Singapore Open Mic Adventure Consolidated:
A micro trailer from the film: From the Singapore segment of “Out of a Jam.”
A podcast: Luke Buirski rock musician in Singapore speaks with Brad Spurgeon:
The Thumbnail Guide: Thumbnail Guide to Singapore Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music
A link to a favorite blog item from the past: A MUSICAL NIGHT LIKE I LOVE THEM, IN SINGAPORE
A favorite video: Jamming with Ringo at the sidewalk food hawker bar near the Actors jamming bar:
An excerpt from the Book: from the Singapore chapter from OUT OF A JAM: An Around-the-World Journey of Healing and Rebirth Through Music:
On the first day I left the circuit at around 9:30 PM, as there were few available interviews after that. My Internet search had also told me that there were no open mics available that night of the kind calling for an early sign up. One place that seemed to offer jams more often than most places, was called, Actors Bar. It was located next to a jazz club near Boat Quay, and I had seen that there were other places near there and the nearby Clarke Quay. So I returned to my hotel, got my guitar and set out for the quays on foot. Actors’ Bar was straight down New Bridge Road from my hotel. I was dead tired, having been unable to sleep that day, and having had little sleep on the flight. But I was desperate to push myself. Suddenly, I needed little pushing and my adrenaline began to pump through my veins and over-ride the sleep impulse when I noticed at the end of my hotel’s street a road off to the right with music blaring out of numerous bars.
The street looked very much the way I imagined old Singapore: Lined with colonial buildings either side with much of the sidewalk overhung by the buildings’ covered sidewalks to protect pedestrians from the sun, under the arches and pillars. Mixed with this was the veneer of the new world, the neon lights and storefront- and bar-front-advertisements for the names of the bars and music venues. One place advertised live music and had a large theater marquee ornamenting the outside and lit up by spotlights, large photos of the various performers in the cast of the show. It looked like the Folies Bergere, and I could see there was no place for me to play. It was perhaps not quite a naked-lady-show, but certainly a variety spectacle with the emphasis on show music and women singers in feathery costumes, burlesque.
I crossed to the other side of the street where I saw most of the potential smaller bars, and heard the music emanating. It was mostly rock, or disco-like music. The bar entrances and windows were often closed and masked, making them difficult to look into without opening the door, which would thereby set me up as a potential client before I was sure I wanted that.
Outside the bars I saw a few people, perhaps two men and a woman in front of one, and a man beseeched me to enter. I would not have considered entering, were it not for his gesture and limited, highly-accented English, with which he seemed to be suggesting that if I wanted to play my guitar, I could.
“Me? Play? In there?”
“Yes, yes. Come in. A beer?”
He looked Asian, partly Indian, and perhaps he was, like so many in this part of Asia. In any case, the welcome for a musician felt like Istanbul again, but as I entered the double doors a surprising first sight instantly punctured my feeling of sudden elation. The room was about the size of an average French bakery. A stage sat well-lit at the opposite end, and it was already manned by four or five people setting up and testing instruments, including a drum set and a couple of guitars – an electric and a bass. A woman stood at the mic getting ready to sing. These were similar looking people to the man who had let me in, but a little dirty and down-at-the-heals. The stage was very small, just a few inches off the floor. But it was preferable to no stage, or a cordoned off corner of a room. So I liked that.
It was not this sight in the dark room that held my attention, however. It was the women at the bar to the right, who suddenly made a charge for me. Not a violent charge, but a swarm of these young, well-dressed, beautiful Asian women gathered round me in a chatter of laughter and excitement. Perhaps a third of the women from the bar locked around me, a total of five of them. They too seemed to come from a country I could not identify, but it was somewhere in Asia, and they were also perhaps of mixed blood. I suspect they were Filipinos, or perhaps from Sarawak. (I am reminded of the Dayang Muda of Sarawak, an eccentric European woman who was involved in the literary world of the 1920s and 1930s in Paris.) I had a sudden feeling of unease as the man who let me in and another one or two men were never far off from the swarm of women. The women were 18 to 25 years old.
“Drink?” said one.
“Yes, I’ve ordered a beer,” I said.
They led me over to a high table with high chairs, almost standing height. Two or three of the women persistently tried to capture my attention while two others seemed to sum me up and decide there was no business to be had. One was more vocal and probing than the others:
“Are you a permanent resident,” she asked, or whatever the term is that Singaporeans use for foreigners living in the country legally.
“No. I live in France.”
“How long are you here for?”
“Just a few days, I leave on Monday.”
“Will you play music tonight?”
“I think I might.”
The man who had let me in said that the band would play first, then me. The beer arrived quickly, and almost as quickly the women began to drop off me and return to their perch at the bar as they concluded that I would not be of any value to them. The one, however, persisted and hung off my shoulder, and rubbed her naked leg against my pants leg. I began to drink the beer very quickly, as I wondered how much I would end up having to pay for it, and whether I would eventually be forced into buying drinks for the woman – the Budapest scam? – and I had all sorts of black scenarios going through my mind.
“What kind of place is this?” I asked the woman as the music began, rock music. As she rubbed up against me, I did not want to get rid of her immediately for fear of hurting her feelings.