Runs on food and music, will sing for chips and pasta.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Be your songs...Janet

Own your songs, Janet.

Go on, fly.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

the stranger in town

Loneliness is, ....was a stranger here.
But he knocked my door and dropped his bag at my feet,
Saying he needed a place to stay for a week or two.
"It's full everywhere else."

I look him in the eye,
"OK, only for a while."
- a case of hesitation and reluctance gave way to kindness?
He walked in and declared,
"What a nice home you have, for a tired stranger like me."

Hmm, gosh, I hope he likes the same books that I read.
I made tea and sat next to him,
"I don't drink coffee, but there are some 2-in-1 over there in the second drawer.  Help yourself."
He smiled while staring at my painting on the wall and said,
"No worries dear, I'll have whatever you're having."

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Letter number one hundred and twenty-six: The days go on

Dearest J,

I needed a break from my huge entanglement of work, desk work and music,

I sat myself down and watched Sex And The City again, my first time since the last time I finished watching its last episode in season 6...and the two SITC movies.   Ordered a vege pizza, finished it while watching Carrie Bradshaw smart-assed her way around NYC.  I opened a can of beer..some Holland beer that was too bitter for me, good thing I had ordered a bottle of 7-up too from Dominos so I could mix it into the beer I otherwise wouldn't want to finish.

My first bunch of beers I brought home to this flat, for myself...bought them at this dingy shop downstairs of Petaling Street Art House after watching WVC Trio+1 gig - 7 ringgit for a bottle of Hoegarden.

I was having a real grand time enjoying myself on the couch, felling smug that I had pizza, beer and watched about 7 episodes of Sex And The City...then EJ jazz dude, his reply to my whatsapp message came in.  He is busy with his wedding preparation and he can't send in his music early for my rehearsals for a show in October...a show with 3 other singers, and two directors involved.  Wedding, of course I have to be forgiving, and understanding.

I just felt like crying then, like a need to just cry, whine and rant over something petty like work (which is what I feel married to now) -- and what I needed, is you.  I wanted to cry and whine to you, about work and my frustration.  You used to be the best shoulder to cry on, you say the right stuff to make me feel good again.

Like that time when I had a bad rehearsal with Evelyn for that Mozart gig in NBT.

And that time when I lost the singing competition again...

And that time after the Villas Lobos gig with 10 cellists...when I heard the recording of my horrible singing of Bachianas Brazilleiras No. 5.

You also said all the right stuff when I was happy with my work.  You told me I was getting to sing more and more, I was getting to be so much better on stage, I was getting around -- with gigs.  You told me one day you would just retire and be at home playing computer games because you won't need to work anymore, because my singing jobs one day, could pay for the life for two of us.

You were so proud of me.

Well, I think you would be really proud of me now if you were here.  You could listen to the first batch of raw recordings I have now for my album.  Who would have thought one day this would come to me, my own album, originals, recording booth, bands, writers...

Am going to dedicated this debut album to you.

Miss you very much,


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Workout diary: Session #24, July 16th

a) warm up @ 7 min jogging

b) Pull down @ 18kg @ 15 reps x 5 sets
Bicep curl @ 14 lbs @ 15 reps x 5 sets

c) chest press @ 18kg + triceps dips x 4 sets @ 15 reps

d) dead lift @ 18kg @ 12 reps + squats @ 15 lbs @ 15 reps x 4 sets

e) walking lunges @ 14 lbs x 4 sets

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Workout diary: Session #23, July 9th

a) warm up - jogging @ 6min

b) squats @ 15 reps @ 15 lbs x 5 sets

c) calf raise @ 8 lbs @ 30 reps x 5 sets

d) walking lunges with shoulder press x 18 lbs x 4 sets

e) side plank @ 20 reps x 4 sets

superman plank @ 6 lbs @ 20 reps x 4 sets

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Workout diary: Session #22, July 8th

a) warm up @ jogging @ 6min

b) pulldown @ 18kg @ 15 reps x 4 sets
rowing @ 16 lbs @ 15 reps x 4 sets

c) lateral raise @ 16 lbs @ 15 reps x 4 sets
reverse fly @ 8 lbs @ 15 reps x 4 sets

d) push up - variations: diamond / normal / wide @ 10 reps x 4 sets

e) ankle reach (oblique) left and right @ 10 reps x 3 sets

f) twist sit up - left and right @ 10 reps x 3 sets

g) sit-up @ 20 reps x 3 sets

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Starting out - debut album making diary #1 (July 5th)

Remember taking notes in class, at lectures?  Only you yourself understand your own handwriting and notes, scribbles and symbols, codes and anecdotes... I want to record whatever I can remember from the session yesterday so that I could remember what I need to execute now, as well as providing a diary of this journey so I could look back to this day in future.

So these notes may not be cohesive or anything close to it...just my scribbles :)

July 5th, Saturday 3-6pm.

So here we a bag of emotions, all mixed up.  There's going to be lots of growing up to do in the next few months, or should I say, there's no better way to grow up than to give yourself a decision to make an album, produce it yourself - that is certainly an express lane to growing up - fast.

Song-fan gave me a call few weeks ago to chat about a potential music project that he is hoping to embark on soon, with me :) being the people we are, one topic leads swiftly to others and came my album making topic... "You didn't tell me it's going to be this soon!?" He exclaimed over the phone.  I told him it's going to be just me and my vocal coaches - for the album - to nail the singing parts.  He offered to vocal produce for me.  "Really?!!  Nobody has been interested to produce my singing for this and I thought my repertoire too odd and the project too `shiok-sendiri' to approach anyone else, besides...I can't afford it I suppose.." I confessed.

Anyway, we are going to see things go before he and I make a deal on this one.  He told me to start some studio hours now to get myself comfortable singing in a recording booth.  So we had our first session yesterday.  It went better than I thought :) I was as clueless as anything but now I know, I need a vocal producer.

Song-fan started singing from a young age, trained and worked as audio engineer, more than a decade  of voice-over works and 9 years in performing arts and now, TV.  His understanding of studio recording and his talent in coaching are now looking to be quite indispensable for my recording...ya, really.

We worked on two songs yesterday - Carmen and Restless Heart.  Carmen was selected as an exercise piece because it has a good range of dynamics, quite wordy (hence good for working on my Mandarin diction) and big tessitura.  Restless Heart (composition by Cher Siang with my lyrics) was chosen because a) I have the minus one track, b) stark difference of style from Carmen, c) it's going to be in the album.

Notes to self, tips for studio recording:  (credits to Song-fan's coaching)

1) Volume of singing in the booth: calculated and controlled - often a lower volume of singing in the recording booth helps achieve much more expressions and finesse.  Volume and projection used on a live stage for live audience may not work at recording.  Key words: focus, intimate, close range projection, "subtle intensity"...

2) Projection of audience in the booth: without any audience inside the booth, to help the performer/singer connect closer to the future audience - people who are going to pop the CD into the car stereo or a CD player - imagine the distance of the listener/audience from the mouth or face of the singer.  As close as the microphone?  An arm's reach away?  Once you have decided, you can gage the volume and intensity that should be applied onto your delivery.

