Harmonica culture in the Merlion Country
The 8th « Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival » took place in Singapore from the 30th of July to the 2nd of August, in this surprising modern State/City, the architecture of which is easily revalising with our western megapoles. The Festival was placed under the presidency of the Culture Minister Lui Tuck Yew, and under the protective gaze of the symbol of the city, the Merlion.
As I have already informed you in a precedent article, it is usual, in Asia, to share all harmonica festivals with neighbouring countries. Apart from the organizing countries (Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, China, Philippines), Australia, New Zealand and USA were present on this festival. Together with a few Europeans, representatives of Germany, France (Hotvill's Trio and myself), and also this year, the remarkable presence of India and Thailand.
In Singapore, the harmonica culture and its practice are worth our attention. A lot of facts are contributing to assure its development : sponsors, TV, medias, etc. and more specifically the institutions are considering that harmonica is an instrument in its own right, like other instruments (in classical, jazz, variety and folk musics), and this position is generating official helps like the recognition of the harmonica professors, help for adjustments of teaching and practicing premises, help to the association "Harmonica Aficionados Society" associated to
" The Singapore Harmonica Instructors and development Center " (under the impulse of the dynamic Victor Tang Yuen Wai). The poster (below) already gives you an overall view of the activities generated by these associations.
Concerning the "8th Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival", we must say that its organization was perfect, as it was well run since 16 years. Everything was going crescendo from the opening ceremony with the fantastic traditional acrobatic dance of the dragon to the closing ceremony, apotheosis of this Harmonica "Jamboree".
The outstanding fact of this Festival was indisputably the Harmonica Championships consisting of 7 categories (youth, junior, senior separated in each category).
I had the pleasure to be a jury member for the chromatic and ensemble categories in company of my friends Willy Burger, Yasuo Watani, He Jia Yi, Johnny Kuan. Exciting job
in spite of the large number of candidates.
Let's pay a tribute to Victor Tang Yuen Wai who was in charge of the logistic organization of these Championships.
Attractive workshops and conferences had drawn people interested in many subjects, technical or cultural, concerning our instrument. As far as I am concerned I led a workshops on the theme : " Birth and History of a small instrument : the Harmonica ".
During four days a lot of harmonica makers had booths in which people could compare the possibilities offered by the instruments, with technicians at their disposal.
The site " Suntec Singapore International Convention ", in which the Festival took place, was perfectly adapted to this event, air-conditioned and with a very good sound system, ideal conditions for three days of open stages encountering a great success.
Another open stage place was " The Universal Studio ", stick-copy of the Los Angeles one, there visitors coming from everywhere had a chance to see an extra show with harmonica players also coming from everywhere.
It is difficult to evaluate the number of participants in this Festival, people are agreeing to say around 15.000, may be more, including families competitors, harmonica players, harmonica associations, technicians, and visitors.
And to crown it all, the concert which took place in the so beautiful architecture of the " Esplanade Concert Hall " with featuring : the Hong-Kong Association Symphonic Orchestra, Juko Saito, Chong Ah Kow, Lee Hea Bong,, He Jia Yi, Yasuo Watani, Jens Bunge, Willy Burger, Brendan Power, Jean Labre, the Hotvill'Trio.
The closing ceremony was exceptional with a great number of awards distributed with enthusiasm, punctuated with shows of competition winners, a retrospective
show of musical comedies (West Side Story, etc.), " The King's Harmonica Quintet " and
" The Harmonica Malaysia Orchestra " (60 harmonica players) directed by Chong Ah Kow.
By the end of this evening, Malaysia was nominated as the country in charge of the organization of the next " 9th Pacific Harmonica Festival " which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, in 2012.
Many thanks to my friendsBoh Teck Keong and Victor Tang Yuen Wai.
photos : H.A.S. (Harmonica Aficionados Society) and Jean Labre
Copyright © 2010 Jean Labre
Published October 12th 2010