Singapore Cowboy... more than just a pipe dream



In the 60s, a home-grown country music band took to the stage wearing long silk Chinese gowns with mandarin collars won the attention of the honchos of Country Music. They were called Matthew and The Mandarins. The band left behind a legacy in the form of a hit song called ‘Singapore Cowboy’ – a song that sings of dislocation, cowboy in the tropics and ‘shanghaied’ country music. The documentary ‘Singapore Cowboy’ by Wee Li Lin pays tribute the song as well as Matthew Tan, the voice behind the song who very much personifies everything about it.

Aside from the strange choice of featuring the interviewer like it was Adrian Pang’s Talk Show, the documentary brings us very close to the heart of Matthew’s journey with this song ad of course, with his whimsical country music career as a whole. The documentary is thoughtful in the way it romantically analogises the highlights of Matthew’s life with the song. What we see are not just a chronological sequence of events but anecdotal extensions of the song which sings of ‘pipe-dreams’ and wanderlust.  The only difference is of course Matthew did not live in a pipe dream, it came true.

High octane moments like his first big time performance and the US appearances aside, the documentary lives for a moment in our heads with Matthew short episode of escaping to Nashville. While no one will bat an eyelid if a young person decides to go on a life sabbatical to a faraway place for few years, Matthew’s escape Nashville was in some measure audacious for his era. The sepia-tinged old photo of him lounging in a seat with a dog in the midst of a quiet town stokes in us a sense of reckless adventure that we sometimes secretly desire. That was perhaps for me my point of entry into his world and the heart of the film.

Check out Li Lin's film in this link.

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