Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Lovely Tribute To Van Gogh

Was cleaning up my old emails and came across this gem sent to me by a good friend. Its a lovely tribute to Van Gogh. Talk about leaving a mark or an enduring legacy. Why are great artists often quirky and misunderstood???

Vincent van Gogh, whose obsessive devotion to his art engulfs, consumes, and finally destroys him. However, evidence now shows that he probably killed himself because he went mad from lead poisioning. Then, artists used to lick their brushes to wet them and the paints were full of lead..... they would become addicted to the sweet taste of the lead and their body would crave it. Vincent literally began to eat paint. To many he was battling mental illness, maybe now we know better. They locked him up in a mental asylum. From his cell, he painted his famous painting Starry Night from what he could see from his cell.

Starry starry night. Paint your palette blue and grey. Look out on a summers day, with eyes that know the darkness in my soul. -DON MCLEAN/VINCENT VAN GOGH

He was a sad man as well, he never found true love in his lifetime. He died at 37 and painted 442 paintings.
Incredibly, he never managed to even sell any of his paintings till after he died.

Lust for Life (1956) is a biographical film about the life of the Dutch painter, based on the 1934 novel by Irvings Stone. It was directed by Vincente Minnelli and stars Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh. Anthony Quinn won an Oscar for his performance as Van Gogh's fast friend and rival Paul Gauguin.

Now for a more sobering documentary on Van Gogh.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Come Hear Roger Wang Live, Its Free!!!

Its tomorrow night at Loud + Clear, a snazzy new CD shop that is making waves. Even for their opening, they managed to get some live artistes to perform at their place. Two nights ago, it was Zyan and Winnie Ho of 2V1G. Tomorrow it will be Roger Wang, arguably Malaysia's finest guitarist, next to Paul Ponnudurai. See you there.

Roger Wang, the Sabahan finger-style guitarist, celebrated his 10th year in the music industry in 2010. Already a famous musician in his own right, his recent achievements helped to catapult him to greater heights. Thanks to Jacky Cheung, the Cantopop "Heavenly King" who took his composition "Love Scale" and used it in his Canto-Jazz album "Private Corner". The song gave Roger Wang tremendous international exposures and helped him to win the recent PWH "Best Original Composition - International Category" award, a Bi-annual music award ceremony organized by the Malaysian Chinese press members. His other achievement is his collaboration with local Audiophile producer, Leslie Loh, in the highly-acclaimed Chinese acoustic album 2V1G (2 Voices, 1 Guitar), which has sold over 20,000 copies since its launch in 2008. 2V1G's debut album was recently listed in Hong Kong's Audiophile "CD Bible 2010" as one of the top 500 best recordings of all time.

With such accolades, it is high time for Roger Wang to release his first compilation in 10 years, aptly named "Milestones".

'Milestones’ is a double disc compilation album that celebrates Roger Wang’s first ten years as a recording artiste. This collection highlights his musical journey with hand picked tracks from 6 albums released over the decade, which includes tracks from Double Take’s “1 Voice, 6 Strings, 12 Moods” and “1 Voice, 6 Strings, 12 Days of Christmas”, Wang’s solo album “Journey Home”, his collaboration with Farid Ali on “No Strings Attached”, 2V1G’s debut album, “Love’s Tapestry” with Gina Panizales as well as 3 unreleased bonus tracks. This album has been specially remastered to audiophile standard by Keith Yip of Rock In Music, Hong Kong.

To celebrate this joyous occasion, Roger Wang is going to have a album-launching-cum-mini showcase, to be held in Loud+Clear record shop on 25th Feb 2011 (Friday), from 8:00pm to 9:00pm.

Admission is free! Please book a seat with Caffee Wong at 012-3698160!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Final Bend, The Solianos' Pusaka

Finally, the recordings have been completed. We now get a foretaste of theeir work in the player embedded. The final version after they have been mixed in the US will sound even better - its now being mixed by Doug Sax and the pressings will be commercially available sometime in March.

Its a wonderful collaboration effort, Malaysian Filipinos having been in this country for a few generations making an album with a Malaysian Chinese producer whose family have also been here for a few generations, singing Malay classics. The inimitable Mahadzir Lokman, a family friend of The Solianos, lends a powerful touch to narrate the intros to a few songs.

The Solianos Project - Why!!!???

This will be in a series of articles on The Solianos Project. Why them? Although I begged Leslie to have a listen to The Solianos, although it seems like I "discovered" them as a recording potential, the truth is not so exceptional on my side. How do you discover a group that has been around for twenty thirty years?

Listening to the live, doing these 3 songs convinced me that there is something "big" ... Tudung Periuk, Tanah Pusaka and Gadis Idaman Ku. The Solianos have been plying their trade at various venues and even corporate events, and while most of their repertoire were in English jazz standards, I was convinced they had to do a Malay album which will totally encapsulate their brilliance, musicality, musicianship and melodious harmonies. It had to be a Malay album because it reflects their heritage perfectly (Alfonso Soliano and Tony Soliano).

The final song list is equally distributed with numbers composed by Alfonso Soliano and emblematic Malay songs through the years (with the Solianos treatment, they were given a fresh breath of vibrancy again - you didn't know that some Malay songs could actually sound so good).

In many ways, The Solianos represent the music culture for the past 60 years and the Pusaka album is more "1Malaysia" than anything I can imagine. If you are between 35-75 you will really feel that you lived through these songs, in your own country, cause nowhere else on earth will you get an album like this or get to appreciate one like this.

Both Tony and Alfonso were greats in their own rights. Alfonso was behind many artistes in the 70s, in fact he was the music arranger / director for Sharifah Aini's Pasir Roboh, Damak Ku Sayang, Serampang Laut, Dodoi Si Dodoi, etc... and thats just one artiste. I like Kartina Dahari a lot, and she also sang one of Alfonso's composition, Tunas Kasih. Tunku Abdul Rahman sought help from Radio Malaysia – Alfonso Soliano, Lanthall, Croft, Bert Read, Dol Ramli and Datuk Ahmad Merican to create the national anthem, Negaraku from a love song, Terang Bulan. Alfonso was always top of the list even then.

Alfonso's better known compositions include: Gadis Idaman Ku and Airmata Berderai. Hence the album which they are doing has almost half of them songs that linked the Soliano name to this group of talented musicians.

This great article was written by errol de cruz for NST and was published on merdeka day august 31, 2007,

IF there's one family that stands above all others in Malaysian music-making, it must be the Soliano clan.

There's an often-used joke which says that if you don't want to become a millionaire, all you need do is become a jazz musician. It's probably what used to happen in the early 1900s what with so many talented jazz and blues musicians succumbing to "occupational hazards".

In today's musical climate, however, jazz musicians have come a long way and several have made a big name for themselves, the Malaysian list includes Michael Veerapen, Lewis Pragasam, Andy Peterson, David Ah Wah, Julian Chan, Vincent Ong, Josie Thomas, David Gomes and many others.

Jazz itself has come a long way, finding its way into pop, rock and ethnic fusion; it's not surprising to find pop artistes who have matured, so to speak, turning back to their roots and hitting jazz joints with sets that include songs by Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Last week, for example, at popular jazz joint No Black Tie, patrons were pleasantly surprised to find evergreen artiste Khatijah Ibrahim at the mike, belting out her own originals and also jazz standards like Don't Rain On My Parade, Luck Be My Lady Tonight and Fever.

Accompanying her was an ensemble starring a renowned music family - the Solianos, arguably the only family in Malaysian showbiz who can claim a heritage of jazz that dates back well into the nation's history, well past the inaugural Merdeka celebrations, thanks to their forefathers, the legendary Alfonso and Tony Soliano.

The Soliano name hails back to the days of the British occupation, when Rufino Soliano and Dominado Tirona were brought in from the Philippines to play in the Constabulary Band.

Later, Alfonso and his nephew Tony came into the picture. Alfonso was the serious one, leading and writing for the orchestras of the time, while Tony was happy being the live wire, leading local musicians in one jazz ensemble or another on both sides of the Causeway, and in the heady Bangkok scene, too.

"Those were the days," many say, "when we had talented artistes like Ahmad Wan Yet, Zain Azman and Julie Sudiro entertaining us."

Alfonso and Tony died, months apart, in 1990, and it has been up to their children and families to keep things going.

Today's Soliano clan remembers the days of yore well, especially Valentino "Tinoy" Soliano who was the only one who performed with his father Alfonso. "I was the lucky one and yes, those were the days," he said.

"If you went to any of our homes after he passed away, there'd be a portrait of him above the piano and as we practised, we'd get that echo that said: "No bluffing, ah."

"Dad's talent was his wealth," Tinoy said. "He'd always bring himself down to the playing level of other musicians and make them sound good."

The Soliano Brothers picked up the flag from Alfonso and performed all over the country for more than 15 years, until individual talent and creativity nudged them into forming their own groups.

Now, instead of just one family ensemble plying the trade, there are at least six outfits pushing the Soliano envelope, from Langkawi to Singapore.

* Tinoy's sister, Isabella, leads one band at the Datai in Langkawi, with Conrado playing trumpet.

* Brother Rizal and niece Rachel have two bands, now performing at No Black Tie.

* Sister Irene sings with the Soliano Brothers whenever she can.

* Cousin Daniel Guerzo leads his Nine Lives in Langkawi.

