COVID-19 SPECIAL

Monteiro just as busy despite cancelled gigs

Jazz maestro Jeremy Monteiro is duly occupied with entertaining fans via livestreams, recording vocals at his home studio, working on finishing his second book and practising music three times more than he normally does.
Jazz maestro Jeremy Monteiro is duly occupied with entertaining fans via livestreams, recording vocals at his home studio, working on finishing his second book and practising music three times more than he normally does.PHOTO: VARIAN MONTEIRO

The Covid-19 outbreak might have kept Singapore's most renowned jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro home, but he has been as busy as ever.

This is despite the fact that all the Cultural Medallion recipient's live performances until June have been either cancelled or postponed, including his 60th birthday concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall. It was originally scheduled to take place on June 6, but will now be held on Dec 11. He also had to cancel a recording session in Germany and gigs in France.

"I'm keeping very busy, as busy as I always am, just doing different things," he says.

Always active on social media, he has been entertaining his fans around the world with livestreams of him playing music and chatting with them from his home studio.

A performance on Sunday evening drew about 4,700 live viewers on Facebook. The broadcast also saw him do virtual jams with fellow musicians from around the world, including Spanish flautist Rodrigo Parejo and Madrid-based Singaporean percussionist Nantha Kumar.

He is also recording vocals at his home studio for an upcoming album, as well as an original single this week for Easter, Gethsemane, which will feature home-grown singers Nick Zavior and Alemay Fernandez as well as American singer Miz Dee Logwood.

In addition, he is working on finishing his second book, a followup to his 2018 memoir Late-night Thoughts Of A Jazz Musician. Monteiro has been keeping his chops up. "I've been practising music three times more than I normally do."

Still, like most full-time musicians in Singapore, the outbreak has hit hard. He reckons he has lost approximately 40 per cent of his income.

"For now, all I have to do is tighten my belt. But in the last five to seven years, I've become more and more frugal. Maybe because as I approach 60, I'm less interested in things, I'm more interested in experiences, my writing and music."

Having been involved in the music industry since the early 1970s, Monteiro had the foresight to not just rely on income from live performances.

As the global arts ambassador for EFG Bank, the musician gets funding from it so work for his album recordings are still on track. He also receives corporate sponsorship from real estate firm OUE and music group IMC Captasia. He also draws a salary as the executive director and music director of Jazz Association (Singapore), a non-profit body dedicated to growing the jazz community in Singapore.

The work he does with the association takes up about half of his time, and online donation drives that accompanied his livestreams in the past week have raised $2,680 for it. Monteiro says: "The team is busy trying to think – how do we continue our mission using online and digital platforms to make sure our public jazz appreciation talks and all the other things we do can still continue. We have to do that because we cannot just roll over and play dead."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2020, with the headline 'Monteiro just as busy despite cancelled gigs'. Print Edition | Subscribe