We did the session in the recording room downstairs of StarMount Studio where the newly open little cafe is.  This soundproof room has a live feel and it was rather easy to sing in.  We tried my singing without any reverb on my mic (AKG condenser) - SF said that zero reverb setting is wonderful for hearing one own's pitching and flaws.  It was surprisingly...not as impossible as I thought it would be.

I started by singing through Carmen in one take, then all of us listened to the recording in the control room with Alex.  We heard the raw recording, void of effects and without the music too.  SF said the mic may have given my voice a rounder and warmer quality than my `normal voice'.

Tackling the first note of the song was a bitch that day.  The key was C#.  Ever since I started listening to myself more, singing my starting note for Carmen has often been a `hit-or-miss' affair...really annoying.  After many takes and working on my nerves, the C# got slightly better...I am reminded again that many a times, a problem in singing is greatly affected by our fears - a mental condition.  Your head could well ruin your music if you don't do something about it.

Volume.  I enjoyed singing in a much lower volume, singing close to the mic filter..and biting into the little nuances and expressions that could be heard crystal clear in my headphones.  I've done enough jingles to know the thrill of hearing everything amplified on studio condenser mics it's been a long time since my last recording of any song in full length.

We focused on the song's opening and up to the "L'amour" bits just before the main chorus of the song.  That went on for about an hour and then we moved on to Restless Heart.

I did a one take sing-through of the song.  After which SF gave me a rather gravely expression :) haha, there's much work - treatment and talk-through that was needed for this song.

Halfway through Alex needed to leave the control room for a bit to settle his piano-tuner business upstairs so we were left alone to work on the treatment, experimenting and discussion on the song.  Before Alex went upstairs I did another sing-through, with a much more gentle, subtle volume, varied dynamics.

"Don't just give the song attacks everywhere, volumes, and belt all through the song. "

What we covered / what SF requested/suggested:
a) recitative - reworked the idea of volume for this chunk and delivery of lyrics, like 'how to sing without sounding like singing".
b) treatment of tone and dynamics of the chorus
c) giving different dynamics and mood for the repeated higher notes in the song
d) changing breathing places for certain parts of chorus and making lyrical line longer without breathe place "...and I'm down on my knees I know you are smiling down on me."

might try to break the sentence proper into:

When the water runs dry and I'm down on my knees /
but I know you are smiling down on me saying' /
things will be all right /
when you start to sing /

e) giving the word 'sigh' its rightful tone of sigh :)

...lots to think about, to experiment, lots of questions, lots to be coached...and many songs to work through.  The panicky feeling will be replaced with excitement when I start to (well, I have started) work through these old and new songs.

We hung out at the studio cafe after the session, over coffees, tea, vegetarian mini pie, scones and cookies.  Alex specially mentioned the butter when he was serving the scones...true, the taste and texture of this salted butter named 'La Belle d'Andaine' (I asked to be shown the butter packaging) was pretty awesome.  I look forward to another session at the studio...and cafe.

Callista took lots of photos for me at the studio :)

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Workout diary: Session #21, July 4th

I spent the weekend dragging my sore body all over town.  Sargent up my game on Friday with weights level I've never been before, though it was tough during the class...I didn't see the impact coming, till right after class at my steering wheels...woooaah, my arms just 'died' and the following day the `fun' begins.  He replied my whatsapp message "Aiyayai, you rest up ya...yup, today memang nak push you to the new limit..."

Yup, it was the day it looked like the bar was gonna crash on me in the crazy clean and jerk!

a) warm up @ 5 min

b) Clean & Jerk @ 4 sets @ 15kg

c) Arnold press @ 16 lbs + lateral raise @ 12 lbs + reverse fly @ 8 lbs x 10 reps x 4 sets

d) squats @ 30 lbs @ 15 reps x 4 sets (killer...mofo) 

e) calf raise @ 30 reps x 4 sets

g) dead lift (heaviest ever for me) @ 25kg x 4 sets @ 15 reps

CAYA LAH!  woooooot...hooked on pain, this little mad bitch in me...

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Workout diary: Session #20, July 1st

Had a nice portion of breakfast an hour before the session, of eggs, bread and butter.  But at the start of the walking lunges I got dizzy and had to sit out the last 2 sets :( Sargent had to rescue me by getting me sugary drinks from the vending think that was the start of Ramadan and I had wanted to not drink for an hour during the workout.

a) warm-up @ jogging @ 7mins

b) pulldown @ 5 sets @ 15 reps @ 18kg

c) push-ups @ 5 sets @ 15 reps

d) lunges @ 2 sets @ 15 lbs

e) jumping squats @ 2 sets @ 15 reps

"died" during the walking lunges and jumping squats, so Sargent Naim had to switch exercise to planks...

f) side plank @ 3 sets of 15 reps

g) side sit-up @ 3 sets of 20 reps

h) sit-ups @ 3 sets of 20 reps

i) jogging @ 5 mins

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Workout diaryy: Session #19, June 25th

Focus: upper body training 

a) warm up @ jogging @ 6min

b) pulldown 
- front pulldown @ 15 reps x 3 sets - weights: 14kg (1 set), 18kg (2 sets)
- back pulldown @ 15 reps x 3 sets - weights: 14kg (1st & 2nd set), 18kg (3rd set)

c) Rowing @ 4 sets @ 15 reps @ 18 lbs

d) reverse fly @ 4 sets @ 15 reps @ 8 lbs

e) Arnold press @ 4 sets @ 15 reps @ 16 lbs 

f) front raise @ 3 sets @ 15 reps @ 16 lbs

g) bicep curl @ 3 sets @ 15 reps @ 18 lbs 

h) sit-ups - side 
- 10 reps @ left & right @ 4 sets
- normal sit-up @ 10 reps @ 4 sets

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Workout diary: Session #18, June 20th

a) Warm up @ 5min jog on treadmill

b) Clean & Jerk @ 5 sets:
  1-3rd set @ 12 reps @ 14 lbs
  4th & 5th set @ 10 reps @ 20 lbs

c) Push ups @ 3 sets of 30 reps - variations: diamond, normal, wide

d) Walking lunges with bicep curls - 3 sets of 20 steps @ 16 lbs

e) Sit-ups @ 4 sets of 15 reps

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Workout diary: Session #17, June 17th

a) Warm up - 6 min

b) Walking lunges with shoulder press @ 20 steps x 4 sets

c) Jumping squats - 15 reps x 4 sets

d) Pull down @ 18kg x 4 sets

e) Bicep curls @ 14 lbs @ 15 reps x 4 sets

f) Shoulder press - 18 lbs @ 12 reps x 4 sets & lateral raise - 8 lbs @ 12 reps x 4 sets

g) Sit-up - 30 reps x 4 sets (mix of normal sit-up and side)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

FB post dated June 18th - "Que Sera Sera" by my dad

[what-I-learned-from-Dad-lastnight] In the rather toxic matrix of the city's hustle and bustle, am often blinded by small problems, temporary hurdles, etc...I often forget to look at the big picture and get a grip of "What's more important?" and "What's the big picture?"

Drove parents out earlier to visit friends, after I absent-mindedly ate my dinner with them at home - mind crowded and distracted (stressing over logistics for the concert project early next year, in conjunction with album release, etc).  My dad asked me from the backseat if I knew the song title of a famous English song, he started singing a tune that wasn't anywhere in tune and his lyrics didn't quite make sense.

