Veteran local bands play again

Gingerbread and Black Dog Bone reunite for a New Year's Day double bill at the Esplanade

In the last two decades that pop-rock veterans Gingerbread were on hiatus, the husband and wife in the band were hardly anonymous whenever they went out in public.

"We will be having a meal in Geylang Serai and strangers will come up to us and ask, 'When are Gingerbread performing again?'" says singer and keyboardist Ann Hussein.

Adds her husband, band leader and drummer Shahul Hameed: "Sometimes when I am having my soup kambing, we have to share a table and the people there will ask me, 'Hey, you're Ann Hussein's husband, right? When are Gingerbread playing a show again?'"

The wait will soon be over for fans of the 41-year-old band, famed for Malay and English radio hits from the 1980s.

Gingerbread will reunite for a double-bill show on New Year's Day at the Esplanade Concert Hall, alongside fellow veterans Black Dog Bone. Both bands will be backed by Orkestra Melayu Singapura.

Besides Ann, 52, and Shahul, 60, the Gingerbread reunion will also include members who have played in the band's various line-ups, including Dudley Nonis on keyboards and Raffy Aspier on bass and vocals. They are also planning to have a guest appearance by Moses Vadham, who sang and played bass on some of the band's biggest hits.

While the band have done only a handful of one-off appearances since their last residency at Orchard Towers in 2001, Ann and Shahul have kept themselves busy running their home-based music studio, Gingerbread Studios.

It is where they record music by local pop acts and dikir barat troupes, as well as jingles and voice-overs for corporate clients such as MediaCorp and Universal Studios Singapore.

Ann, who also teaches singing at music school Yamaha, still occasionally gets the spotlight on local television as a vocal coach on shows such as Singapore Idol and more recently as a judge on reality singing show SG Mania on Suria.

"One of the reasons I thought it was good to do this show is that I wanted to sing for my students. They are always telling me that I talk a lot about my heyday as a singer, but they never really got a chance to see me sing live at a full concert. Now they can," says the singer who won the televised singing competition Talentime in 1980.

Besides Malay radio hits popular here and in Malaysia from the 1980s, including Mat Jiwa-Jiwa, Ku Cari Damai Dihati and Samba, the band also had a hit English song, Roses, found on the 1985 compilation album Class Acts.

Shahul, who was one of the original members who formed the group in 1973, says that Gingerbread's history can be divided into two phases.

"We were a performing band that played everywhere, from hotels to clubs - we played around the world. Then we started to make albums for the Malay and English markets. These are two totally different disciplines. One is about composing, about being creative with your art, whereas the other is about doing popular covers and being entertaining."

Gingerbread's fellow headliners at the gig, funk-rock sextet Black Dog Bone, also plan to revive their big radio hits from the 1970s and 1980s, including Khayalan and Si Gadis Ayu that were also big on radio across the Causeway.

The 42-year-old band's fans will also be pleased to see the appearance of bass player Hamid Ahmad, 64, who had his right leg amputated last year due to an infection.

In a jovial mood when Life! interviewed both bands at the Esplanade, he says: "The fans always want to hear our popular songs when we play live. But I feel that we still have a lot of creativity left in us and we want to record at least one more album of new and original songs."

His bandmate, trumpet player and singer Masron Matali, 69, was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, but he could still be a part of the band.

Singer and drummer Jatt Ali, 58, says: "He's been at our rehearsals and we've told him to join us on stage. He doesn't have to sing or play. He's still part of us so he's always welcome to be on stage with us."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg