Thank you and goodbye: Orchard Road's famous 'giant beads' busking uncle dies at age 80

Oh Ow Kee has been entertaining fans, young and old, in Orchard Road for years.
PHOTO: Facebook/The People Of Singapore

As a busker, he used to draw in the crowds along Orchard Road not with his voice or guitar skills, but with wooden balls instead.

One of the more well-known icons along Orchard road along with the famed ice-cream uncle, Oh Ow Kee, or Orchard Road 'busking uncle' as he is more commonly known, died at the age of 80 last Sunday (June 5) and his details were on the online obituary space, Obits.sg on June 7.

On the website, it said that Oh passed away peacefully on June 5 and leaves behind his wife, three children and eight grandkids.

In loving memory of Oh Ow Kee who passed away on June 5.
PHOTO: Obits.sg

Oh, a well-known figure, has been a street performer since 2006 and was a rag-and-bone man prior to that, reported The Straits Times.

This busker would entertain onlookers by gyrating his hips as Woodball Woola chains swung around his body. It was quite a sight to behold and Oh had fans, young and old.

Oh's wife told Shin Min Daily News that a friend brought the Woodball Woola chains from China some 20 years ago and the couple picked it up together.

"It's actually harder for males to learn it, but once [my husband] learned it, he became very good at it, swinging it all over his body, and could even handle three at a time, I really admire him for that," she said.

According to Oh's wife, hula hooping was his only hobby and even when he was depressed, he still loved cracking jokes.

His popularity went even beyond our shores where a Bangkok Post journalist reported about an encounter with him back in 2010, describing him as a "captivating Singapore street vendor" in their headline.

His picture was also featured in BBC back in 2013 in a report about Singapore's street scenes.

News of Oh's death trickled in on various social media channels and condolences began pouring in.

Based on some netizens' comments, Oh was more than simply an entertainer.

"He spoke to my son once while at Orchard Road performing. Greatly missed by all," one said.

One fan, C. Wang, left a message on Obits.sg saying: "You've been a familiar face at Orchard Road since I was a kid. A true Singapore legend and icon. Thank you for the years of joy and entertainment you've brought to our lives. Rest in peace."

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amierul@asiaone.com