"Dad I don't know this song, I cannot tell what you're singing." (I just wasn't present enough in the conversation nor I had the patience then to try to figure it out)

He started telling us that the lyrics of the songs is about not knowing what the future brings.  My mom immediately said, "Oh I know the song!" :) I knew mom knows that it's Que Sera Sera that dad was referring to - she also sang it better than dad.

So I put on the song in the car for them, Pink Martini's version of Que Sera Sera from the Sympathique album.  And dad started relating how life is indeed like the song itself - you cannot tell what the future brings.

It brought a smile to my face thinking how, as a kid back in school, to live this life I have now would have been the wildest dream.  Who would have thought that my parents would be cool enough to let me live the way I do when I first quit my day job?  Never in my wildest dreams as a kid did I dreamed of working on an album of my own; never would I have believed that one day I would live my days as a storyteller on stage, singing songs of dreams and hopes for live audiences who indulge with me - even though I have written more than once in school homework that my ambitions and dream jobs were these: author, novelist, actor, singer and dancer.

"Hey you", I tell myself, "This is the moment - of being alive, staying alive, ironing out problems, big and small...charging along; both your parents still around and they are playing witnesses to your life's events - of your big and small achievements - being proud to have given birth to you." "So why so grim?  There's nothing you can do that can't be done...nothing you can sing that can't be sung..."

Yea, I gotta learn to set my perspectives right and understand the scale of my `predicaments'.  So thank you dad, for singing the song, though out of tune and lyrics not quite right - you have taught me and reminded me last night on "what's more important".   Que Sera Sera.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Workout diary: Session #15, June 6 + Session #16, June 10

Didn't take any diary for session #15 ;p

Session # 16 was a level up for me, Sargent Naim said "Ah today we are going to do tougher exercises.."

a) Warm up - jogging of 6 min

b) Clean & Jerk - Sargent explained to me what's involved and he let me did the first set of 10 reps without saying much, it was a bitch of wrist wanted to give way to the bar when I lifted it to my shoulder and up to a shoulder press.

"You see I wanted you to learn the hard way...before I let you in on the trick of this exercise, on how to `cheat'!"  .......

He showed me the routine again with the proper usage of momentum to enable the lifting/pulling of the bar into a smooth transition into the next movement - a deep squat with the bar lifted on shoulder level, and in the exhalation shift from deep squat into standing position and propel the barbell upward into a shoulder press.

Felt like magic, that feels like a bit like dancing, getting the momentum right then the routine become possible to do, I  told Sargent.

So that's 10 reps in one set, I did 5 sets of that, the last set with increased repetition to 15.  The barbell was 10kg.

c) Walking lunges - 20 steps x 5 sets @ 14kg -- this is my absolute pet dislike I put on music on my iPod to ease the boring routine while Sargent went on counting and making a clown of himself, tickling me to laughter while I juggled lunging and holding on to the dumbbells.

d) Shoulder press @ 16 pounds + lateral raise @ 8 pounds x 4 sets @ 12 reps

e) superman plank @ 20 reps x 4 sets @ 6 pounds

f) Leg raise @ 15 reps x 3 sets  -- I had to do something extra yesterday with this routine, adding a tummy crunch and lift both legs high up and reach from pelvis to touch Sargent's hands where he was standing in front of me.  A killer for the abs ...necessary evil I guess.

g) Normal sit-up @ 15 reps x 4 sets

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Workout diary: Session #14, June 3

Poor Sargent was out of action for a week due to a fall in a drain (!!!!!) in a heavy downpour...his wound was infected.

a) Jog @ 5 min 

b) Pull down -- 4 sets 
1st set @ 14kg @ 20 reps
2nd - 4th set @ 18kg @ 15 reps

c) bend over roll -- 4 sets 
1st set @ 20 reps @ 16 pounds
2nd - 4th set @ 15 reps @ 18 pounds

d) reverse fly -- 4 sets 
1st set @ 20 reps @ 8 pounds
2nd - 4th set @ 15 reps @ 8 pounds

e) shoulder press @ 15 reps @ 16 pounds
+ lateral raise @ 15 reps @ 8 pounds

f) superman plank with dumbbells @ 8 pounds @ 20 reach x 4 sets

g) side crunch + normal sit-ups @ 20 reps x 4 sets

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Workout diary: Session #13, May 23rd

a) warm up - 5 min jog

b) squats - 20 reps, (I have been spelling this wrong and I had no idea - that 'squad' is not 'squat'!!!) walking lunges - 10 steps, calf raise - 30 reps -- all with 9 pounds each arm, 3 sets

c) side plank @ 15 reps + hip abduction @ 20 reps -- 4 sets

d) side crunch @ 10 reps + sit-ups @ 12 reps  -- 4 sets

e) jog @ incline 3% - 5 min

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Workout diary: Session #12, May 21st

Sargent Naim upped my game today! Adding on weights for my pull-down exercises and I quite..almost didn't flinch the whole time, ALMOST :)

a) Warm-up jogging @ 5min @ 4mph

b) Pull-down (back and front) & shoulder press
1st set pull down @ 14kg @ 40 reps
2nd set pull down @ 18kg @ 30 reps
3rd set pull down @ 23kg @ 16 reps
4th set pull down @ 18kg @ 30 reps
5th set pull down @ 14kh @ 40 reps

Shoulder press of 5 sets @ 15 reps each, with dumbbells @ 12 pounds, 14 pounds, 16 pounds

c) Push-ups (5 sets @ 15 reps) and climbers (5 sets of 20 reps)

d) Sit-up and glut (hamstring exercise - new) - 4 sets of 15 reps

e) Lunges with weights (20 steps @ 4 sets @ 18 pounds) and calf raises (4 sets of 30 reps)

Lunch after workout today was super delicious, Sargent took me to a Rojak stall near the gym.  "The Chinese aunty's fruits rojak is damn good!"  Not really a fruits Rojak fan, but I ordered a box for myself anyway, with chilies and extra crackers, and a bottle of fresh coconut water.  The rojak was sooooo good that I had to stop my car at the side of the road and finished it there and then :)  ...then again, I know, so far all my meals right after the workout taste REALLY good.

Well then, another fruits rojak with chilies for me this Friday.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Letter one hundred and twenty five - The days go on

Dearest J,

This letter has taken about week to be finished...better late than never.

Started this part a week ago and stopped halfway when I had to go off, but didn't want to end it abruptly...this is going to be a bunch of random but important updates.

This part of my life now is - quietly contented with everything...and the road ahead - the sense of purpose is grounding me on my feet, solid.

The last letter was dated October 2nd, last year.  I had quite a roller coaster ride...of the heart and head.  Was drying myself earlier after a shower and looked over the big scars on my right leg, left by Thursday late last year and thought - yup, this is the souvenir and a (possibly) semi-permenant reminder of the lowest point of my life...the road so far.  The cat turning feral inside of my home was both a wake-up call for my depression-prone cycle last year and a trigger for my reinforced efforts in getting a grip of my life: take care of myself.

I was having a lovely supper by myself, next to strangers, at the mamak downstairs earlier - and thinking of you.  I imagine I was you, alone, late at night after work.  I shared the table with a stranger who was on the phone most of the time, he only had drinks.  I sat there because there were no other empty table for me.  I switched table once to avoid secondhand smoke.

