Sunday, August 18, 2013

IFLA 2013: "Hello, may I help you?" #wlic2013

"Where can I get spare printer cartridges?"

"It's very busy out there... I need more people."

"I'm tasked to assist the IFLA Secretary General... Nooo don't take my picture!"

"A taxi uncle brought this back. Somebody left it in his taxi" (referring to a IFLA bag)

"Where's the technician? I finally got someone to unlock the room!"

"What's your role as a volunteer?"
"I'm a maid."
"A maid?"
"I look after (an VIP delegate)."

"I'm sleepy. The delegate is sleepy..."

"Waaaah! Uuuugh!"
(Exclamations and lamentations by some volunteers when told that the opening ceremony venue looked grand; their realisation that they have to man their posts.)

IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

Volunteers are the lifeline of IFLA conferences.

I dropped by the secret location of the IFLA volunteer HQ (just kidding about the secret location). It's normally out of bounds for delegates but my NLB colleagues let me in.

I wanted to share a peek of what goes on behind the scenes. Obviously I'm barely scratching the surface.

IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

The official opening ceremony was about to start when I wrote this.

3,500 delegates from 120 countries.

I'm not sure how many volunteers were involved.

Thank you to each one of you.

IFLA 2013: My Day-One #wlic2013

Registration was a breeze. I'm wasn't sure if that was a setup particular to the conference venue (Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre). After registering, I just had one more step to do, which was to collect...
IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

...the official conference bag. Didn't look like the typical conference bag, did it? The only outward sign was a luggage tag with the conference logo. That was removable. The bag was sponsored by a home-grown fashion company, Charles & Keith.  I tweeted that it was probably the most talked-about conference bag in IFLA's history. I felt rather metrosexual carrying the bag around. Not complaining though.
IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

The conference venue was a large one. Had to be. We were later told there were 3,500 delegates from 120 countries attending the conference.
IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

The opening ceremony opened with a Dragon Dance, featuring a souped up dragon in neon electric lights. I've seen plenty of Dragon Dances but never one with a jazzed up dragon like this. Two thumbs up.
IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013
IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

Next came a Malay-Chinese-Indian drums routine, ending with a short Lion Dance. If I was told of such a routine without having watched it, I would have thought it a cliche. But it didn't feel that way. In the context of an event involving participants from all parts of the world, such a symbolic display of racial integration was quite appropriate (it's more than mere symbolism though; go read Bertha Henson's brilliant piece on what it means to be "in Singapore").
IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

The speeches began next.

I had to step out of the for a while. Saw a group of children preparing for the next routine.
IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013 IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

There's something special about a gathering of like-minded people. You just had to be there.

I thought the conference was off to a great start.

IFLA World Library & Information Conference 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

IFLA 2013: Some links to help the first-time visitor to Singapore #wlic2013

The last time I blogged about IFLA 2013 was almost two years ago.

So it's finally here.

If you're like me, attending an event in an unfamiliar country, you would have questions like "How do I get around?", "Where to buy food?", "How much should I budget on a daily basis?", or "What to wear?"

And, if you also procrastinate like me, you might not bother to find out about local information until the very last minute. But then you might not do so because because your presentation is still not fully done and you're deep into panic mode LOL.

So I thought to share quick links to practical information, for the last minute prep.

General practical information
The LonelyPlanet site has practical information. I like Frommer's better, as it has more details. I didn't verify all information on prices but the amounts wouldn't change that drastically. At the very least, you should know there's a cost.

Power socket and supply
Singapore uses the 'Type G' British design. A universal adaptor socket would usually do the trick. The voltage is 220-240 volts, so you might want to check your equipment specs. Although I've never heard of any overseas visitors having their gadgets being fried by plugging in.

Internet Access
Most hotels should have WIFI. I'm not too sure if it's all free. There's always Starbucks and MacDonalds.

Maps: websites and apps
I recommend As a local, I use it myself. The site loads fast. I've found the information reliable. You can find out how to walk to places, in addition to taking the MRT system, public buses, taxis and private cars.

If you have an iPhone, you can consider the free Singapore Maps app from Apple Store.

This is the map of the MRT, i.e. public train system.

I refer to this site (from the National Environment Agency) all the time. You'll probably be staying in a hotel near the conference venue, so look for the square box that says "city".

Public toilets
Vast majority are free to use. You can find them in shopping malls. Plenty of public toilets, in reasonably clean condition, within walking distance.

I'm pretty sure librarians and information professionals will find they aren't going worry about the prohibited stuff (scroll to the bottom of this page). Information on this page, from the Singapore Customs, would also be useful.


Singapore is a tourist-friendly place. I dare say most delegates can get by for the duration of the conference without too much planning. If you have your plane tickets, passport, credit card and some cash, you're good to go.

Oh, don't forget to bring a copy of your IFLA conference confirmation email. You would also have checked out the official IFLA WILC 2013 site.

The last time I attended a IFLA conference (more accurately, the IFLA World Library and Information Congress) was five years ago, in 2008. Had the privilege of attending IFLA in the years I served as the Information Officer for the Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section.

