[ Refer to inspire#10: Redefining Excellence (Rachma Lim)]
I first knew Rachma from the performance photos of other colleagues. I can still recall my immediate thoughts, what a good-looking spunky little girl. Now, if you have seen her pictures, you’d know i’m not just being shallow. It is true. Nor am I being rude, she is petite. But so am I. But whatever the girl lacks in altitude and (physical) size she makes up for in everything else. Which makes being petite really cool, in my opinion anyway. I am biased, as you know. :)
Perhaps, as a friend said, that we are only ever friends with people we admire, in one way or another. Perhaps it was admiration and appreciation. But perhaps, it was just like-mindedness. I found myself gravitating towards gigs with this spunky girl whom i’ve come to privately call as ‘Our lil’ Power Puff’.
But I get ahead of myself. Things really became hazy in my mind when I had to nail the specific point in which we got acquainted. So I borrowed a little help from her. And she reminded me of a certain community event we were both involved in, with our partners. I remember that warm sunny afternoon in Singapore. We had trouble finding a park, so whilst Didi went to find one, I had to help with setting up. And I believe that was when we met. When Rachma and Eugene started their duo on pianica/melodica and keyboard duo singing those tunes with their instruments, I literally stepped into a wonderland. I wish there was a less cliche way of putting it. And let me try… I felt like Alice. Oh well, I tried. It was that sort of bunny-ish hop and scramble through the misty ‘Lord of the Rings’ type of woods, made prettier by my adorable-looking friends. Eugene also bare the uncanny resemblance of Snoopy. That makes the duo extra cute. You just cannot help but dream up a hundred possibilities for their esoteric performance in a diorama… That’s how I imagined it anyway. And so I took every opportunity after our individual performances to tell them just that. They were so similar and yet so different, and their eyes twinkled as they spoke. At that time, i didn’t know they were a couple in love since I knew Eugene before Rachma. But he was quick to defend the relationship, and I was no doubt, very impressed. There is just nothing better than that sort of clarity and transparency in a couple. You knew, that you knew, that you knew, they were tight. :)
And so time passed. I had another opportunity to work with Rachma as a jazz trio with Anabel on flute, another fascinating character. We played those great standards, did our improvisational turns, and it was a great night. Then as if as part of the act every session, the power supply had to steal the limelight and reminded us how we were nothing without it. Oh well, we contemplated having R on vocals, and myself on jazz uke, but then A sort of did her signature pout, and we all agreed to call it a night. But what a wonderful night. A girly jazzy trio that was all can-do attitude smashing tunes we have heard or not. You don’t find those often. Fun!
That was my first go at working with R as an accompanist. She was great, melodious, dedicated and understood her role in backing a singer. But she was also very good at her own music and had her own bands, I had come to know. I was enamoured. On top of that, her little body was a pack full of energy – yoga, watercolour landscape painting (that was one of those things that brought us closer), Japanese language (have you heard how I loved the music in languages?), and jazz. I didn’t wanna let this one go. Before we departed for China, I had an opportunity to do something with singer friend Elaine Lam. And we both agreed to have Rachma and Didi with us for a Chinese New Year weekend concert at the Esplanade Concourse. It was great. I remembered encountering her gusto when I decided to change keys for one of the swing tunes i did last minute (due to the acoustics of the room) and she was super cool about it. She rode Joyspring (Clifford Brown) through with me. And that was my first presentation of the tune in my own Mandarin lyrics. Very special. I recalled pulling her aside to say admit that my flops on that bebop tune, challenging myself not to look at any lyrics for all my gigs, may have affected the gig, and I quickly apologised for my risk-taking trait. She responded saying she too was a risk-taker and appreciated my understanding for imperfections made up for in honesty, musical feel and dedication. I loved our collaboration. And i know we have both grown since because we weren’t safe-players.
On risk-taking and intrigue, the both of us are also ‘exchanging’ craftsmanship. I benefitted from a single lesson with R before I left, and then helped her build her singing chops. It was fun. That’s what music is about. This was like two kids taking out their spades to make sandcastles together. Having learnt how she is now considering taking singing more seriously, i am thrilled. Judy Carmichael did that, and with stride piano, so why not? I’m looking forward to her journey as a musician of her own right. Creative, honest and bold. You could only imagine growth and humility leading her to become a force to be reckon with. Bless you Rachma darling. You are one special gem. We should do our little exchanges and learn passionately on the job. It would be really interesting!
Editing the interview is a long process of reading the interviewee’s responses, and finding the honest and open in their sharing. It was so easy finding all the jewels in my interview with Rachma. Her utter honesty with the very real challenges in her processes as a student all over again in New York has deeply inspired me. Many will share their stories only upon achieving polished trophies, but to take something out of your pain and hardship, and then share that openly is a pure sign of faith that this is but process. Even this, shall contribute to the music that comes through from life, and living Life. I don’t believe anything else is closer to the spirit and culture of Blues and Jazz than that, do you?
Recently, I decided to put together a quote for my teaching site to share my ideologies without so many words. And I will end of this article with it:
“I like to surround myself with the greats, and goals that look like at first, giants. That’s how I stay hungry. That’s how I suppose anyone continually makes room for growth.”
– Juliet Pang
My personal heartfelt thanks for Rachma’s generosity in sharing so openly and whole-heartedly despite her hectic study schedules.
Rachma is currently studying in New York and will complete her Masters in Jazz Studies end of this year 2017. Bless Eugene and Rachma’s journeys, both as individuals and as a beautiful married couple. ’til we next meet for some crazy art. xx J