Remembering Glen Campbell

June 21, 2015

Remembering Glen Campbell

Glen CampbellGlen Campbell

I thought about this great and talented country and western singer who was diagnosed with Alzheimer  a few years ago  as  I reflected on my days as a graduate student in the United States in the 1960s. It was during this period that Glen Campbell burst onto the music scene  with his hit song Wichita Lineman.

He had many hits after that, which Dr. Kamsiah and I will bring to you next weekend. But this one is inspiring. I dedicate this to you, my Malaysian brothers and sisters. We are facing challenging times and need to stand together. May Glen’s rendition of He ain’t heavy, he’s my Brother inspire all of us. –Din Merican

Ashley Campbell’s Tribute to Glen

Barry Manilow for Glen

Your Entertainment by The Mekong

June 20, 2015

Your Entertainment by the Mekong

FCC@Phnom Penh

It is time for Dr. Kamisah and I to bring back jazz for your entertainment. Miles Davies, one of the most creative jazz exponents, is our guest artiste for this weekend’s entertainment by the Mekong. We start by playing his rendition of Someday My Prince will come, to be followed by his famous Sketches of Spain, that wonderful country that gave us the Matador, the Famingo, the legendary Seve Ballesteros and the dashing Sergio Garcia (may he win the 2015 US Open). When we think of Miles, we must  also not forget his album titled Kind Of Blue.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Here is some background on Miles Davies to enable us to understand him and his music, and appreciate his prodigious talent.

Miles Davies


Instrumental in the development of jazz, Miles Davis is considered one of the top musicians of his era. Born in Illinois in 1926, he traveled at age 18 to New York City to pursue music. Throughout his life, he was at the helm of a changing concept of jazz. Winner of nine Grammy awards, Miles Davis died on September 28, 1991 from respiratory distress in Santa Monica, California.

Early Life

The son of a prosperous dental surgeon and a music teacher, Miles Davis was born Miles Dewey Davis III on May 26, 1926, in Alton, Illinois. Davis grew up in a supportive middle-class household, where he was introduced by his father to the trumpet at age 13. Davis quickly developed a talent for playing the trumpet under the private tutelage of Elwood Buchanan, a friend of his father who directed a music school. Buchanan emphasized playing the trumpet without vibrato, which was contrary to the common style used by trumpeters such as Louis Armstrong, and which would come to influence and help develop the Miles Davis style.

Davis played professionally while in high school. When he was 17 years old, Davis was invited by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker to join them onstage when the famed musicians realized they needed a trumpet player to replace a sick bandmate. Soon after, in 1944, Davis left Illinois for New York, where he would soon enroll at the Juilliard School (known at the time as the Institute of Musical Art).

While taking courses at Juilliard, Davis sought out Charlie Parker and, after Parker joined him, began to play at Harlem nightclubs. During the gigs, he met several musicians whom he would eventually play with and form the basis for bebop, a fast, improvisational style of jazz instrumental that defined the modern jazz era.

Musical Beginnings: 1940s – 1960s

In 1945, Miles Davis elected, with his father’s permission, to drop out of Juilliard and become a full-time jazz musician. A member of the Charlie Parker Quintet at the time, Davis made his first recording as a bandleader in 1946 with the Miles Davis Sextet. Between 1945 and 1948, Davis and Parker recorded continuously. It was during this period that Davis worked on developing the improvisational style that defined his trumpet playing.

In 1949, Davis formed a nine-piece band with uncommon additions, such as the French horn, trombone and tuba. He released a series of singles that would later be considered a significant contribution to modern jazz. They were later released as part of the album Birth of the Cool.

In the early 1950s, Davis became addicted to heroin. While he was still able to record, it was a difficult period for the musician and his performances were haphazard. Davis overcame his addiction in 1954, around the same time that his performance of “‘Round Midnight” at the Newport Jazz Festival earned him a recording contract with Columbia Records. There, he also created a permanent band, consisted of John Coltrane, Paul Chambers and Red Garland.

Davis recorded several albums with his sextet during the 1950s, including Porgy and Bess and Kind of Blue, his final album of the decade, released in 1959. Now considered one of the best jazz albums ever recorded, Kind of Blue is credited as the largest-selling jazz album of all time, selling more than 2 million copies.

