Jacintha Abisheganaden

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Jacintha Abisheganaden
Birth name Jacintha Abisheganaden
Also known as Jacintha, Ja
Born (1957-10-03) 3 October 1957 (age 57)
Origin Singapore
Genres Jazz, bossa nova
Occupation(s) Singer
songwriter
actress
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1976–present
Associated acts Dick Lee, Alex Abisheganaden

Jacintha Abisheganaden (born 3 October 1957), also known as Jacintha or Ja, is a Singaporean singer and actress. Jacintha studied at the National University of Singapore with a degree in Arts, majoring in English Literature. She is a founding member of performance company TheatreWorks.

Early life[edit]

Abisheganaden was born in 1957 to musician parents: Sri Lankan classical guitarist Alex Abisheganaden, a recipient of the Cultural Medallion, and a Chinese mother who sang and played the piano. She studied piano and voice from her early teens and also sang in the Singapore Youth Choir, where she met her future collaborator Dick Lee. Growing up, Abisheganaden listened to a wide variety of music – not only vocal jazz and traditional pop, but also artists who ranged from Stevie Wonder to Joni Mitchell to South African star Miriam Makeba. Abisheganaden was a big fan of Brazilian bandleader Sergio Mendes during her upbringing, and she has been quoted as saying that she was "obsessed" with Barbra Streisand.[1]

Abisheganaden was educated at Marymount Convent School, Raffles Institution and the National University of Singapore, where she graduated with an honours degree in English. She then went to America where she studied creative writing at Harvard University.

Career[edit]

Abisheganaden first came to prominence in 1976 when she won a local television talent contest, Talentime, singing jazz. She continued this winning streak in 1981, when she nabbed the Best Female Performer award for her role as Nurse Angamuthu in General Hospital at the Drama Festival.[2]

Beginning in 1982, she worked as an arts reporter for The Straits Times, interviewing figures like Neil Sedaka, Cliff Richards and Sophia Loren. In 1982, she acted as Pala in Samseng and the Chettiar's Daughter, a Singapore Arts Festival production directed by John Tasker.[3] She also acted in the Experimental Theatre Club's Terry Rex for the 1982 Singapore Drama Festival.[4] In 1983, Abisheganaden released her debut album Silence on WEA, on which Dick Lee wrote nine out of the ten songs.[5] The new wave album, containing a cover of the Bee Gees' "Run to Me", was reviewed positively, with The Straits Times calling it "probably the most impressive debut album...from a local singer."[6] In the same year, Abisheganaden acted in the Experimental Theatre Club's production of Susan's Party, directed by Lim Siauw Chong, for the Drama Festival.[7] In 1984, Abisheganaden starred in Dick Lee's play Bumboat—the title song, featuring the cast, was released as a record, with "Unsaid", a duet between Lee and Abisheganaden on the flipside.[8] In 1985, Abisheganaden returned from the States temporarily (where she moved with her husband) to act in TheatreWorks' Love and Belacan, three playlets co-starring Lim Kay Tong.[9] In 1986, Abisheganaden returned from the States permanently to record her second album, and played a series of live jazz shows at The Saxophone.[10] In the same year, she sang and acted in Singapore Broadcasting Corporation's hour-long programme Destination Mauritius.[11] In 1987, Abisheganaden was voted Best Performer at the fourth ASEAN Song Festival and released her second album Tropicana. She also acted as Zemphira in The Gypsies—The Tragedy of Zemphira, directed by William Teo.[12] In 1988, she performed in TheatreWorks' musical Beauty World and acted as singer Josephine in Pam Gems' Piaf. In the same year, she was Singapore's representative at the Pax Musica cultural entertainment show in Singapore.[13] In 1989, Abisheganaden and Dick Lee represented Singapore at the Asia Song Festival in Japan. She performed "Come Back to Me Tonight", which Lee composed for the event.[14] In the same year, she acted in TheatreWorks' Mixed Signals, a three-act comedy written by Michael Chiang, and Jackson on a Jaunt by Eleanor Wong, staged as part of the double bill Safe Sex.[15][16] She also performed with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta.[17]

In 1990, Abisheganaden acted as Sheila Rani in TheatreWorks' revival of Lim Chor Pee's play, Mimi Fan.[18] In 1991, Abisheganaden acted in Eric Khoo's short film August as an adulterous wife and released her third album Dramamama on Japan's Wave Records. In the same year, she starred in TheatreWorks' Fried Rice Paradise and Theatre Games. In 1992, Abisheganaden starred in Dick Lee's first Asian operetta, Nagaland, which performed to full houses in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. In 1993, Abisheganaden sang the lead role of Grizabella in Cats when the hit musical opened in Singapore. In the same year, she hosted the cooking show, Mum's Not Cooking. In 1997, Abisheganaden starred in Dick Lee's musical Hotpants, which was restaged in 2014. In the mid-nineties, actor Lim Kay Tong introduced Abisheganaden to Ying Tan, who signed her to his Groove Note label. Her first jazz album was released in 1998: Here's To Ben – A Vocal Tribute To Ben Webster. Abisheganaden's second album for the Groove Note label, Autumn Leaves: The Songs of Johnny Mercer (1999) has seen the title track being used for TV series Alias, while the bonus track "Here's to Life" was used as the title track for the Hollywood movie Play It to the Bone.

In 2004, Abisheganaden performed her own cabaret jazz show, The Angina Monologues at the Old Parliament House, Singapore.[19] In 2006, Abisheganaden served as a judge on the second season of Singapore Idol. In 2012, Abisheganaden returned to the stage after 13 years, playing herself in Ong Keng Sen's National Broadway Company, a musical commissioned for the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay's 10th anniversary.[20]

Personal life[edit]

In 1983, Abisheganaden married American lawyer David Scheffer. They separated after three years.

In June 1992, Abisheganaden married her close collaborator, the singer-songwriter Dick Lee. The couple divorced in 1997.[21]

In May 1998, Abisheganaden married former The Straits Times journalist Koh Boon Pin in Bali. The couple, who have a son Alexander together, divorced in 2008.[22]

Discography[edit]

Studio Albums
  • 1983: Silence
  • 1987: Tropicana
  • 1991: Dramamama
  • 1997: My Life
  • 1998: Here's To Ben – A Vocal Tribute To Ben Webster
  • 1999: Autumn Leaves – The Songs of Johnny Mercer
  • 2002: Lush Life
  • 2003: Jacintha Is Her Name
  • 2004: Girl From Bossa Nova
  • 2005: Love Flows Like A River (Chinese)
  • 2007: Jacintha Goes To Hollywood
Compilations
  • 2008: Best of Jacintha

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Jacintha Biography". AllMusic. AllMusic. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Le Blond, Max (10 January 1982). "1981 – A Fairly Good Year for Local Theatre". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Abisheganaden, Jacintha (3 September 1982). "A musical of our very own". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Jacintha, Abisheganaden (12 April 1984). "Remember, discover, believe". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Lim, Sek (20 September 1983). "Jacintha's 'Silence' is surely golden". Singapore Monitor. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  6. ^ KC (14 August 1983). "High hopes and 'heavy' music". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  7. ^ Tharoor, Minu (23 September 1983). "Tensions break". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Kuo, Pao Kun (8 June 1984). "A dream, a spark". Singapore Monitor. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Ngui, Caroline (3 September 1985). "Hot stuff at the dinner table". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Morais, Walton (20 January 1986). "Lady sings the blues at the Saxophone". Singapore Press Holdings. The Business Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Ang, Lay Wah (25 May 1986). "Long, dazed journey into Mauritius". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  12. ^ Ngui, Caroline (7 March 1987). "Great visuals but no drama". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  13. ^ Chong, Vivien (12 October 1988). "Jacintha for S'pore at Pax Musica". Singapore Press Holdings. The New Paper. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  14. ^ "Jacintha in song festival". Singapore Press Holdings. The New Paper. 24 July 1989. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  15. ^ Wong, Sing Yeong (25 April 1989). "Ja's the one for playwright Michael". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  16. ^ Ting, Mei See (25 November 1989). "Safe Sex: appetiser and main course". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  17. ^ Ee, Samuel (21 August 1989). "The NY Phil – live at the Padang". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  18. ^ Tan, Corrie (26 June 2014). "Looking back on English-language theatre classics: Mimi Fan". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  19. ^ Chew, David (13 August 2004). "Jacintha's crooning back". MediaCorp. TODAY. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Chia, Adeline (19 October 2012). "National Broadway Company a fitting tribute to those in Singapore's theatre scene". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  21. ^ Oorjitham, Santha (31 January 1997). "Final Curtain for Dick and Ja". Asiaweek. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "Singer Jacintha divorces". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. 2 December 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 

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