Anyway I imagine how  you would sit down and eat a meal and how you would enjoy every bite of the food on your plate.  It was a good supper - roti ghee with dahl and a milo ais.

Wrote a long letter to Cher Siang in December to spill what goes in my head, all things related to our music work together.  There were loads of pent up emotions and insecurities on my part that were eating me from inside out - the whole of last year.  Though I took the long painful way to realise how easily I could have solved my glad I finally cross a hurdle of my own demons by sitting down to write that letter and came clean with my thoughts and questions, to him.  I just have to remember that with 001/Cher Siang, going straight to the point and being honest is the best policy.

We managed to schedule a breakfast meeting in early February, with his baby boy in tow.  I had plans to make studio recordings for one or two original works that we have been performing, to gain some exposure for the material.  Nowhere was I close to planning recording a full album this year itself...but by the end of the meeting we were already discussing rough timeline to record a full album for me, a first album.  "If you don't let go and put down the pen, you'll never be ready to make that album.  It's time to stop worrying about the material and start working on making the actual album."

I started talking about making the album and telling everyone who asked about my work about it - hoping that the fact that many people hear of this from me will hold me down, and lock in the determination I need to make the album a reality.

Then in early dinner with Seeming and one question later, "So what's up with the album planning?" ....I don't how and where to start with the work...I replied her.

"WHY do you need to make this album?  Why do you want to make this album?"  I went home with a list of homework from Seeming.  "You need to write a mission statement, telling people why making this album is important, and who are the critical team members on this album, and get a budget out, and a timeline.  Show me in one week."

Filled with motivation and momentum.  I finished writing a short `declaration' as my mission statement for the album in less than a day.  You can see that this is a thing I need to do, for me...and in living out your spirit.

This is what I wrote:

I would have lived just as another pretty face in the crowd.  But one day years ago - through the medium of music - I was picked out of the crowd, by him.  He who looked deep into the soul of me, made me longer just another pretty face in the crowd.

These eyes of mine see the world through his lens, they colored my world with the paint of no-pretension, compassion and lots of passion.  I wish to live out his legacy through my music and singing.

Too much has been poured on this journey to not put it down in a tangible form, to represent all the priceless intangibles that have been blessed in my life - music and my friends.

I have to make this album:
Because the music and stories need to be shared
Because of the people who gave me my voice and music
Because I need to look at my music in the eye and tell it -
"I know you are here, and I'm here with you, for you."
Because my music is me, Janet Lee.

I have to make this album:
Because a little girl years ago wrote in her school homework titled:
"My Ambition - when I grow up"...
That she dreamed of being a writer, a singer, an actress and a dancer
Because years later she had lived to be all of that,
and more than that...
Because she was loved by a good soul.

the 'Critical Team Members': 

Music director & producer – Tay Cher Siang
Producer - Janet Lee
Composers - Tay Cher Siang, Saidah Rastam, Nick Choo
Studio & engineer - Starmount Studio & Alex Tan
Vocal coaches – Zalina Lee & Cecilia Yap
Backup vocals – Zalina Lee, Elvira Arul

Core Musicians:
Tay Cher Siang, piano 
AJ Popshuvit, bass
KJ Wong, drums
Julian Chan, sax

Photographer - Wong Horng Yih 
Album launch concert director - Nell Ng
Fairy god mother & best friend :) - Chong See Ming 

Things got busy, my phone line went busy with calls from client.  I signed up for a part time dance course in Aswara and would start to collect bruises from dancing and rolling on the hard floor of Aswara studios.
 Then last month I started weight-training with a personal trainer, I nick name him as Sargent Naim.  I've done 11 sessions so far and am decidedly a pain junkie now.  I have desired for a more beautiful body for two years and have done nothing about it until now.  I see Sargent twice a week, one hour each session.  The dumbbells were killer, the results on my body is coming very slowly but the mental satisfaction I reap is immediate - food tastes so much better, meal time is always a heightened experience of `bonding with my food'...I remember when you were training for your half marathon, you were so motivated and happy with your running schedule and eating.

I also started going to the morning wet market down the road - finally found it after Seeming told me about it years ago.  It's become something I really enjoy doing once a week, a delightful routine I look forward to weekly.  Fresh foods are cheaper there, I am saving money on my groceries and I have been cooking more and eating regularly.  I love taking my breakfast at the market, and watch the market goes next to me, or read a book while I eat freshly made hot foods.   This feels good because I have learned to overcome fear of shopping next to housewives and people who know what they are doing - I overcame the shame of not knowing what am doing and ask the vendors to help me choose the vegetables and fruits.

Am obsessed with my stomach due to a prolonged bout of indigestion and bloating.  I started on some probiotics in March but it didn't seem to make any significant improvement on my condition.  I continued my conversations with many people on this and have settled for a formula/lifestyle of eating regular meals everyday and on time,  be watchful of my portions at every meal, increase intake of fermented foods and good fats, increase variety of foods, keeping up the routine of weekly yoga and weight training and try to make myself go toilet every morning/everyday.   The results are really not too bad,  the bloating has reduced...not gone totally, I still take a long time to digest the food but the day-long bloating has certainly reduced.

Cher Siang roped me in last month to perform in Melaka for a charity online (my first live-stream performance!!) concert for Hospis Melaka and Cancer Society Melaka, on Unesco International Jazz Day - April 30th. It was my first working experience with Alex, the boss at Star Mount Studios, who will be the engineer for my album.  Alex and his assistant QE recently recorded Cher Siang's new album and they are all happy with the works and the new `family ties' -- Alex said their relationship is akin to family, as they have spent a lot of time together, working with passion.

I had to sing without stage monitors in the living hall of an old Colonial Melaccan house.  Alex explained to me how having monitors would not be the ideal setting for the line-up and acoustics of the location, "Yes, it would be a bit challenging but it's great training for you to...just sing out and trust, don't hold back."  The natural acoustics in the house was wonderful..I did it - with some nerves (want to impress Alex and the team) but mostly with a lot of loving feelings - the vibes from the boys and the audience that night was magical, unforgettable for I have done more practice on my own at home before the trip.  The reception was wild, everybody was in love that night.   We had a great evening of music and party.  The gang piled into one hotel room late that night and recorded an episode of WVC TRiO+1 podcast.  

The following day was spent with the boys in town, braving the Labour Day traffic and crowd.  Spending time with the likes of HY and Choo Harn was mostly fun and inspiring.  On the drive home I initiated a holiday plan to Japan in 2015, and recruited HY and Cher Siang on the project.  It would be a special reward for myself after giving birth to the album.  April 2015, a trip to experience Hanami and to begin a new chapter of travelling with new buddies.

I think this is almost a perfect point of my life...isn't it.  I feel that I have come out of the pits that I was in barely months ago and now am living it out the best I can, living for the two of us.

It's mostly because I have the right stuff occupying my head since the beginning of this year - the album project is a proclamation, a coming-off age kind of life project.  HY said it is necessary because it's my way of saying "I'm here, am alive, hear my songs."

I miss you, but am feeling much better for the two of us and making a life for you and I.


