IF YOU long for the days of gentler music on the radio and tapping your feet to swinging tunes by Asian singers and musicians, then you will enjoy Questing Bandstand – The Golden Age in the Far East.
The website, by an East Malaysian baby boomer who goes by the pseudonym “Franas”, covers popular music in the 1960s in the Far East, mostly by English language singers and bands.
Franas says the site only features the “best” of local singers and bands. The music covered includes that of Malaysia, Singapore, China, Korea, Japan, India and Sri Lanka.
“I tend to concentrate on popular music heavily influenced by the phenomena of American Rockabilly and British Invasion,” says Franas via email from the US.
The website offers background information about the artistes and their music, with photos and audio clips. The information is from his personal archives, readers’ input and the Internet.
Questing Bandstand was set up to showcase the music and songs from the Far East, and to share them with lovers of local music in the region and beyond.
It was in the 60s that Franas was in his teenage years. He left for higher schooling overseas after secondary school and decided to remain abroad.
“The 60s was a special time for popular music. There were homegrown music talents in every region and continent, each with their particular expressions of the magic of music of the time.
“The Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesia circuit was most vibrant with its forte of diverse and multicultural talents. At the same time, the C-Pop and Chinese cinematic musicals in Hong Kong and Taiwan created a subgenre which greatly impacted the rest of the region. Not to forget all the wonderful Malay pop yeh-yeh guitar bands, too.
“I decided from the beginning to be narrowly focused on the 60s and not be overly ambitious so as to then be able to present a more substantive site with the concentration. Of course, it is hard to draw a rigid line with a quieting overflow into the 70s and other interesting decades of local music. Occasionally, I do exercise prerogative and include some popular singers and bands which were active but never recorded until the decade was past,” says Franas.
Although the site was launched in 2006, Franas had to wait a few years before he was able to put up all the content he wanted to.
“At the time, most Internet music files were streamed in the early version of RealAudio with its limited bandwidth. I held back since I did not want to do injustice to (local) music with low-def quality. Also, I did not want to inadvertently contribute to music piracy through P2P so there was more waiting until I felt comfortable enough that this problem was resolved. For instance, visitors to the site are welcome to hang out and enjoy the music, but they will not be able to download the music files directly.
“It’s my intention to add more stuff. One of the ways to keep the site rejuvenated is via MBR (Music By Request) which features a singer or band on a limited presentation basis. Obviously, the frequency of adding and updating depends on several factors like the availability of new materials (and the Far East region, unlike the West, is notorious for neglecting to preserve this important piece of local history and heritage).
“More importantly, it is planned that the site will be a place where new visitors will always find what they are looking for (local music) and the returning visitors will always know where to come and listen. In any case, I think that the site is now sufficiently mature to stand on its own. I’ve also purposefully designed it so it is very simple and user-friendly for navigation,” says Franas.
Although he has decided not to share his videos for now, the site does have a wealth of audio files, which he digitised himself.
Initially, it was just to preserve his own analogue collection, which were in vinyl and cassette formats, before their sonic quality deteriorated.
“Most of my private collection consists of obscure (out-of-print, hard-to-find commercially, fair-use, presumed with expired copyrights) music and rarities. I purposefully buy a lot of commercial re-releases to support the local artistes and businesses directly,” he explains.
The best feedback he has received has been from those who showed appreciation for a nostalgic journey down memory lane of local popular music, otherwise not available elsewhere. A lot of them went through their youth in the 60s.
He has also had some feedback from family members of artistes requesting for copies of the music.
Franas says that his best memory of local music in the 60s is listening to The Quests from Malaysia before Singapore seceded from the federation.
“The band deserves to be enshrined as the best of what the ‘local’ music scene had to offer in the 60s. There were notable others: Naomi and Henry Suriya with The Boys, and the Chinese-based Wong Ching Yian backed by Maurice Patton & The Melodians, also helped greatly to shape and define the genre of local music for a generation,” says Franas.
Questing Bandstand can be found at http://questing.wordpress.com/.