Singapore's oldest jazz musician, Julai Tan, dies at age 94

Violinist Julai Tan was the oldest performer at the 2018 National Day Parade and played with the BBC Orchestra in London in the 1960s.
Violinist Julai Tan was the oldest performer at the 2018 National Day Parade and played with the BBC Orchestra in London in the 1960s.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Violinist Julai Tan, known as Singapore's oldest jazz musician, died on Tuesday (Aug 6) at the age of 94.

He was the oldest performer at the 2018 National Day Parade and played with the BBC Orchestra in London in the 1960s.

In 2010, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) Awards.

According to Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, Tan's health had been deteriorating in the past few months, and he died in a hospital of health complications and organ failure.

In an interview with The Straits Times in 2018, he recalled learning the violin at the age of seven, inspired by an Indonesian violinist who stayed at his house.

Tan, who also performed in recent events such as 2017 music festival We Love Jazz Party, said: "I think the violin is an instrument with a soul. When I play it, it can convey messages back to me."

He joined the Singapore radio orchestra in the 1950s and was with the BBC orchestra from 1964 to 1967 before returning to Singapore in the late 1970s.

Members of the local music and entertainment industry paid tribute to him on social media.

Veteran jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro, who had performed with Tan since the 1970s, wrote that "a light in our music scene has left us".

"He was always so gracious to the audience members and the public loved him. I learned a lot from him, not just about the music, but also how to be warm and kind to the audience."

Singer Joanna Dong described him as "legendary" and thanked him for "building the foundations for the music scene we have today".

Tan left behind his wife, Madam Ng Siew Lan, 75. The couple had no children, but Tan had a step-daughter from a previous marriage in the United States.