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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #11, May 16th

I told Sargent that am getting lazier with my training diary...guess what, we didn't make the diary again after class.  He had a new client, a newsreader lady, she had her session right after my class and I finished late so I had to rush off to make way for her class to start - so no diary.

what I remember

a) Warm up - 5 min jog on the treadmill @ 4mph

b) pull down, 14kg x 20 reps x 1 set
then 18kg x 15 reps x 3 sets

c) bicep curls - 10 reps x 5 sets @ 9 pounds each hand

d) Superman plank - 4 sets of 20 reps

e) Sit-ups - 4 sets of 15 reps

f) lateral raise...

g) the killer...shoulder press with dumbbells, can't remember the weights, but it wasn't nice.  So nasty that Sargent had to assist me on the last 2 sets.

I have never looked at myself in the mirror this much, this obsession of toning makes me feel vain and at the same time, relieved to know that am able to face my own vanity.

I was told that the body-toning/transformation may be slower for me due to my vegetarian diet - intake of protein may not be I bought more tempeh this morning at the market.  Will add in a lot more tofu and beans in my menu.  Sargent will bring me some protein-shake samples to try at my next session - that should supplement my lack of protein for my post work-out meals.

...all in all, I do notice the tiny changes in my arms, shoulders and abs.  The indigestion and bloating situation has improved a little - am guessing it's due to my overall attention to eating and toilet schedule - doesn't look like it's the effect of the expensive probiotics that I started taking.  The improvement came after I started training in April, whereas I've started taking probiotics a month before that.

Food never tasted better after I started weight-trainig :)

Guess am a converted pain-junkie :)

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Workout training diary: Session #10, May 13th

a) warm up jogging - 5 min - 4mph :)

b) dead lift (30 pounds x 15 reps x 5 sets) and
squads - 30 pounds x 15 reps x 5 sets

c) lunges with shoulder press (DIED!!!) - started with 18 pounds dumbbells, then 16 pounds - Sargent Naim had to give me lighter weights after one set because I just couldn't carry on with the 18-pound shoulder press in lunges...4 sets

d) push-ups, 20 reps x 4 sets

e) sit-ups, 5 sets of 15 reps

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #9, May 9th

a) 5 min jog on treadmill

b) squads & walking lunges
1st set - 20 squads with 18 pounds
2nd - 4th set @ 20 reps with 14kg dumbbells

c) push ups - 4 sets of 15 reps (angled) + leg raise @ 20 reps x 4 sets

d) calf raise - 4 sets of 30 reps

e) side sit-ups - 4 sets of 20 reps
normal sit-ups - 4 sets of 12 reps

f) jumping squads - 4 sets of 15 reps

next session - Tuesday, May 12th :)

The jumping squad was a killer, took me a bit of time to get the posture and body right.  The weekend followed with aches all over...subsided on late Sunday..

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Workout training diary: Session #8, May 7th

LOL - we forgot to make a diary after the session!

Sargent Naim hurt his calf on Sunday at football, was out of action for couple of days..glad he summoned me back to class this morning.

burpees!!!!! 4 sets of 10? 15?

Lateral raise



sit ups

pull down @ 18kg



Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #7, May 2nd

a) warm up jogging of 5-min

b) push-ups - 10 reps x 5 sets

c) chest press (on machine...killer for me) - 15 reps x 4 sets (14kg)

d) Arnold press - 10 reps x 5 sets (4 pounds each hand)

e) lateral Raise - 15 reps x 4 sets (4 pounds each hand)

f) triceps dips - 10 reps x 4 sets

g) sit-ups - 10 reps x 4 sets

h) crunches - 15 reps x 3 sets

i) plank (Superman) - 20 reps 7 4 sets

Sargent injured himself on Sunday night at football, hope he gets some help soon.  Sessions on delay...

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #6, April 25th

a) Warm up run of 5 min on treadmill

b) Squads & shoulder press with dumbbells - 5 sets of 15 reps
Squads with 15 pounds each hand
Shoulder press with 8 pounds each hand

c) Pull down & Lunges - 5 sets each
Pull down weights - 1st set of 20 reps @ 14kg, 2nd set - 5th set @ 18kg for 15 reps
Lunges with weights - starts with 6 pounds each hand, then 8 pounds, 9 pounds and then 15 pounds (the 15 p each hand - REAL Killer)

d) Push ups - 4 sets of 15 reps

e) Tricep dips - 4 sets of 15 reps

f) Sit-ups - 4 sets of 15 reps

g) Leg raise - 4 sets of 15 reps

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #5, April 17th

a) Warm up with 5-min run on treadmill

b) Push-ups: 3 sets of 30 reps with variations of diamond hand, shoulder weight and wide push-up

c) Shoulder press: 3 sets of 15-reps

d) Lateral raise: 3 sets of 15-reps

e) Pull down: 18kg - 3 sets of 12-reps

f) Bend over roll: 3 sets of 15-reps

g) Dead lift: 3 sets of 15-reps (I have no idea why it's called a Dead lift, will ask Sargent Naim in the next class)

h) Squads: 3 sets of 15-reps

i) Sit-ups: 3 sets of 10-reps normal sit-ups + 3 sets of 10-reps `alternate hand touching knee'

Next session: haven't scheduled but slot in two sessions for next week :)

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #4, April 14th

a) Warm up - 5-min jog on trade mill

b) Pull down weight machine:
1set of 20-reps @ 14kg
2nd set of 15-reps @ 18kg
3rd set & 4th set of 12-reps @ 18kg

c) Squads: 5 sets
1st set @ 20-reps with body weight
2nd set @ 15-reps with 16 pounds
3rd - 5th set @ 12-reps with 30 pounds

d) Walking lunges:
4 sets of 30-steps with 18 pounds weight
alternate each set with shoulder press of 15-reps with 12 pound dumbbells

e) Girl Push-ups & Planks:
15-reps of 4 sets of push-ups
4 sets of 30-second of planks

f) Sit-ups: 5 sets
15-reps each set

Today I taught Sargent Naim how to count in French :) He sang a short song in Kelantanese for me, hehe.

Next session: April 17th, Thursday

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #3, April 9th

Focus: legs

a) warm up with running on machine for 10-min

b) squads
5 sets of 15 repetition, with dumbbells
6 pounds on each hand, then 8 pounds each, 8, 9 and 15 (killer!!)

c) walking lunges
4 sets of 30-steps with dumbbells
of 6 pounds (2 sets) each hand and then 8 pounds each hand (2 sets)

d) girl push-up
5 sets of 12 repetition

e) shoulder-press with dumbbells
3 sets of 12 repetition with 6 pounds on each hand

f) sit-ups with alternate hand touching knee
5 sets of 12 repetition

g) normal sit-up
3 sets of 15 reps

h) running 5 min

Next session: Monday, April 14th

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #2, April 7th

Today's focus, spot training - Back

...notes are messy, too many variations of back exercises!  I have the Sargent record a voice memo after each class to keep a diary of all the workout's recording is a little messy..

a) Pull-down (weight) machine
4 sets of 15 repetition, at:

b) Back overall exercise with dumbbells:
4 sets of 10-15 reps, with
4 pound in each hand
6 pound in each hand
8 pound in each hand (x2)

c) Back extension - lower back with dumbbells:
4 sets of 10 reps, with
8p on each arm

d) Lateral raise & bicep-curl with dumbbells:
10 reps of lateral raise - 6 pound in each hand
15 reps of bicep curls - 6 pound in each hand

e) Squads & calf-raise
4 sets of
Squads - 15 reps
Calf-raise - 20 reps

f) sit-ups
5 sets of 10 sit-ups
5 sets of 10 crunches

Next session: Wednesday, April 9th.