* Tony Soliano Jr has a band in Johor Baru.

* Cousin Louis Tan Soliano plays drums at Jazz At Southbridge in Singapore.

* Older brother Remy had an accident recently and is currently bed-ridden.

* Tinoy and Tristano are session musicians. "We're the family mercenaries," Tano laughed.

The entire family gets together at Christmas and last year, they more or less took over Langkawi island for two whole weeks. And when they do get together, it's Salvador Guerzo who leads them.

Ado, pianist Rachel's dad, is the elder that the Solianos look up to nowadays. Like Alfonso in his time, Ado writes and arranges for the RTM Orchestra and also plays as often as he can with any of the Soliano outfits. Another "mercenary", yes, but this saxophonist is rather devoted to his daughter's band.

"Times have changed," Rachel chipped in. "I used to follow him; now it's the other way around."

It's a tough job, leading the entire clan when they get together, but Ado wears the mantle well, and his big hope is that he will one day be instrumental in making some Soliano dreams come true.

Rachel has plans to organise the Alfonso Soliano Jazz Festival and is hoping to acquire enough sponsorship over the next two years, and Ado wants to establish what they would all like to see - the Soliano School of Music.

"These are our dreams," Ado said, "and I know we can do it if we put our heads and talent together."

In this case, however, Rachel has the level-headed voice. "What we really need is someone with the business acumen to run it."

Considering the reputation the Soliano clan has earned over half a century and more, the realisation of such dreams would only be fitting.

Or as Rizal put it: "Dad didn't leave us any wealth because making music was more important than making money. But he did leave us with a big name, and it's up to us to do something with it."

Pusaka by The Solianos

Readers of this blog will be aware of my strong support for Leslie from pop pop music label. His stable of artists have churned out excellent audiophile recordings by JZ8, 2V1G, Roger Wang and Gina Panizales. I have been a fan of The Solianos through the years, but mainly listening to their interpretations of jazz standards and the occasional Malay songs.

Don't get me wrong, I love Gadis Idaman Ku, which was composed brilliantly by Alfonso Soliano. During a night session at No Black Tie, I heard them play Tudung Periuk, followed by Gadis Idaman Ku, and a few songs later Tanah Pusaka. It clicked in me that this is a great concept of an album. For my life, I never could fathom why The Solianos never got an album out.

I dragged Leslie to their next gig and he was sold. Pure talented slogging Malaysian musicians with such a storied family, which has contributed immensely to the very fabric and development of modern Malaysian music culture and legacy. I said this album must be an all Malay songs album. There is certainly room for a great jazzy Malay album that reflects their talent and heritage.

Hence their song list below has a few songs composed by Alfonso Soliano, and the rest given the special Solianos treatment. The harmonies and virtuosity of The Solianos shine through the grand guidance of Ador as well.

The Best In Us, Teohlogy and Junior Masterchef

Finally laid my hands on Patrick's book. Somehow things seem more official in a book than just an article in the papers, or a blog for that matters. Maybe one day some articles in my blog can be in a book as well, lol, and if that happens, I will call it "How To Lose Your Money Wisely".

Patrick and I go a long way back, though he would probably have zero recollection. I was the Vice President of my Interact Club then (which was a big deal for me as I was in Form 5 only and usually only Lower/Upper Sixers get the Vice President and President positions) and the Interact Club was "the" club to be in if you are from Ipoh. We had the best fund raisers and charity projects. One of our yearly highlights was Beatnite which was a big event (ala American Idol) where only students from Ipoh were encouraged to compete. It was a big charity event as well. We have sellouts for heats and the finals was at Town Hall in Ipoh which would sellout close to 2,000 seats. Every year we managed to raise between RM10,000 to RM20,000 which was a really big sum back then.

That year I was organising and we managed to get "for free" Alleycats (gawd, they were so big even then when they did immaculate versions of all Bee Gees disco hits), the then popular Jennifer Yen and Patrick Teoh as guest judge. I remembered that that was before the time when stand up comedy was the norm, but I insisted that he speak for 5-10 minutes, being supremely confident that he will be well received with his #1 radio show, and being an Ipoh boy and old Michaelian to boot. Hence to me, Patrick really had his first stand up stint back then.

I met him and his family members at the door, I remember chatting with him for a long while as sometimes the performances can be a bit dreary and he dragged me out for a smoke (not me, just him smoking as I was still in my uniform then). He came on and did 15 minutes, poking fun on everything, the school and life in Ipoh, his childhood and everything. I think it was a blast for him and his family, it sure was for the rest of us. He had to watch a bit what he was saying as Brother Ultan Paul was also in the audience, but it was a real gem of a time.

So that's my connection to Patrick. I like him a lot because he is who he is, says what he wants and is fair. His liberal use of swear words is absolutely fine and appropriate as I also believe appropriate swearing or the use of harsh language is for clarity and emphasis - as is in my blog.

I like that he still gets angry. Anger is not a sin, being grey is. You have to be angry at injustices, stupidity, ignorance, shallowness .... if you are like a monk who is calm and collected and consider all these things as trivialities of life, good for you. While the New Testament has been focused on love and redemption, anger is the underlying theme as well. Anger at sin, anger at unnecessary violence, anger at those who disregard the sanctity of human rights and the lack of generosity of the human spirit.

The book's title is brilliant and apt. You all should go and get it.

Below is the review by Malaysian Insider:

(Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from ZI Publications with no obligations to review it)

Hey, Patrick Teoh has a book out. That’s all you need to know.

Well, alright, some details. Teohlogy: The word according to Patrick Teoh is a compilation of his articles from The Edge and Off The Edge (OTE) magazines from 2005 to 2010 when the OTE sadly folded. So if you have been a regular reader and have in fact collected the issues than this book has nothing new for you (but if you have been a regular reader than OTE would still be in print today, wouldn’t it?)

His colums were acerbic then and still are now. Patrick comes off as grouchy but can anyone blame him? He writes about Malaysia and Malaysians and reserves his special sauce of vitriol for Malaysian politicians (and why not?), but others like mat rempit, public transport and even a marketing manager of a local film distributor receives sneers from him.

A bit of warning though. Witty he may be, but reading all 5-years worth of columns in one sitting (and it’s possible, they’re all quite short) and the giggles you get may be occasionally accompanied by abrupt silence when you realise that you are giggling at what’s wrong with this country. Because that’s what articles collected in Teohlogy are all about. They are musings of a grumpy old man who loves his nation but is sometimes frustrated with his fellow rakyat and especially with his largely incompetent elected leaders. We are essentially laughing at ourselves, which is always good, but then we realise that after a decade into the new millennium and half a decade of Patrick’s observations we still haven’t changed much. And that’s bad. Dang you, Patrick Teoh for making me sad while laughing. I’m so confused now.


The second part of my posting is on the brilliant TV reality show Junior Masterchef Australia. The Masterchef series was such a big hit in OZ land, it was much better produced than the ones you see on Astro from the US, UK and Canada for sure. It had spunk (please search OZ dictionary for the meaning).

Now Astro had just started to show the Junior Masterchef series, its incredible. 8-12 year olds going through the heats, elimination rounds and then the finale. It was gripping television. When I saw the title of the program, I though "oh no, they are going to exploit the kids, they are going to edit their words to make for gripping drama and tensed relations between the contestants, there are going to be the Simon Cowells to spice up things" ... but no, the entire thing was done so respectful to the kids. The kids were amazing, we are not talking about making pancakes or simple pasta dishes, they were cooking up dishes that can easily make the top restaurants in any country - simply unbelievable at their age.

What was more wonderful was how the judges and guest chefs treated the kids with respect, how they handle the elimiations without any hint of callousness, never to belittle or demean a kid ... it was such a wonderful sight to see supportive parents not mattering how well or badly they did, ... not the overbearing ones and certainly not those who worked (and living vicariously through) their kids to death to win the kiddie pageants types.

While I am amazed with their talents, I am more amazed with how well the producers crafted the show, the spirit in which it was made. You can catch the entire series on You Tube (before they take them down) if you don't want to slog through Astro's scheduling and ads.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's The Fuss About Mubarak?

Not all of us are widely read about international affairs. We see something erupting, a crisis, a massive chaos of people protesting, but why?

AFP: US President Barack Obama said Friday the people of Egypt had spoken after history moved at a "blinding pace," and called on the now-ruling military to ensure a transition towards "genuine democracy". Obama gave a statement soon after it emerged from a euphoric Cairo that President Hosni Mubarak, a 30-year US ally who America subtly helped push towards the exit, had resigned after days of raging street protests.

"The people of Egypt have spoken - their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same," Obama said.

"Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day," Obama said, praising the military for safeguarding the state, but also calling on them to secure a credible political transition.

The US administration had struggled for days to find ways of impacting the 18-day crisis, as Mubarak had defied pressure to end his long authoritarian rule. Obama had ratcheted up calls for a peaceful, swift transition to democracy, and on Friday he pledged that the United States would stand with the people of Egypt - one of America's staunchest allies and a recipient of some two billion dollars in annual aid.

"By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian peoples' hunger for change," Obama said in his brief statement.

On taking power Friday, the military moved quickly to reassure the citizens whose street revolt toppled Mubarak that it would respect the popular will.

