Mary Ho is a living testament that it's never to late to learn something new.

The grandmother of seven had no prior music knowledge, but went from zero to guitar hero when she was 60.

"I love rock. Last time, the CD was very big. I bought a lot of that and listened," she told SPH Razor.

"I love the sound of the guitar. It attracted me a lot... I wanted to learn, but my mother said: 'No, guitars are for boys! You go and study like your sister.'

"I went to work, got married and looked after my young family - I have two daughters - and I didn't have much time. When the grandchildren came, I helped to look after (them). When they got older, I felt that I had nothing much for myself (to do) and I thought about the guitar that I loved.

"That was when I started with the acoustic, at age 60.

"Somebody recommended me a very good teacher, and he didn't want to teach me.

"He said, 'No, grandma, you cannot read notes, you cannot read tablature, I don't know how to teach. I've never taught anybody at your age before.'"

Mary had fallen in love with the Santana classic "Samba Pa Ti" and was determined to learn how to play it.


Proving that age is no barrier, the sprightly grandmother eventually convinced the teacher to show her the ropes. And, with dedication, she learnt to play "Samba Pa Ti" note for note.

"It's very difficult. (Playing) 'Samba Pa Ti' involves a lot of skills and technical work. My hands are not so nimble; while sliding and bending, it takes a lot of strength. I never expected that. Even though my hands were hurt and bleeding and bandaged, I felt very disappointed that I couldn't play for a few days," Mary said.

"My children asked, 'Mom, why are you doing this to yourself? Why do you want to suffer?' I said, 'No, I'm not suffering, I love it.'

"They asked whether it was not painful, I said, 'Yes it's painful but I can bear with it because I feel I must play the guitar.'"

Mary released her own album titled "Grandma Mary's Latin Rock" in 2008, playing covers of her favourite rock and blues tracks. In the same year, Mary made her online debut after her grandson uploaded her performance of "Maria Elena" on YouTube.

"There were a lot of comments, saying it's fake, and that no old lady would play an electric guitar, especially an Asian lady. My grandson said we'd better make a video. I played 'Samba Pa Ti' and we made the video. Towards the end, I showed my face. They (viewers on YouTube) still didn't quite believe it!

"After that, I made another video showing my hands playing and nobody commented that it was a fake anymore."

Mary now owns 13 guitars, has played at numerous charity events and was recently featured on the SG50 website and Facebook page. She hopes to continue inspiring both the young and the old with her passion for life.

"We need to do something that we love. If you love something, you will definitely go and do it and in the end, you will be very happy," Mary said.

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