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FB note dated April 5th - The Workout diary #1: the happy slave to vanity begins her journey (April 4)

The intention is pure vanity, I haven't doubt it and I will come clean and be honest about it :) it's my shallow brain at work.

After close to two years of talking about shaping up and toning, you know, working towards getting a body...the kind I ogle on other women - lean and toned; I finally gave in to my vanity and gave up my laziness.  Atilia Haron has been the one, whose workout routine and progress I followed closely on social media (Thank you Sayang for letting us ogle your work out updates on FB!!) and I told myself many times, Yalah, that's what I want to aim for, in terms of a physic and fitness level. level I have a hell long long way to go to match Atilia's - but physic, yes, I want the physic - it's all looks for me :)

So I buzzed her and asked her for her personal trainer's contact.  Called him up the same morning I got his number, and made an appointment to start the following day.

So, the diary started yesterday, at 1pm :)

April 4th, first session/class with Naim Bashah, whom I address as Sargeant Naim.

a) Squads - 4 sets of 15 repetition
1st repetition - body weight
2nd repetition - body + 4 pound weight on each hand
3rd repetition - body + 6 pound weight on each hand
4th repetition - body + 9 pound weight on each hand (10kg in total, can die!)

b) Lunges - 4 sets of 15 repetition
1st repetition - body weight
2nd repetition - body + 4 pound weight on each hand
3rd repetition - body + 6 pound weight on each hand
4th repetition - body + 9 pound weight on each hand (....ver wobbly legs by then)

c) Girl push-up - 4 sets of 15 repetition
* by the end of first set my face has turned a shade of red which Naim commented (no I wasn't looking at any mirror, only trying to survive the grill).  By second repetition Naim gave me a tip that cracked me up that I had to stop to laugh before I got back at it:

"Eh Janet, next time you have a show, no need to waste your make up k, just do these push-ups before you go on stage - you will have your blusher all done..."

d) Plank - 4 sets
1st & 2nd repetition - 30 seconds
3rd repetition - 40 seconds
4th repetition - 60 second (he challenged me to hold up to 1 minute and I said can do, as long as I get to stare at the stop-watch as I hold to see how long more I need to focus, he offered to do 20 push up as the `reward' - I made him do 30 push-ups, hehe)

e) Sit-ups - 5 sets of 15 repetition
Sgt Naim had to hold my feet down so I could do the sit-up proper.

I could still drive and type on my phone after the session..and no aches yet.  That was yesterday.  This morning it's different story, my arms ache as I type, my stomach burns a little from the sit-ups and all that jazz, the muscles on my thighs are quietly protesting.

Looks like I may wanna listen to Sgt and get on those protein shake diet thingy.  We'll see.  That's the report so far.  Next week I will have two sessions, one hour each time.

Slave to my vanity, a happy slave, signing off for now :)

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Monday, March 31, 2014

FB post dated March 31st - "Talk yourself out of bad situations"

The lesson this morning is 'trust' and 'positive-thinking' - not something I instinctively subscribe to every minute of my day - you can say that it's not yet my second nature.  But after my experience this morning, I would definitely want to make it as part of my reflex :)

This is a bit of a long-winded roundabout way story but I trust that should you choose to read…you may enjoy the ride :)

I went to the wet market down the road that I have discovered recently (of course it's been there for years) - to shop for fresh goods.  The market is a lot smaller on Mondays, the number of vendors for fruits and vegetables were no more than two or three stalls each. I looked around under my hat and from behind my vintage shades, sense of self-doubt welling up: how could I make sure I would pick the freshest produces and how could I make sure these ladies at the stalls won't rip me off at prices?  I walked around looking and thinking, quite convinced that they would charge me more because I look clueless and new there.

Fortunately the will to have fresh vegetables and fruits to eat at home this week was strong enough that I didn't turn back and leave.  I bought three pieces of sweet potatoes, was charged RM 4…I thought it was expensive, but I paid up anyway. I stayed with this stall and bought more from this lady, 12 apples for RM 10, one kilo of passion fruits for RM 10 - I think these prices are fair.  At that point I have decided to trust this fruits stall lady and trust that she wasn't out to rip me off, so I bought bananas from her too - at RM 5 per kilo.

Next was vegetables.  The first item I picked up was a a packet of jagung, two fresh ones in one pack.  "How much?" The skinny elderly lady there told me it's RM 2.50.  I recall that this would cost more than RM 3 if you find them in the supermarkets - so I continued to snoop around and put more vegetables in my basket.  One bunch of Hong Kong choy-sum, RM 4. I also picked broccoli, french beans and two cuts of lotus roots.  The whole bill came up to RM 14 for all that - I was happy.  I think it's pretty good deal - RM 14 for 5 types of vegetables.

Happy with my purchase, I rewarded myself with breakfast at the corner restaurant down the road from the market.  I ordered a bowl of curry laksa noodles.  The huge bowl came, filled to the brim with cockles, curry chicken and fish balls, among the eggplant and long beans, all cramped in the thick curry soup.  I returned the bowl and explained that I don't want any of the cockles and chicken business; and that I was used to curry laksa noodles with only the noodles and vegetables and tofu.  They removed all the meats for me and served me.  The noodles looked deadly overcooked - I was convinced.  I was right, the meehoon and yellow noodles were soft and slimy.

I debated with myself on whether or not to just pay up and leave to eat at the other stall that I frequent more.  "The boss would think am such a brat to do this, with no regards for money." ...I decided to sit back and try to eat maybe only the vegetables in the oily curry soup and talked to myself, "There's no need to waste this bowl, what you could learn from this is not to order this again from this stall, or to go to other stalls if I want curry laksa.  This is just one meal out of so many future meals am going to have - there's no need to kick a big fuss over a breakfast."   The minute my mindset changed, my breakfast began to taste better - somehow the soft meehoon wasn't as slimy before and the vegetables were great.

I didn't finished the entire bowl but I finished most of it, not wanting to overstuff my stomach.  Awe consumed me the whole time - I was amazed at how quickly the quality of my experience change at the turn of my thinking.  Never before I was this convinced about positive thinking.

So there, I had a great time this morning because I learned to trust that people aren't out to con me and that things aren't as bad as they look :) If you actually read this far, I sincerely trust that your week ahead would be a rather fantastic one, if you could talk to yourself like I did this morning ;p

#living #janetwrites #trust #positivethinking #vegetarian #groceries #jalanipoh #currylaksa #wetmarkets #reflections

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

How Do I Love Thee (for Unreserved, The Malaysian Reserve)

For Unreserved's Valentine's Day issue

Printed in [Unreserved] by The Malaysian Reserve 
February 2014 volume 1 issue: Love - the seasons and reasons

I first met him in 1996 when I took a job in
n his company during my college break.  Years later after I left college and started working at a place that happened to be near his house, we started hanging out sometimes.  He told me much later that he got interested to get to know me better after watching me compete in a singing competition back in 2002.  

Thereafter we started spending a lot of time talking, and do things like attending talks (I remember we had a date attending a DAP dinner forum), watching concerts at No Black Tie, queuing up to get a passport renewed, go for bike rides and taking photographs of the night sky, etc.

