24OWLS Playlist Series

Medicine for the Soul by Cecilia Ong

To keep herself sane being stuck at home due to COVID-19 restrictions this past couple of months, Cecilia Ong has been shopping online, getting back on the mat to restart her yoga practice, and binging on mainland Chinese drama serials.

She’s watched everybody’s favourite imperial court intrigue show, Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace, starring Wallace Huo and Zhou Xun. She has just finished Winter Begonia, the latest web series, starring Andrew Yin, Charmaine Sheh and Huang Xiaoming, and set in 1930s China about a famous Peking Opera performer and his supporter whose lives were caught up in the impending Japanese invasion.

“I like Peking Opera. I don’t necessarily understand the lyrics, but I enjoy the way they are sung very much,” English-educated Cecilia explains her affinity for the art-form. The youngest of nine children, she was exposed to Chinese culture, thanks to her older, Chinese-educated siblings who took up extra-curricular pursuits such as the flute, the guzheng and, yes, Chinese opera.

As for her favourite TV shows, she is not as interested in romances, but is keener on dramas which delve into psychology and human dynamics. Such an appreciation for subtlety extends to what she excels at in 19SixtyFive and 24OWLS: She manages staff welfare, administration and accounts, and handles front-of-house matters for concerts.

Putting this Playlist together has been a revelation for the music buff, who enjoys attending live shows and karaoke sessions with family and friends. She has curated tracks from the 1970s onwards to the present day, including songs from artists whose gigs she has attended or missed, or who she wishes would play here one day. As she says: “Music touches the soul of everyone and is the best medicine.”

Here’s her playlist:

1. Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars

“I was on holiday in Barcelona with Marcia (24OWLS founder) during Christmas and New Year’s, around 2010. I heard it first in my hotel room. They kept playing this song on repeat on television.”

2. All of Me – John Legend

“I love attending karaoke sessions with my nieces and nephews. My niece sang this song, and it stuck with me.”

3. Someone Like You – Adele

“Like many people, I wish to catch Adele live. I just like the melody of this song. I like her second album, 21, a lot.”

4. Annie’s Song – John Denver

“I grew up listening to the radio. I heard this song during my secondary school days.”

5. Daniel – Elton John

“My brother’s name is Daniel. It so happened that the title of this song happened to be Daniel. I had the privilege of naming his children, Dexter, Nicole and Yuki. In primary school, we were in the same class. People said we looked identical.”

6. If – Bread

“I heard it for the first time on the radio. When Bread came to Singapore in 1997, Marcia and I caught them live in concert.”

7. It’s Sad to Belong – England Dan & John Ford Coley

“The melody just gets to me.”

8. Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Crystal Gayle

“There’s something about Crystal Gayle. She’s not very tall, she’s got long hair all the way down to her waist, and she has such a lovely voice. This song really made me dreamy.”

9. Lady – Kenny Rogers

“I caught his Final World Tour gig at The Star Theatre in 2016 with my sister. I was very impressed. It was a very simple set-up. There was no change of suits. And there was no encore.”

10. Could I Have This Dance – Anne Murray

“Whenever I listen to this song, I feel like I am in a slow waltz …”

11. Just Once – James Ingram

“I love ballads. They are so beautiful. One hardly gets them now. I know, some people may think this song is cheesy, but this is my idea of a sentimental love song with smooth vocals.”

12. That’s the Way (I Like It) – KC & The Sunshine Band

“I enjoyed dancing in my younger days. Looking back now, they must look really campy – disco & a-go-go dance styles, with all the hand movements and coordinated moves. This is the song my friends and I used to dance to. We would fall in line (laughs). I think it was at Xanadu at the Shangri-La.”

13. Can’t Buy Me Love (Remastered) – The Beatles

“Very easy to sing to.”

14. 黑色柳丁 (Black Tangerine) – David Tao

“I caught his concert in 2018 with my fourth sister. This track is quite different from his other songs – it’s a mix of R&B and Rock.”

15. 十年 (10 Years) – Eason Chan

“I don’t know many of his songs, but this particular track caught my attention. How many ‘10 years’ do we have? Reminds me of the time we have left… Also, he’s a great live performer.”

16. 給我一個理由忘記 (Give Me a Reason to Forget) – A-Lin

“This is one of her most popular songs. I attended her concert at The Star Theatre in 2017 with my sister.”

17. 白天不懂夜的黑 (I Don’t Understand The Darkness of Night ) – 那英 (Na Ying)

“Another strong female powerhouse. This is one of Na Ying’s biggest hits.”

18. 胭脂扣 (Rouge) – Anita Mui

“Another female singer I was a huge fan of, and had the chance to watch her live, was Anita Mui. I could consider her to be the predecessor of Lady Gaga, the Asian version. Her live concert was so vivid, spectacular and avant-garde.”

19. 明星 (Celebrity) – Leslie Cheung

“Another one who died too young and whose music I often turned to in the middle of the night is Leslie Cheung.”

20. 李香蘭 (Li Xianglan) – Jacky Cheung

“Live shows may take some time to return, and I will patiently wait for that as I love live shows. Jacky Cheung is one artist I will travel to catch live, and I will watch the same show multiple times. The record was four gigs on the same tour – the opening and closing shows in Hong Kong and two more shows in Singapore.”