The Man From Silat Road/Tiong Bahru Mouth (3/4)

A meditation about Ronnie and the Burns, Singapore’s first rock band.

This will be rewritten a bit and appear in the updated version of i ate tiong bahru.

Ronnie and the Burns

Tiong Bahru Mouth is the title to the sequel to iatb.


   The Communists and the Americans are at war in Vietnam. In other Southeast Asian countries,  the two forces are as energetic as they can be. Singapore is no longer a British colony, the island-city of less than two million is now an independent country. The island is awash with rioting, crime and the fear of the unknown; the government takes bold moves to maintain order. Western culture, especially rock'n’ roll, is considered a threat to Asian values. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party ban jukeboxes. Soon, long hair for men will be outlawed. 

Kim Huat is now called 'Ronnie'. 

“Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie!”

Ronnie's hair touches his collar.

He's holding a guitar.

“Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie!” 

Behind Ronnie are police trucks and riot police. Gurkhas -- the tough-looking Nepalese security guards, study everyone.

“Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie!”

Five thousand people chanting, “Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie!” This is the first event to be held at the Singapore Conference Hall, the first rock concert in Singapore’s history. They’ve been going wild all night, seeing the bands they love: The Checkmates, Rony and The Echo Jets, Naomi and The Boys, The Cyclones, and Shirley Nair and The Silver Strings. Ronnie made this happen. He pleaded for permission from the government. He negotiated with police, advertised, sold tickets and found the crews for sound and lights. Ronnie designed the clothes for his band. All the bands were given star treatment. There's only one problem: things are running late. Ronnie and the Burns, the headliners, the band everyone wants to see, can't go on. The license expired at 2AM. 

It is now 2:04.

“Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie!” Louder. More tense.

“Mr. Ronnie See... It’s after  2AM… Tell your friends it’s time to go, lah.” 

Ronnie's wearing a mod suit of golden fabric. 


Ronnie, as always, is sober. Sincerely, he apologizes, explains about equipment problems. 

“Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie!”


The officer in charge stares at Ronnie, then holds up a clipboard.

“Ronnie See,” the officer says. He looks directly into Ronnie’s eyes. ”I advise you to sign this.”

Ronnie calmly takes the clipboard. It is a flyer for the show. He looks at the officer, confused.

“My sister's your biggest fan. You played at her friend's birthday in Ipoh. She saw you on  Istana Pesta. The Great World shows. Everything. She’s out there now. She’ll kill me if you don’t go on.”


 Ronnie picks up his guitar.



“One last thing ...”

“Yes, sir?”

 “Ronnie, when you gonna make a record?”


Part 1 is here.

Part 4 is here.

1 thought on “The Man From Silat Road/Tiong Bahru Mouth (3/4)”

  1. Pingback: The Man From Silat Road/Tiong Bahru Mouth (2/4) - blacksteps

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.