We became a couple after we talked about our feelings for each other, after months of hanging out as buddies and exchanging lots and lots of conversations.

My understanding of love has extended over to my growing (but never ending) understanding of life and how I aspire to live, through my relationship with Justin.  Our approach to love and romance is similar to how we look at life – live and let live: to give full support and encouragement to your partner in doing what he loves to do.  To love someone is the desire to makehim or her happy, by understanding his dreams, passions, his hopes and his nightmares.

That is what I have learned from my relationship and friendship with Justin.  When I first started seeing him I was clingy and dependent, and wanted most of my activities to revolve around being a couple but it hurt us badly and we broke up for a few months.  When we got back together we were better friends and lovers, I guess we had found a balance between being our ownpersons and being each other’s best friends and lovers – we found the perfect match of space and intimacy for two friends.

In many ways I guess I could say that it’s never changed since the day I saw him for the last time - Justin met with aroad accident on his bike outing with friends more than three years ago and departed.  I think of him now with the fondest memories of course, abide the melancholy tone of loss.  He has left me (and am sure many others too whom he had touched with his kindness and life’s outlook) with one of the best gifts in my life – the desire to be a kinder and generous person, and to live simply, but not without passion.  

I have no regrets.  If I hadn’t gotten into that relationship with him, who knows if I would be driving today – he took my hands (literally) and walked meto a nearest driving school near his house and signed me up for driving classes, “So that you can drive yourself around to attend auditions and rehearsals.” He said.

If I hadn’t been with him, I might remain a silly petty person who gets angry over things I have no control over, instead of going with the flow and make the best out of situation at hand.  If I hadn’t been a recipient of his affection and admiration,I may not have the courage and balls to remain in my job now as an independent and freelance performer who needs to know how to strife for excellence, fails and picks herself up again, over and over in this road to passion.

I am not seeing anyone at the moment but I am seeing a lot of myself though!

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

FB post dated November 30th - "Picking the winner"

How do you pick a winner in a singing competition?  An overall polished performance but safe, making less mistakes but pushing no further than being safe, versus a risk-taker in pushing one's boundaries and bringing the audience to the edges with raw emotions and heart, display fair amount of vulnerability and imperfections.  An ideal winner is of course a combination of both great skills and great emotions but when you have to pick one, how do you do it?

I learned something this morning, maybe not exactly something completely new to me but definitely something I should spend more time thinking about.  

Was on the panel of judges for 2013 World Children's Day Refugee Talent Competition, organized by UNHCR Malaysia. Six of us, three judges from the dance field (Cecilia Yong, Amar Singh and Gonzalo..didn't get his name proper) and three of us from the music field - Reza Salleh, Arif Akhir and myself. 

The children were being judged based on ability, stage presentation and audience appeal for their singing and dancing performance. There were only six finalists in each category and their age group vary from eight years of age to teenagers.  Being children and still fresh on stage, it wasn't hard recognizing who had the best singing technique and who did better in appealing to a live audience and performing on stage.  Choosing the winner at first seemed easy, the gap between the finalists was obvious - but the exchange of a few words with my fellow judges before I was ushered to hand in my final score - gave me new insights into the world of `judging a winning performance'.

We all agreed that deciding on a winner under this sort of circumstances is hard - the children's skills vary quite a bit, they obviously have very different background (though were all refugees in Malaysia), they all excel in different aspects of performance of singing.  

So when it came to time to put down the pens and choosing the one for top marks this morning, it was also time to decide what the judges were going to reward - do we pick the performance that showed us power of trusting, faith and soul, or do we pick the performance that displayed just adequate skills and flair?  

In my heart, really, despite the cliche we have all heard, all the kids were winners to me - they have all won because they had stepped out of their comfort zone, invested their time, resources, heart and soul into the project, braved the nerves, and faced the panel and audience, bared themselves `naked' and be the subject of judgement for 5 minutes.  That's how much (and more) artists and performers are willing to sacrifice for their craft, and art.  

Opss...I have digressed. Back to the crunch time of decision this morning - there were three of us on the singing panel.  The winner was the little 8-year old girl who went for her faith, sang with truck loads of gusto and heart, gave dynamics in her singing and basically, she bite the bullet.  Yes she still lack  finesse in her vocal control and technique.  But she has those other elements that would send her to a different place all together, when she acquire more technique later, if she doesn't stop singing after today.

For someone who is obsessed with the importance of training and technique, I am guilty of bringing my classroom and my singing teacher with me (inside my head) on stage.  But I love telling stories and connecting my live performance with the people in front of me, so it's usually a close fight between the heart and head.  I think the heart usually wins - that means I'd go back stage later, cursing and wishing I had more practice and that my pitching and production were more put-together.  But after this morning's experience, I am reminded of the meaning and spirit of a live performance - the bottom line should transcends learned skills and technique, and it should be about making a shared experience that aims to change something in the audience, move a few souls in the room, stir up imaginations or memories, taking people to places with the singing (dancing, acting..etc) - and sometimes it won't come from being the best in technique.  

I need to stress again, my point is that technique is VERY IMPORTANT in performing arts, but it won't be the sole deciding factor in a winning performance.  

So many factors make a performance special and memorable, so many things at stake when you're on stage, the performer is both powerful and vulnerable…guess that's part of the allure of this thing called performing arts huh?  

Thank you Reza Salleh for  your insightful thoughts and Ariff Akhir for letting me pick your brains :)

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Friday, November 22, 2013

FB post dated November 22 - "Classical music is not irrelevant"

"Holy cow, we are not irrelevant! We are revolutionary!" - Joyce DiDonato (watch this clip!)

For those who think singing or playing classical music has no future or is irrelevant in this day and age, please listen to this interview with a great American musician and singer, Miss DiDonato. Her story makes me want to spend more time thinking about how the distance between everyday people and classical and opera music was created (intentionally or unintentionally I don't know) and `systematically' maintained through time.

If we continuously only feed the public what's deemed the most hip and popular musical products (for a lack of better word), am afraid we are driving our beloved public, which include our children, our families and friends - to a future where their taste for art and music (among other important decisions in their lives) is no more than what the electronics are feeding to them, what the rest of the YouTubers are watching, what other people are `viraling' over Facebook.

Occasionally here in town, although in too small the amount, we are served with classical music. But rarely, or hardly ever, the General Public are given any chance of being exposed to an art so naked, and visceral and honest (no sound system, no super dancers hanging from the ceiling, no distracting costumes, no sets). What we don't try, we don't know.

I am for one, guilty of wanting to be safe, and disallow myself the chance of bridging the gap between the public to figures like Rossini, Strauss..and more. Maybe people like me and my other colleagues need to think deeper into this - how can we bring more real, naked, honest (not packaged) classical to the general public, and let them decide if it is worth their time and heart?

I applaud those producers (thank you EST folks for staging Carmen this year), artistes, theatre companies and art platforms who stay true in their beliefs of naked and real art form, who staged and produced musicals and plays chosen not because everybody in town knows the work but because the work is worth knowing.

Thanks to Miss DiDonato, always an inspiration for being stubbornly humble and sincere, and serious about her work. Thank you Tan Sin Sim for sharing this clip that provoked my ponder this morning.