Davis continued to be successful throughout the 1960s. His band transformed over time, largely due to new band members and changes in style. The various members of his band went on to become some of the most influential musicians of the jazz fusion era. These included Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Chick Corea (Return to Forever), and John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra).

The development of jazz fusion was influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone, reflecting the “fusion” of jazz and rock. The album Bitches Brew, recorded a few weeks after the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, set the stage for the jazz fusion movement to follow. Bitches Brew soon became a best-selling album. As a result, Davis was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine—becoming the first jazz artist to be so recognized. For his traditional fans, this change of style was not welcome, but it exemplifies Davis’ ability to experiment and push the limits of his own music style.

Renowned Jazz Musician: 1970s – 1980s

In 1975, Davis was once again drawn into drug abuse, becoming addicted to alcohol and cocaine, and subsequently taking a five-year hiatus from his career. In 1979, he met Cicely Tyson, an American actress, who helped him overcome his cocaine addiction. He and Tyson married in 1981.

From 1979 to 1981, Davis worked on recordings that culminated in the release of the album The Man with the Horn, which registered steady sales but wasn’t well-received by critics. Davis spent the 1980s continuing to experiment with different styles. He interpreted songs made popular by Michael Jackson (“Human Nature”) and Cyndi Lauper (“Time After Time”) on his album You’re Under Arrest, released in 1985.

It was around this time that Davis developed a feud with fellow trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis publicly criticized Davis’s work in jazz fusion, claiming that it wasn’t “true” jazz. Subsequently, when Marsalis attempted to join Davis onstage without invitation at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 1986, Davis requested that he leave the stage, using strong language. To this day, the quarrel between the musicians has been credited with making the International Jazz Festival famous.

Davis reinvented himself yet again in 1986 with the release of Tutu. Incorporating synthesizers, drum loops and samples, the album was well-received and garnered Davis another Grammy Award. This was followed by the release of Aura, an album that Davis had created in 1985 as a tribute to the Miles Davis “aura,” but wasn’t released until 1989. Davis won yet another Grammy for this project.

Later Years and Legacy

Honoring his body of work, in 1990, Miles Davis received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. In 1991, he played with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The two performed a retrospective of Davis’s early work, some of which he had not played in public for more than 20 years.

Later that same year, on September 28, 1991, Davis succumbed to pneumonia and respiratory failure, dying at the age of 65. Fittingly, his recording with Quincy Jones would bring Miles Davis his final Grammy, awarded posthumously in 1993. The honor was just another testament to the musician’s profound and lasting influence on jazz.


Your Entertainment from Phnom Penh by The Mekong

June 13, 2015

Your Weekend Entertainment from Phnom Penh:Paul Simon

We are already into Saturday afternoon. It is time for Dr. Kamsiah (in Din MericanKKuala Lumpur) and Din Merican (here in Phnom Penh) to take  you away from the cares and woes of politics in the country that has produced a great Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Let Lim Kok Wing and the rest of those characters in the Prime Minister’s Department do whatever they can to rebrand Najib.  They are stubborn enough to believe that they can change public perception of Najib Razak as a weak, dishonest and incompetent Prime Minister who is being manipulated by Rosmah Mansor. But Lim Kok Wing who used to be Mahathir’s image maker does not care. He has no loyalty. What is important to him is influence and money. For that, he will sell his soul to the highest bidder. That is what he has done to this by becoming the Prime Minister’s propagandist.

Featuring Paul F. Simon

We have chosen for your listening pleasure a tribute to Paul Simon, America’s classic and contemporary  composer and entertainer. Paul is an American musician, actor and singer-songwriter. Simon’s fame, influence, and commercial success began as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, formed in 1964 with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote nearly all of the pair’s songs, including three that reached No. 1 on the U.S. singles charts: “The Sound of Silence“, “Mrs. Robinson“, and “Bridge Over Troubled Water“. The duo split up in 1970 at the height of their popularity, and Simon began a successful solo career as a guitarist and singer-songwriter, recording three highly acclaimed albums over the next five years.