And the White House called on the new authorities in Egypt to honour existing peace agreements with Israel.

"It is important the next government of Egypt recognise the accords that have been signed with the government of Israel," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Mubarak's hurried departure Friday - after saying late Thursday he would stay until September's elections - will have brought relief in Washington, facing a dearth of options to force an end to the crisis. But Mubarak's exit also posed searching questions about future US Middle East policy, with a possible power vacuum in Egypt.

Still, Obama hailed the toppling of the Arab strongman, brought down by two-weeks of mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as a defining moment in world history.

"The word Tahrir means liberation. It's a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom," Obama said.

"Forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world."

The president also drew parallels to other tumultuous world events, highlighting the end of the Berlin Wall, Indonesians rising up against president Suharto, and Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi.

"We can't help, but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down a path of justice," Obama said.

He called on the armed forces to now ensure a political transition that is "credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people," Obama said, warning that there could be "difficult days ahead."

"Over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace, as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights," he said.

Besides praising Egyptians, Obama also sought to make a wider point, apparently seeking to connect with Muslims elsewhere who felt marginalised and may be easy prey for extremists.

"Egyptians have inspired us and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence," Obama said.

"For Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but non-violence, moral force, that bent the arc of history towards justice one more."

US lawmakers on Friday were also weighing tighter controls on exports that can help repressive regimes cling to power.

The US Congress, which cheered anti-government protests in Iran last year, also applauded the turmoil that toppled Mubarak, amid worries that US aid and know-how hurt both movements.

"We continue to watch and have concerns about the misuse of any equipment that the United States provides or sells to another nation," said a spokesman for the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Josh Holly.

© 2011 AFP


Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak moved assets into untraceable accounts abroad during the 18 days of protests before his resignation, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing unidentified intelligence sources.

Mubarak may have accumulated more than 3 billion pounds ($4.8 billion / RM6.2 billion) over his 30-year reign, according to the newspaper. Financial advisers to the Mubarak family tried to move some of these assets beyond the reach of investigators to Gulf states, the newspaper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle E. Frazer in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at


Jason Koutsoukis in Cairo.

SMH: Spurred by a kitchen cabinet that included his wife, Suzanne, his son, Gamal, and his Vice President, Omar Suleiman, the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's last hours in office were marked by a desperate attempt to cling to power.

In a detailed account published by al-Ahram, Egypt's largest-selling newspaper, military leaders threatened to publish their own statement announcing that Mubarak had been sacked.

The newspaper said a statement announcing Mubarak's resignation was pre-recorded by the army's chief-of-staff, Sami Enan, and delivered to the offices of the state television broadcaster Nile TV.

In the end the statement was not broadcast after Suleiman agreed at the last minute to read his own statement that Mubarak had resigned in the interests of the country.

In the days since the resignation, senior government and party officials have confirmed that Mubarak originally made a commitment to resign on Thursday, only to change his mind at the last minute.

Al-Ahram and Associated Press reported that Mubarak's top aides and family concealed the full extent of what was happening on the streets, instead telling the 82-year-old that he could ride out the turmoil which had brought the country to a virtual standstill.

The insider account portrayed Mubarak as ''unable, or unwilling, to grasp that nothing less than his immediate departure would save the country from the chaos generated by the protests'', that he lacked strong advisers who could tell him what was really happening.

''He did not look beyond what Gamal was telling him, so he was isolated politically,'' one official was quoted as saying. ''Every incremental move [by Mubarak] was too little, too late.''

Mubarak, said another official, ''tried to manage the crisis within the existing structures and norms'' but the incremental reforms he offered would never suffice to placate the protesters.

As the unrest mounted on Thursday, with more people on the streets and labour unions calling for a general strike, the military grew impatient and Mubarak's cabinet also divided.

Quoting senior Egyptian officials, editors and journalists from other state newspapers close to the regime, retired army generals in contact with top active duty officers and senior members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, the report said it was military leaders who had persuaded Mubarak to appoint Suleiman, the intelligence chief, as Vice President to try to quell the protests.

But when chaos continued for 18 days, insiders believed Mubarak had reached the end.

That was Thursday. Hossam Badrawi, secretary general of the then ruling National Democratic Party, met Mubarak that afternoon and told reporters he expected the president to ''meet people's demands''.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a statement recognising the ''legitimate'' rights of the protesters, even calling the statement ''Communique No. 1'' in language that reflected their belief that they had already taken power.

The Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, gave an interview to the BBC's Arabic channel in which he also strongly hinted that Mubarak would be stepping down. But as Mubarak prepared what many believed would be his resignation speech, he changed his mind.

One insider quoted by al-Ahram said Gamal, 47, who had been touted as the president's successor, rewrote his father's speech several times before it went to air shortly before 11pm.

