Interviews

Budak Pantai perform one last time before disbanding

By Anjali RaguramanEvents - 02 May 2014 12:00 AM | Updated 04 May 2014

Budak Pantai perform one last time before disbanding

Photos by Olivier Henry

When five-piece Acapella group Budak Pantai announced that they would be playing their final show at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 24 May, the concert sold out in three days. Such a feat in Singapore is usually reserved for the likes of Taylor Swift or Jay Chou.

But the Singapore group managed to pull it off, and even had to add an extra show the night before to accommodate the fans who wanted to be at their swansong performance.

After 20 years together, the group members have dedcided to go their separate ways. They were coy about why they are disbanding, joking that they want to bow out at their peak before their voices get older and they need to change keys, among others (watch video above). 

Gordon Ng, Michael Loh, Joseph Wong, Ho Kah Keh and Danny Lai are all “30 and 40-somethings”, and a sixth unofficial member is apparently Lai’s guitar, which accompanies the vocalists, unlike most Acapella groups.

From left to right: Ho Kah Keh, Danny Lai, Gordon Ng, Michael Loh and Joseph Wong

There is an infectious energy among the guys, who are always full of laughs. The group, which counts a banker and a lawyer among them, first came together in 1994 for a TV talent competition show, 'Rollin’ Good Times'.

Loh said on why they banded together: “No one else wanted to sing with us, we were so annoying in other groups.” They eventually won the competition.

Budak Pantai is a loose translation of The Beach Boys. “But we find their music absolutely uninspiring,” Loh quipped. 

Their wide repertoire of songs include English, Hokkien, Mandarin, and even Japanese ones.

“We’ve tried Korean, but we can’t read Hangul,” Loh said.

They also perform mash-ups and original takes on popular English songs, sometimes with a German accent, or with a Scottish narration. There is also a Mexican standoff in a bar featured when covering Maroon 5’s ‘This Love’. There is always a humorous twist or an injection of local slang, be it Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ or The Plain White T’s ‘Hey There Delilah’.

Budak Pantai's version of Maroon 5's 'This Love'

While chart success and radio airplay have eluded the group (“Why has it never happened? Give up already, lah!”), the one thing they have always had are droves of loyal fans at their shows.

In one of the few serious moments during the interview with inSing, Ho admitted that he was surprised by the positive response they have received at their shows all these years. “Over the years, we just do what we do,” he said.

After 20 years performing and playing together, they will miss those moments such as seeing the outdoor theatre at the Esplanade progressively fill up before their shows and eventually overflowing with people as they perform. Ho described it best: "When you're on a stage and it's a full house, nothing can describe that feeling..."

Ng said: "I just enjoy singing with these guys. That's what I'll miss."

Wong put it this way:“We started singing and recording only for posterity. We wanted to keep our songs so our children and our children’s children could listen to them. We’re blessed.

“Don’t take this as a farewell, take this as a thank-you to our fans.”

The Final Countdown by Budak Pantai

The Final Countdown by Budak Pantai

Date May 23, 2014 - May 24, 2014

VenueEsplanade - Theatres on The Bay

Ticket PriceS$38.00 - S$48.00
 (excludes booking fee)