JACK ON RAI

Music partner Rai is easiest person to work with, says Jack

Jack Ho, 37, will readily admit that when it comes to music, he is just as strong-willed as his music partner Rai Kannu.

Still, he describes Kannu as "the easiest person to work with".

He says: "Both of us are quite strongheaded in terms of what we want to achieve musically. But when it comes to doing a piece, whether performing or writing new music, we keep an open-minded point of view. Only when both of us are comfortable do we then jointly decide what direction the music will take."

Ho, the more gregarious of the pair, is also fond of telling the story of the smitten fan who had Rai's name tattooed on her lower back.

He says: "She came to all our shows and took pictures only of Rai. One day, she came looking for him but he had left, so she spoke to me and showed me the tattoo. I took a picture of it and sent it to Rai, who freaked out. Last we heard, she had gone back to Sri Lanka and we haven't seen or heard from her in a while."

Ho is married to former air stewardess Angelina Leong, who, together with Kannu and himself, are co-founders and owners of award-winning Japanese eatery The Flying Squirrel. She runs the day-to-day operations there while her husband and Kannu pop in several times a week.

As a child, Ho was inspired to pick up music by his father, an insurance man and a volunteer who played the trumpet in the Salvation Army's marching band. His mother was a Mandarin teacher.

When he was in Primary 6, his father bought him a $50 Congress guitar and, armed with a few basic chords, he started performing in church on Sundays, at times switching to the drums.

In his early secondary school years, he took private guitar lessons, inspired by his then favourite bands Led Zeppelin and Metallica.

The National University of Singapore graduate later honed his guitar skills by taking a summer programme at acclaimed Boston music school, Berklee College of Music. He also took lessons from local guitar sessionist Daniel Chai.

During his university days in the late 1990s, Ho started performing as a solo singer and guitarist at No. 5 Emerald Hill, around the same time as Kannu, who also performed as a solo act. They eventually teamed up as a duo to get a gig at another joint, Wala Wala Cafe Bar at Holland Village in 2002.

Despite his weekend and night-time gigs, he took on a day job marketing electronic products for Japanese conglomerate Sony after he graduated.

"I took that job to put my parents' hearts at ease. They had paid for my education and I had to show them I was a responsible son. The Sony job was fun too, I was marketing MiniDisc players, so it was related to music.

"And being in corporate surroundings, I learnt how to present myself a little bit more professionally, in terms of communication and marketing."

Three years into the Sony job and two years after he started performing with Kannu, he quit his day job to devote his full attention to his music career.

"I was taking on more gigs, not just with Rai but also as a solo act or with performers like singer Shirlyn Tan, so it was the right time to go into music full-time."

Ho says it came as a pleasant surprise to him when Kannu followed in his footsteps and also quit his day job four years after he did.

He says: "I never expected Rai to follow suit. It wasn't like I said to him "eh, I'm now a full-time musician, you also must be a full-time musician".

"We know we are always there for each other but we should never pressure each other into doing things we are not comfortable with."