The then information minister, Anas al-Fiqqi, who, a few hours before the speech went to air, made a public statement saying that Mubarak would not resign, was also present when the recording was made.

On Friday, as Mubarak flew to more secure surrounds in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the military allowed protesters to gather outside his Cairo residence, as well as clog the streets surrounding the state television and radio offices, the areas around parliament and the offices of the Prime Minister.

That proved to be the final straw. The military acted. Shortly after 6pm on Friday, with millions on the streets in Cairo and a string of other cities, Suleiman performed the last official act of his 10-day period in office.

His statement announcing the end of Mubarak's 30-year rule of Egypt lasted 49 seconds.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

UBS Sees A Trickle Not A Torrent

A trickle, not a torrent

Year-to-date equity flows modestly negative; no ‘capital flight’
. Data from various sources suggests that inflows to Asia have slowed, but we are by no means seeing ‘capital flight’ from the region. Outflows over the past 4 weeks look to be small and nothing out of the ordinary versus history in Asia ex Japan.

Denise Keller

Outflow from Asia/EM funding the DM outperformance?

A more important question is whether the outflow could accelerate if developed

markets (DM) continue to outperform. Looking at the data since 1990, it is rare
that Asia would see outflow whilst DM see inflows except during financial crises
and global bear markets. We are not expecting a reversal of last year’s flows.

India flow not as extreme as it appears; Indonesia back to Sep 2010
. Adjusted for market performance, inflow into Indian equities in 2010 was the highest amongst Asian markets at ~10% of market cap, which would imply the greatest vulnerability to a reversal. That said, the inflow was in line with history and reversals tend to be modest and short-lived in India ex-the financial crisis. Foreigner stockholdings in Indonesia are now almost back to the pre-Q4 2010: from a flow perspective the market appears to have adjusted the most.

Strong inflow into Korea/Taiwan unlikely to continue

Whilst flows into India and Indonesia have been weak over the past 3 months, they have been strong in Korea and picked up significantly in Taiwan, which have been reflected in the relative performance. Flows to neither market (KR/TW) look
extreme; however, it would be unusual for them to continue in the current pace.

The recent underperformance of Asia ex Japan equities versus developed markets, on the back of strong G7 economic data and ongoing inflation concerns in Asia, are leading to many questions (and fears) about a sustained reversal of fund flows into this region, and in turn, further underperformance from Asian equities.

Denise Keller

While flows are starting to reverse on some measures, we are not seeing
calamitous selling. More importantly, we also find historically that when the US
outperforms Asia in a rising market, there is little evidence of investors selling
Asian funds to ‘get overweight’ developed markets. More often, flows to Asia just slow down. In other words, fears that the recent outperformance of the US versus Asia will lead to a substantial reversal of flows in our view seem overplayed.

At the country level, India’s flows, at 10% of market cap during 2010, were the
highest. If there is a foreign capital flight, this market looks most vulnerable. The good news is that, historically, equity portfolio outflows have tended to be moderate and shortlived affairs in India, with the exception of the global financial crisis. In other words, strong inflows do not usually reverse. Taiwan’s flows, very strong in the last quarter of the year, look unlikely in our opinion to repeat themselves. We see no positive or negative in Korea’s flow data, which has been steady and unspectacular for most of the last year, i.e. not vulnerable in our opinion. Finally, the froth in inflows in September/October last year into Indonesia has entirely reversed. From a flow perspective the Indonesian data
looks most interesting.

Regional flows – modest outflows

In recent weeks, flows have turned negative from Asia ex Japan. We look at this
in two ways. In Chart 1 we show data from Emerging Portfolio Fund Research (EPFR) – an aggregator of mainly retail flows. This shows data into Asia ex Japan funds (and ETFs) over the last few years, and we deflate it by market cap.

Because the individual week to week data can be quite jumpy, we take a four
week moving average of the data. As the chart shows, in recent weeks, the flows
have started to turn negative. But very modestly so. Clearly there has been a
moderation in the momentum but by no means is capital ‘fleeing’ Asian equities.

We see the same pattern from the individual stock market data of net purchases
of Asia equities by foreigners. This data is only available for India, Indonesia,
the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The general trend is similar. As
we show in Chart 2, foreigner net purchases tapered off towards the end of 2010,
but we are not seeing significant outflows from the region.

The first point is that flows are very modestly negative, but there is not, as yet,

panic selling or calamitous outflows. One of the questions we have encountered
in recent weeks surrounds the fear that we are on the brink of major outflows –
that investors could turn major sellers of Asian equities to fund inflows to
developed markets, given their recent outperformance, better G7 economic data
and inflations fears here in Asia.