Preparing for a conference trip can often have anxiety-filled moments. I hope this post would be of some help.

See you at the conference.

Logo: IFLA World Library and Information Congress  79th IFLA General Conference and Assembly

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Interview with a Contemporary Fusion musician: Tze

2011 Results - The UK Songwriting ContestSome years back, I got to know a Singaporean musician and composer from a songwriting meetup. Back then, I didn't really know what he did. But he seemed to know a lot about music.

Then I gradually found out that Tze Toh (or Tze, as he likes people to call him), was an award-winning composer (first prize in the 2011 UK Songwriting contest, Instrumental category).

2011 Results - The UK Songwriting Contest

In one of our occasional online conversation, he shared a long term vision of forming his own orchestra. Pretty grand goals and it sounded immensely difficult.

It wasn't all talk and no action.

Last year, he put up a concert. With an ensemble!

I bought a ticket and spent an enjoyable evening, at a musical show that was thoughtfully put together. Tze's music is a blend of jazz, with the piano and/ or asian-based instruments as centrepieces. That's my interpretation anyway.

Tze calls his music "contemporary fusion" with a blend of "film score, jazz, Indian, Chinese and European classical music". If you've not heard his music before, here's a taster from his 2012 "Tze n Looking Glass: Return to wonderland" trailer video:

Since his ensemble concert last year, Tze has put up one more show in early 2013. He's pretty prolific, for his third show is coming up just a few weeks from now, in September 2013.

He agreed to an email interview, so here it is:

Q: Fusion Jazz isn't entirely new. So what's unique about your music?
The orchestra improvises as well. So each musician infuses their own vision and ideas. I feel that is the one truly unique thing about our orchestra - an ensemble where everyone has a his/her own voice.

[Ivan here: Folks, I'll let that sink in -- an ensemble that improvises. Not easy!]

Q: What sort of audience would you like to have at your concert?
I think our music have a broad appeal - from fans of jazz, classical, film music, world music (even some Jay-chou fans and people who don't usually listen to music!). We would like to have people who want to truly experience a journey, and listen to our stories. We always hope that the audience takes something home with them after the concert, hopefully a bit of inspiration, a smile, or a positive feeling that life is beautiful and will get better

Q: For someone new to your work, can you give them a flavour of what to expect at your show?
Here's a 28min recording of highlights from the "Wonderland 2012" Concert

[Ivan here: One of my favourite songs from Tze's 2012 concert were the ones with the Indian Raga flavour, like this one that starts from 4min 17sec]

Q: What would you say to someone who ask, "Why should I attend?"
Haha. Because you may hear something not often heard. Different musical languages -- be it Jazz, Classical or Asian traditional sounds -- coming together to create new tapestries and soundscapes. Like how the Indian violin blends with bebop jazz saxophone like the coming of rain; the entire orchestra improvising collectively to sound like a forest coming alive; the acoustic bass sounding like a growling mythical giant that grows and pushes Heaven and Earth apart.

Q: What goes on in your mind each time you prepare for a concert.
There's a lot of thought that goes into the conceptualization of each concert. I think the big question is always, "Why?".

Why are we doing this concert, and why are we writing and creating this new music?

Then comes the questions of "What do we want to explore and say with this music"? And "How do we say it?"; how to express what we want to using the instruments, melodies, harmonies, scales, sounds etc.

There's many aspects to concert preparation, whether it's the technical, or the mental. Technical issues are straight-forward to solve, e.g. playing and rehearsing, working on details of music, but the mental side is tricky sometimes, because you need the musicians to understand what the concert/music is about, and to understand where it all comes from, in order to realise your vision. Often to understand something in depth, one needs to have gain certain experiences in life and it's hard sometimes, for say, younger musicians, concerning certain themes and issues.

Q: What goes on after?
Usually after concerts, there's the (self) evaluation part, and some sort of celebration :) But mostly it's about just taking our minds off the music. It's intense, preparing for a concert. Because you eat, sleep and breath the music for a month or two. Your mind is never away from the music - always thinking, conceptualizing every day, while you are taking the bus/train, walking, having meals etc. The mind doesn't stop working. So after the concert you have to slow down gradually for a week, up to a month, before your brain learns to relax again.

Q: Your shows are often accompanied by write-ups that describe the concepts behind your work. What's your musical philosophy?
I think it's important for every concert to have an essence. For me, each concert is about discovering something. There is something inside of us that we often need to express, discover/ re-discover. I think music itself is a very interesting way of looking at the world around us, and also discovering what it means to be a sentient being; what humanity means. The expression of music itself is our way of sharing with the audience how we connect with the world around us. And how as musicians we connect with each other, to create this bond and special "place/journey".

Every imagery, idea in your head has its musical equivalent. I see myself as a sonic painter, creating each piece as a means for audience to experience this world which I imagined.

Q: Tell us more about your coming concert in Sept 2013.
In this upcoming concert, "The Longest Dream", we explore our perceptions of time/space, reality and dreams. Much of the music is inspired by Asian mythologies of creation like Pan Gu (盘古), as well as breakthroughs in Quantum physics like the discovery of the Higgs Boson. I think it's fascinating how science, mythology and philosophy have common themes.

