Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Creative Hub PMQ is a gem in Central, Hong Kong

Posted on July 18, 2014

Every morning, a barber shop sitting at the foot of a flight of granite stairs leading to the Police Married Quarters (PMQ) opens its shutters for business. The elderly shop owner inspects his equipment and cleans his adjustable arm chairs in a two seater shop fitted within a narrow back alley. At a time when Hong Kong island has been modernised with skyscrapers and rows of luxury fashion brands in Central, this tiny shop still hangs a framed menu of services written in Chinese calligraphy and is deck with arm chair designs that feel like they’re from the 60s.

Just across the barber shop on the side of the granite steps is the remains of rubble from the Central School built in 1889; the alma mater of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the first president and founding father of The Republic of China.

PMQ HK Daylon Soh 4 1024x768 Creative Hub PMQ is a gem in Central, Hong Kong

PMQ has exhibits which showcases the building’s rich heritage

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Photo by Rebecca Toh
Photo by Rebecca Toh

A neighbourhood in transition

Posted on June 15, 2014

A small group gathers at the kitchen area of a 4000 sq. ft. light industrial space learning how to bake cookies with herbs on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The workshop instructor from Wholesome Co. pulled out the baked creations from the oven provided by Mudian Crafted, a boutique carpentry firm, the aroma tempted a few curious shoppers from the corner of the space to peek over while they browse an assortment of well designed lifestyle goods curated by online store Naiise.

transitional02 rebecca toh A neighbourhood in transition

Photo by Rebecca Toh

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Photo by Gary Elsasser.
Photo by Gary Elsasser.

Hong Kong – A City for Dreams

Posted on April 14, 2014

When I land in a city I love, I feel nervous. My countenance turns eager as I try my best to drink in every second, knowing it can’t last forever. After the raw nerves settle, I become thankful for the sweet days I have and do my best to see, to experience, and to pocket away gems of inspiration for the future. A few weeks ago, I experienced this when I travelled to Hong Kong.

To me, Hong Kong is magic. The energy, the attitude, the frantic pace of the city will forever be charming. In most cities, I appear impatient, always trying to get ahead a little faster. “Don’t people know there are things to do, places to see?” I joke. There’s no need to explain this to residents of Hong Kong. Whether waiting for the exit escalator at the MTR station or simply walking down the street, they are the ones challenging my usually most-aggressive walking style and veering me out of the way. It’s a nice feeling, meeting a global counterpart.

In an unfamiliar city, there are certain aspects that are grounding. No matter where I am in the world, I always find inspiration in skylines. Their vast, expansive nature always awakes feelings of wonder in me. Little surprise then after a meeting in Tsim Sha Tsui  that I couldn’t resist walking across the road to the Promenade and staring across Victoria Harbour at the tiny lit-up boxes on the Island’s skyscrapers. Powerful lives and ideas packed together so densely. I wondered, what was being created at that very moment? Perhaps the joy of cities can be encapsulated as places where anything can happen. Cities are places for dreamers, both young and old.

IMG 9839 1024x1024 Hong Kong   A City for Dreams

In Sheung Wan.

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Band photo (above) by Jeri Soh. The Cave, from left: Huxley, Emerson, Haadi  and Harry.
All other photos from Fran Lebowitz.
Band photo (above) by Jeri Soh. The Cave, from left: Huxley, Emerson, Haadi and Harry. All other photos from Fran Lebowitz.

Adventures Of A Rock Band Mom In Singapore

Posted on April 2, 2014

People say it’s hard to make it as a musician in Singapore. Meet a determined mother who spent the last seven years on a quest to try anyway.

The Cave is made up of four teenage boys who riff and roar in a style somewhere between Foo Fighters and The Doors. They are: Huxley Rittman (lead guitar, backing vocals), Harry Darling (lead vocals), Haadi Moochhala (drums) and Emerson Gonzalez-Park (bass guitar), all 17 years old. While based in Singapore, they have already been featured on music TV in Russia, opened for Taking Back Sunday, and secured a partial worldwide deal with music distribution company ToCo International. Not bad, right? But behind every successful band you’ll find a hardworking manager, and this is no exception for The Cave. Fran Lebowitz, Huxley’s mother, is the band strategist that takes care of their business bookings and creative well-being.

This not-so-regular-mom candidly sums up her career history as “former agent, briefly novelist, humour columnist, and now mom-ager”. Before moving to Singapore in 1997, Fran was based in New York as a literary agent with the likes of William Morris and Writers House, where she focussed on young adult and pop culture books. (Not to be confused with the other Fran Lebowitz, writer and TV personality.) “I had a few books on the New York Times bestseller list,” Fran recalls, “A couple of clients made it to the US National Book Awards; I negotiated television shows and movies and merchandise and had two babies while still yelling at people on the phone.”

When her husband was posted to Singapore for work, they brought along their two kids. Once the younger one, Huxley, was old enough to play music with his schoolmates, Fran found herself devoted to one consuming mission: take the group of eleven year olds and whip them into a kick-ass rock band. Sounds like a wacky Hollywood comedy, but every bit true.

If you’re reading this and you’re young and talented, based in Singapore, with rock star dreams, you’re probably getting ideas of having Fran manage your band. Well, I wish you luck with that. The next best thing you can do is read this interview, where she very kindly shares what it took for The Cave to earn their stripes as musicians and performers.

FROM CRADLE TO CLARKE QUAY

How did you get involved with The Cave?

I bore the guitarist, for one thing! I just said to Huxley and his friends when he was about 10 or so, “Why don’t you all make a band!” We had so many instruments at home already including mics and stands. I gave them a song I thought they could do, “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett, and then I hired a music teacher to teach them all the parts. I always thought they sounded great, and that’s probably why I took it seriously and never let it sizzle out. At one stage, we had two music teachers come every Sunday; one for bass and drums and one for guitar and piano.

How would you describe The Cave?

Smart, exciting music, a big sound, four very proficient talents and a voice that stops people in their tracks; a voice that can sing to the back of a stadium without a microphone. The Cave met at Overseas Family School. Harry is from the UK, Huxley is a New Yorker, Emerson is Japanese-Mexican and Haadi is a Pakistani-born Singaporean. Going to school together, eating together, having the same group of friends means they are extraordinarily close. The flip side to this beautiful mulitcultural band is that you also get four sets of parents guided by the mores of their heritage.

What did it take to promote the band?

I never turned down a chance to meet people. I started a three week long battle of the bands called School House Rock, at a bar in Clarke Quay, pitting the international schools against each other. It was a big nail-biting success. And from there, School House Rock got the bands to perform on commercial stages, usually with several bands at a time. So there was often a gig to practise for and people to play to. And that way I met bar owners who would later – when they got good enough – invite The Cave to play. Also, going all out to get them into the Music Matters event and then attending myself and shmoozing, handing out thumbdrives, getting name cards, making follow ups. I have confidence in them and I feel credible. I don’t feel subjective about their music or performances and I can prove it: I’m the one who got Harry (vocalist) in the band and fired Huxley as lead singer. My son. Fired. At eleven years old.

photo 3 band Adventures Of A Rock Band Mom In Singapore

Very early edition of the band with Huxley and Emerson (extreme right).

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