Looking back at US mutual fund data back to 1990, we see no evidence that this

actually happens when Asia underperforms the US, with the notable exceptions
of bear markets. In other words, if Asia keeps underperforming US equities, in a
rising market environment (or at least one that is not a global bear market), it is not unreasonable to see US flows being positive, but Asian flows also positive.

In Chart 3, we show the 3 episodes since 1990 when EM flows are negative

whilst DM flows are positive – two of them are during global bear markets
whilst the other one relates to the Asian financial crisis. For sure, there is an asset allocation shift at the margin away from Asia to developed markets that has mirrored the recent outperformance of developed markets. But flows don’t tend to fully reverse and turn negative unless we are in a major bear market. More likely, what seems to be driving the US and other developed markets up, is
an asset allocation shift away from fixed income to developed equities – as the
data suggests.

Denise Keller

Strategy summary

While flows are starting to reverse on some measures, we are not seeing
calamitous selling. More importantly, we also find historically that when the US
outperforms Asia in a rising market, there is little evidence of investors selling
Asian funds to ‘get overweight’ developed markets. More often, flows to Asia
just slow down. In other words fears that the recent outperformance of the US
versus Asia will lead to a substantial reversal of flows seem over played.

At the country level, India’s flows, at 10% of market cap in 2010, were the highest. If there is foreign capital flight, this market looks the most vulnerable.
The good news is that historically, equity portfolio outflows have tended to be
moderate and short-lived affairs in India, with the exception of the global
financial crisis. In other words, strong inflows do not usually reverse. Taiwan’s
flows, very strong in the last quarter of the year, look unlikely in our opinion to repeat themselves. We see no positive or negative in Korea’s flow data, which
has been steady and unspectacular for most of the last year, i.e. not vulnerable in our opinion. Finally, the froth in inflows in September/October last year into
Indonesia has entirely reversed. From a flow perspective the Indonesian data
looks most interesting (on the positive side).

Denise Lorraine Keller

Friday, February 11, 2011

Credit Suisse Sees Buy Signal Soon

● MXASJ down almost 7% from high, time to buy? With MXASJ (MSCI Asia ex. Japan) down 7% from its high of 580 to 540 currently, a key question is whether it is time to buy. Our Asian 6 factor valuation indicator has moved from 1% overvalued in December 2010 to around 6% undervalued. So, we are not yet at our “Buy” signal. The next factor we look at is whether there has been foreign investor capitulation. Significantly, yesterday alone was associated with US$1.68 bn of net foreign selling, and so far in February we have seen net foreign selling of US$2.88 bn in Emerging Asia ex. China, ex. Malaysia.

● Average net foreign selling in prior non-recession corrections was US$6.5bn. Figure 1 highlights that net foreign selling in the current episode of US$2.88 bn is still below the average net foreign selling of US$6.5 bn during the last seven non-recession corrections.

● But foreign investor capitulation is most evident in Thailand. While Thailand was associated with net foreign buying of US$1.9 bn in 2010, so far more than half of this inflow has been reversed with net foreign selling of US$1.16bn year-to-date. In contrast, net foreign selling in India at US$1.34 bn appears small in the context of net foreign buying of US$29.4 bn in 2010. Figure 2 also highlights that on a rolling 12-month basis, Korea has received 28% of all flows versus its MSCI weighting of 36%, and Taiwan has received 23% of all flows versus its MSCI weighting of 30%. India continues to be the most crowded trade with 43% of all flows versus an MSCI weighting of just 17%.

Finally A Decent CD Shop

I don't know about you, but I hate shopping for CDs in most places in town. We only get those highly commercialised releases, where's the "real music" section? Now, selling CDs is a dying business unless you can carve a niche for genuine music lovers, who will pay for the real thing and not just download a copy and then make ten copies for friends.

If you assess the artistes that Loud n Clear are bringing in, you would appreciate their effort and music knowledge and wide range in tastes.

The shop is open now, so go and browse, talk to the owners, tell them some artistes you like, they will be able to introduce similar ones that you have not heard of. For genuine music lovers only. See you there ...

There will be an official opening with Zyan and Winnie Ho doing a mini showcase performance as well on 22 Feb. Need to book ahead of time for that.

(click to enlarge images)

Reasons & Rhymes

So what caused yesterday's slump in most markets? I love it when everyone is asking the same question, and nobody seems to have answer. Its like debating how we know if there is a God for sure. The usual market weakness reasons would not be sufficient to explain the shareper than usual daily losses.

Bloomberg has this to say: "Asian stocks fell, dragging a benchmark regional index lower for a third day this week, on concern U.S. unemployment and efforts by emerging countries to tame inflation will hamper a global economic recovery."