It features original music that I wrote, with new works inspired by the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ennio Morricone, Keith Jarrett quartet, E.S.T trio, Ravel and Debussy.
The Longest Dream - 2013 concert poster

The concert will feature the following soloists: Lazar T.Sebastine (Indian violin), Teo Boon Chye (saxophone), Joyce Poh (Chinese flute), Julian Li Yongrui (acoustic bass), Wendy Phua (e.bass), Thirunalini Balakumaran (dance).

Audience can have a post-show dialogue with the artists after the concert.


The concert is on 5 Sept 2013, 7.30pm, at the Esplanade Recital Studio. If you're interested in tickets, they are priced at $30 each. Tze says there's a package price of $90 for a set of four tickets. Students get concessions prices at $18. There's an Early Bird price of $25 if you buy before 12th Aug 2013.

Tickets are at (note: A TICKETMASH booking fee applies for each ticket. Latecomers will only be admitted at suitable breaks. No admission of infant-in-arms and children below 6 years).

[UPDATE: Tze tells me tickets are also on sale on the day itself, outside the recital studio]

You can find out more about Tze and his orchestra at these pages:
Official site:

Tze can be reached at I'm sure he would love to know what you think of his show.

p.s. I'm asking a few friends if they want to attend this show with me.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The launch of "Hands: Gift of a Generation" exhibition, 6 Aug 2013

Several of my colleagues at the National Library have been hard at work for the past few months, working towards this exhibition. The appointed exhibition vendor started the onsite set up slightly more than a week ago. It all came together for today's official launch (6 Aug 2013) of the "Hands: Gift of a Generation" exhibition.

IMG_5722 Hands exhibtion

IMG_5723 hands exhibition IMG_5694 launch

The two old couple were guests. I was told each was over 100 years old. The woman was featured in the exhibition's Gallery. More about her later.
IMG_5685 registration

IMG_5711 launch

The Gallery
There were 30 Singaporeans specially interviewed for the Gallery. Having lived through the nation-building years (generally taken as 1965 to 1970s), their individual memories had the touch of familiarity and distance all combined. My colleagues did a nice job shortlisting the interviewees. A few interviewees have achieved national fame at some point. But most are ordinary folks, in the sense they could have been our parents or grandparents. Or you and I. 
IMG_5686 the gallery IMG_5703 gallery IMG_5689 Hands Exhibition IMG_5706 gallery IMG_5697

Here's the old couple I mentioned at the start of the post. The old woman was Madam Lim Beak. With her was her husband. I was told both were Centenarians. They looked amazingly fit for their age.
IMG_5701 lim beak IMG_5700 lim beak

Reading her story, I learned that both Madam Lim and her husband were natives of Fujian, China. Madam Lim was born in 1908 and came to Singapore when she was 34 years old (around 1942). Her husband had come to Singapore years earlier, in 1939, to escape conscription (into the Nationalist army, I suppose). It was fascinating to read how she and her husband went about making a living in those early days in Singapore. Sounded like tough times. 
IMG_5751 lim beak

More of her story will appear in the papers soon, I think. She was interviewed by journalists who were at  the launch.

The Remembering Room
This was the central structure of the whole exhibit. If you have contributed your stories to SingaporeMemory.Sg, you might find yours being projected on the wall.
IMG_5707  remembering room

Visitors could tap on the lightbox interfaces to search and browse memories, drawn from what has been contributed to the Singapore Memory Project so far.
IMG_5692 remembering room IMG_5691 the remembering room

IMG_5693 remembering room

The Memory Table
IMG_5699 memory table IMG_5698 memory table

That was the area where you write your memories down (on a sheet provided), then walk over to the scanner to digitise the sheet. The scanner was activated by placing your hand over the surface.
IMG_5725 memory table

The Memory Recorder
For those who wish to contribute their memories via video or audio, check out the Memory Recorder. It's an enclosed space where you can record yourself or interview a friend.
IMG_5687 the memory recorder IMG_5702 memory recorder

The Memory Pool
IMG_5743 memory pool

This part was designed with the kids in mind. On the walls were mobile phone-sized touchscreens, where visitors could digitally pen or sketch something. Submitting the memory was a matter of covering up the touchscreen with your hand.
IMG_5714  the memory pool IMG_5696 the memory pool

Then the 'memories' will appear in the 'light pool'. You could try scooping up whatever that has been submitted with your hands to take a closer look.
IMG_5716  the memory pool IMG_5695  the memory pool

Mementos for guests
Guests received a programme brochure and also a special edition Kalkitos game.
IMG_5708 launch IMG_5709 launch IMG_5710 launch

IMG_5732 launch

IMG_5705 launch

The exhibition, organised by the Singapore Memory Project, would be open to the public on 7 Aug. It would be on till 13 Aug 2013 at The Plaza, National Library building. There would also be programmes organised in conjunction with the exhibition.

IMG_5738 Hands Exhibition

IMG_5688 main Hands