In 1986, Paul released Graceland, an album inspired by South African township music. Simon also wrote and starred in the film One-Trick Pony (1980) and co-wrote the Broadway musical The Capeman (1998) with the poet Derek Walcott.

top10-phnom-penh-restaurantsWelcome to Phnom Penh for Fine Cuisine

Simon has earned 12 Grammys for his solo and collaborative work, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2006 was selected as one of the “100 People Who Shaped the World” by Time magazine. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine named Simon as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. Among many other honors, Simon was the first recipient of the Library of Congress‘s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007. In 1986, Simon was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees.–wikpedia.

Just relax and listen to Paul Simon’s compositions. You will understand why Dr. Kamsiah and I think he is one of greatest personalities in the American music.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican



Your Weekend Entertainment by The Mekong with Joni James

May 29, 2015

Your Weekend Entertainment by The Mekong with Joni James

FCCPhnomPenhForeign Correspondents’ Club in Phnom Penh

This is a long weekend in Cambodia as Monday is the public holiday. Most Cambodians, like those of us who are not from Kuala Lumpur, will return to their respective towns and communes in the provinces to be with their parents and relatives and friends. The expatriates who remain in the city will  gather at The Foreign Correspondents Club for a hearty meal with wine and some booze to wash away their blues. But the night too early for revelry. Things wont hot up till around 10 pm. local time.

Saturday May 30 is my beloved wife Dr. Kamsiah’s birthday and I regret that I am unable to be withKamsiah and Din4 her. Fortunately, she is now in Jakarta with her daughter to celebrate the occasion. I take this opportunity to convey my love and affection on the occasion of her birthday. To commemorate the occasion, I dedicate the songs by Joni James to wish her good health and happiness on behalf of all of us. I am sure she will be okay as she is in very good company.

I promised my friend, Cheam Tat Phang who is a diehard Joni James fan that I will feature this fabulous singer again. I am glad that after a long lapse of time I am able to do that today . Here’s to you my friend with my good wishes. Without further delay here is Joni James.– Din Merican

Your Weekend Entertainment– Nat King Cole

May 23, 2015

Phnom Penh

Your  Weekend Entertainment– Nat King Cole

I turned 76 today. What better way to celebrate the occasion than to be entertained by one of dinat UC crooners of my generation, Nat King Cole, the man with a velvet voice and a heart of gold. I regret that I cannot be with my wife, Dr. Kamsiah, to share the occasion. Her duty to her patients prevents her from being in Phnom Penh for the occasion.

Seven decades plus 5 have gone too quickly and when I look back and take stock of my life and after my reflection in the dying hours of my 75th year, I find I have not achieve very much except for being a constant irritant to my widowed mother when I was growing up, and now for crossing swords with our corrupt and dishonest Najib regime and his UMNO predecessors. There is still much that remains to be done; it is never too late but I must now make haste slowly.

At The University of Cambodia, I will be able to do research  and write my memoirs with the help of some of my able research assistants and eager graduate students, catch up with my reading outside of my fields of specialisation. It has been quite some time since I read a poem, the classics and other novels, and books on history, religion and philosophy.

I remain forever indebted to my departed mother for giving me a priceless gift of a good education which enabled me to travel and work in many countries, for teaching me to know the difference between right and wrong and not to compromise on principles, and how to be humane and considerate to and do no harm to others. I am also grateful to my dear wife Dr. Kamsiah for allowing me to answer my call for service in Phnom Penh at the University of Cambodia in education and capacity building.

The environment here in Phnom Penh is liberating and quite inspiring since Cambodia’s leaders and Cambodians are busy rebuilding the civil war ravaged country. What Prime Minister Hun Sen has done to politics is to create a political culture based on dialogue and  win-win discourse, and cooperation among all stakeholders. He believes that politics should not be adversarial and confrontational if everyone is focused on development of the human character and mind and the economy. The much respected and admired Prime Minister Hun Sen is revamping the education system to make it world class so that his people can integrate and compete in ASEAN and the rest of the world,  and I am here at the University of Cambodia to partake in making his vision a reality. For this reason, at 76 today, I am perked up and excited.

Let me assure you that I will not lose sight of my beloved Malaysia.. I will be active on my blog to expose the rampant corruption and abuses of power of the UMNO-BN regime without fear, and keep a close watch on what the political opposition is saying and doing, not hesitating to criticise them when they fail to keep to their cause.

Thank you for good wishes on Facebook and look to your support and encouragement for this blog. To worth anything, a blog must be read by discerning readers and visitors. So keep those comments coming.–Din Merican