Hmmm, ok Bloomberg, you need to do better than that.The FBM KLCI fell 2.09% or 32.08 points to 1,503.99, the steepest fall since it lost 2.11% on Nov 6, 2008. YTD, the FBM KLCI lost 0.98%. Losers thumped gainers by 750 to 160, while 223 counters traded unchanged. Volume was 2.23 billion shares valued at RM3.13 billion.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.97% to 22,708.62, Taiwan’s Taiex lost 1.89% to 8,836.56, South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.81% to 2,008.50 and Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 1.5% to 3,103.39. However, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.59% to 2,818.16 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.20% to 4,914.40

Then we go searching for reasons to attach to the picture, some said its the Javanese burning of 3 churches. Hmmm, read closer, no one died, it was an orchestrated thing by a small minority extremist group. Not sufficient reason.

Then there are those who cited China's recent rate raises. Old story man, even Chiuna was the sore thumb yesterday gaining substantially. Fears of other Asian central bankers doing likewise, well, its a maybe but WE ARE COMING from such a low base rate, surely any rate hikes are not sufficient to turn people off - sounds logical but underwhelming.

Then there are the experts who say foreign funds are moving out in droves. Pleeassee la people, institutions do not act as one. Its not like they collude at a monthly meeting and say lets get the hell out on these 3 days. We tend to blame foreign funds when markets are down, in reality, there are always buyers and sellers both local and foreign. There are good and bad fund managers, good and bad investors, local or foreign - its too simplistic to attribute the day's weakness or strength to just one group of people. Its bigger than all of us.

We try to make it "small" by being able to explain things away, but we are belittling the market's predictability and in many ways, the market has a mind of its own which is difficult to fathom if you look at it on a day to day basis.

The OZ markets closed higher albeit slightly, hence the markets really started to turn late. China was not affected and that tells a tale. Its program selling, especially weakness seen in indexed stocks as they were sufficient liquidity, index related.

Why trigger the program selling, well if you receive some bad news during Asian time zone but the bad news is for US companies, which you think is sufficiently bad to turn sentiment southwards, the easiest is to sell futures of any markets stock indices. That in turn triggers sell programs further in selling down stocks as the disparity in futures would cause these programs to buy futures and sell stocks to cover.

So, what's the bad news? Cisco’s shares declined 10%-12% in premarket trading after the network-equipment maker late Wednesday warned of declining public spending and posted weaker quarterly margins. Cisco is a big enough barometer to pull down other big techies for sure. So, it was a bet, which I think is pretty shallow. It may not just be Cisco but an aggregation of factors, but once program sells hit the markets, they tend to exaggerate the downside as "no one seems to know the real reasons, so they sell first ask questions later".

Believe you me, I think the US markets will be able to hold onto its sensibilities and we should see a steadier market tomorrow.

One can easily concoct a bad scenario for the same event or paint a good one, its just shifting the reasoning to suit where the markets are headed. For example, US jobs figure is still bad which is bad if you are looking from a recovery angle, but good as it will maintain low rates there much longer, thus making stocks more attractive.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When Hu Visits The US

definition of irony ...

the fund manager ...

the funniest one of all, a brilliant retake of Abbott & Costello's Who's On First ....

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Making The Perfect Cuppa

Nothing like making a perfect cuppa in the morning. I think I will call it the tiramicinno ; )

Recipe: 1/4 cup Farm House milk, one teaspoon brown sugar, froth till twice the size, pull two espresso shots with a time lag of ten seconds in between ... walla ...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Jess Lee Kar Wei

What a CNY for this Seremban lass. Many might now know that she won the unbelievably popular and harsh singing competition in Taiwan, One Million Star. She is just 22, but many would not know her history and tenacious climb to be a recording artiste.

She entered Malaysian Idol's first season in 2004, fumbled badly at auditions, but was still invited back to perform at the finals with a reverberating Kaulah Segala Nya. That was 7 years ago. She did improve when she entered Astro Star Quest in 2008.

The never say die, but keep learning attitude kept her going, and she made it after 7 years .... and she is still just 22. Now she has a recording contract with Warner Music Group.

Oh, btw, she also went and got her chemistry degree from UKM in between all that.

Whatever you do, I know there are a lot of videos below, you must listen to her rendition of Coming Home, the very last video.

her powerful yet controlled rendition of Shunza's classic:

the first song during the finals, near perfect, imagine Shunza/Tanya singing A-Mei:

a spine tingling duet What's Up:

tackling Beyonce's Listen with aplomb:

if you need convincing, have a listen of her rendition of Coming Home, its about 5 minutes into the video:

Have A Healthy, Prosperous and Joyful Year!

Drive safe, people ...

Things To Do During Lockdown

All local councils, utility companies, construction firms (those with permission) and city planners in Malaysia should take the opportunity...