Let's hope this could spur some thinking into some of us, how can we contribute in our own little way (or big if you are capable) in bringing classical music closer to young people, and the general public? -- Scott X Woo, can you bring back those wonderful LRT-station impromptu singing?

Watch this clip, and am sure there are thousands of other similar stories around the world to prove that classical music is not irrelevant in this electronic world. It is revolutionary. #janetleemusic #janetreads #janetreflects #opera #classicalmusic

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FB post dated November 15th - "I can always go to her next gig."

This morning I feel clever - An ironic observation I've recognized: if you're an active performer in the live music scene, chances of your gigs being overlooked by your friends and families are high because it's very likely that people think that they can ALWAYS catch your NEXT gig. Like how you'd tell yourself, I can ALWAYS use my condo swimming pool TOMORROW if I want to, it's just right there when I take a lift down  and then a year later you realize, haha, the swimming pool ended up never been visited in the last 12 months.

When it is convenient and accessible, we take things/people for granted - isn't that true?

For artistes who only make public stage appearances once in a blue moon, their friends/fans and families would flock to go catch it, thinking oh they mustn't miss it because it's hard to come by, etc.

So be careful the next time YOU think you could always catch that artiste's NEXT GIG - you might end up never getting to her gigs for thinking exactly that. Human nature  I do that too. But for the better half of you who knows me, I go in and out of theaters and concerts and gigs to watch others like breathing - though it taxes greatly on my wallet I deem it necessary to watch others perform, like how breathing is necessary for my survival.

Having said that, it's most convenient now for me to update and remind you of my upcoming performances  my gigs aren't that regular but they are there sometimes…

1) Two Shanghai-Jazz Fridays with Janet Lee at Hakka Republic
Nov 15th (tonight) - 930pm at Hakka Republic with Toro Cheng Pin Xuan,Ken Chung & Terrence Ling

2) Nov 22nd (next Friday) - 930pm Hakka Republic with Ee Jeng HinFly Bassman II & Charles Wong

3) 'Bosom Buddies' - a cabaret show with Zalina Lee & Janet Lee
January 31st & February 1st - 10pm at Alexis Bistro Ampang with Toro Cheng's band

Come if you can, don't come if you must stay away 
#janetleemusic #klgigs #theatre #shanghaijazz #jazz #hakkarepublic#cabaret

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FB post dated November 14th - "Shut the fuck up at concerts."

Attended a lovely concert last night with some colleagues in the music circuit.  The experience was marred by a few issues.  I could forgive the Arctic-like, severe and intensely bone-chilling drafts of the air-cond that blew right on top of us from 830pm to 11pm.

But I can't quite rest my heart at the `sakit-hati-ness' of the behavior of the audience.  For the reason that I think what I have observed last night reflect a much bigger issue facing the…youth of our society today.

We were sandwiched by a row of elderly audience behind us and a group of four young ladies/girls who sat in front of us.  At numerous occasions during the intimate moments of the performance there were audible chatter behind us - please note that it was chatter, not whispers.  In front of us where we had no choice but to look between the four heads belonging to the four young ladies, to enjoy the consummate performance on stage.

The performance featured vocalists, a jazz band and contemporary dancers.  For the most part of the evening whenever the dancers make appearance, the girls in front first watched (though I think it looked more like they were gawking), then exchanged remarks among themselves, then giggled uncontrollably…non-stop.

Now, how the dancers' performance fitted into the music performance is another issue - but the fact that these young people (ok, I am assuming by merely guessing that they look young, they look early twenties to me) thought it was okay to start a forum about the performance right there in the middle of the concert, among other audience - is beyond my best effort tolerance.

I practice self-censorship consciously in all my self-published content - blogs, FB tweets, instagram, etc.  Outside of the cyber world I try my level best to do the same.  As I age I put in more effort in behaving myself in public, when dealing with frustrating people, I try to put peace and solving a problem before satisfying my urge to reprimand - I really try, trust me - I used to be a lot louder and wouldn't think twice about telling someone off in public, loud.

At the beginning of the concert I turned to the chatting elder-lies behind me and smiled first, gestured for them to shut their gaps and said softly, "I want to listen to his singing."  I looked into the pair of eyes I met, sitting behind me, on a face of a woman who clearly looked old enough to be my mom - they looked happy to be at the concert…except they really didn't know how to stop their chatters in a concert like that.

Unfortunately for me, I was expecting a lot more from the girls in front of us.  They were young people who were clearly privileged enough to attend such a classy event - a live music concert; they looked like they are at university-attending age and they each had a piece of paper with them and they would sometimes write something on the papers in the dark (I wish I knew what the papers were).

The four of us behind the girls watched the show patiently, it was a long and cold night.  Towards the end of the performance the lead performer engaged us in a most soulful, and quiet ballad, featuring a dancer.  One of the girls continued her antics of mocking the performance by covering her mouth, stopping herself from laughing, and exchanged words a few times with her neighbor.  I decided to talk to her, I tapped her lightly on the shoulder and said, "This is closing to the end already, could you please pay attention to the stage?"

The girls didn't quite stop their gawking and giggles after that but their moronic behavior was reduced.  I could tell that the girl whom I tapped was dying (inside of herself) to take a good look at me and stare right down at me.  After the show I spoke to some musicians about audience etiquette.  Our conclusion was that - the older bunch had no idea that talking during a performance is fucking rude - they simply had no idea what renders appropriate behaviour at concerts.

The young ones?

Many people talk of Malaysians being people lacking in exposure of worldly things - specially in the arts and music industry.  Comments like, "Yalah they don't know ma what world-class standard is like."  "Not bad already for a Malaysian/local show." …..etc.

My point is, long winded as this entry is (apologies) - so yes, we are village folks, we don't know any better, but are we ready to remove ourselves from our narrow-mindedness and our so-called `backwardness'?  And for those of us who know better - are you ready to educate and help open the eyes of those who don't any better yet?

So if you know that when you attend a live performance with three hundred other audience in the auditorium, you are to put your phone on silent, and leave conversations with your friends for appropriate break of the performance - would you do something to ensure that your fellow audience do the same?

Or would you just sit there and ignore the bad behavior for the sake of peace? Of avoiding making a scene?

A few years ago I sharply told a mother off for talking to her family (a pair of parents and two teenagers) during a performance in a theatre.  This lady received several warnings from other member of the audience during the show - "Please keep quiet, I didn't pay to hear you talk, I paid to watch him dance." etc.  So on my way out of the auditorium I stopped by her seat and told her that she really shouldn't be a bad example to her children.  Her reply was, "No we didn't talk, we didn't do anything wrong. I don't know what you're talking about."

Later on at the foyer of the theatre I saw her again, again I approached her and told her that everyone who sat near her could she and her family talked during the show, ahem, she was so good she actually scolded me and called me a bitch loudly…with people near us who looked on, disdainfully.

I rest my case.  Again, I apologized for the lengthy writing to illustrate one point.

Again, my question again - if you know better in being a worldly person with manners, would you care enough to educate the others to improve themselves?  Clearly, if there are not many of people like me around to single out the spoiled kids like the ones we encountered last night at Tribute To Yao Ming's opening concert - I would always look like the bitch who is self-righteous and a snob who tell people off.

The road to a more mature society, getting to the first-world country…and all, seems very long and cold.

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