The band's flamboyant lead singer, Alban De Souza, attracted a horde of gay fans and made the venue Singapore's first iconic gay bar in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s.
New Sunday Times articleEdit
New Sunday Times, December 28, 1980
The way-out world of Tania
THEY looked slightly chuffed after their exhausting first set. In a peculiar sort of way, Tania’s stage performance is mind-blowing. It drains the energy once you get carried away in their show.
In Singapore. Tania is another pub group with a difference performing at the Pebbles Bar, best known for its colourful patronage of assorted types. Outside of the Republic however, Tania is just short of a phenomenon. Amazing only because the group disregards the hype about them being gays with a cheeky shrug. That they are a versatile musical act cannot be disputed. Tania exudes a special kind of magnetic power that keeps on generating good vibrations.
Flanked by a massive line-up of sound equipment. the four-piece band is clearly the centre of attraction especially when lead singer Alban, the most notorious of the lot, jumps, shouts, screams, squeals and dances his way through the repertoire that covers the gamut of every music form. Jazz, pop. rock and soul know no boundaries. It forms a united chord when they perform with their unique blend of nifty instrumentations and vocal arrangements.
It was just another Friday night at the Pebbles Bar. The crowd was spilling over at the bar's end and right to the stage. Nobody in their right mind would have left amid the merriment. Nobody did anyway. Coming on stage. Alban picked the microphone, held it close to his chest, made a few overly friendly remarks, gesticulated in a feminine stance and rattled off Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are with the nonchalance of a veteran. The song did not lose its melancholic feel even when the group attempted to give it a jazzier touch.
Sexy Alban made jokes about his mistakes, posed seductively, grimaced at the laughing antigenic and slid all over the floor in mock adulation. His crazy antics on stage almost confirmed a schizophrenic at work.
Tania was formed five years ago to give local entertainment a facelift. They did it literally with mascara and stardust pasted artistically on their faces. The original three-piece band comprising Alban (vocals, percussion), Zul (rhythm and lead guitar, vocals) and Talib bass guitar) was later augmented with Robbie (keyboards). Robbie left the group in July this year. He was replaced shortly after by ex-Bandidos keyboardist USMC.
Apart from being a group that thrives on sensationalism, good fun and outrageous humour, perhaps the group’s best assets lies in the immaculate choice of material. In short, they indulge in everything from Busby Begrudgingly to contemporary hits. Anything goes, and then again, it’s also their flair for re-arranging each number tastefully that gives them the edge.
“We’re basically a rock and roll band and we didn’t want to be another one of the hundred rock and roll groups in town. The music itself is a visual state of art. That’s something else altogether. We don't have reverence for a clean-cut stage image. The more blatant we arc on stage, the better the reviews and notices," said Zul, Tania’s spokesman.
The Pebbles Bar is a quaint joint. Smokey and most times boisterous. This exciting active pace is further enhanced with the beautiful people who make the scene. It may be a lawyer, a businessman, a doctor, an athlete or just an ordinary clerk. The difference is that they all let their hair down without inhibition.
Sometimes, Tania's snazzy routines and provocative innuendos even incite those drunk beyond redemption to try daring stunts on their own.
"It Is commonplace In this joint. One night, a young lady casually took off her clothes, strips, straps and all, and coolly went for a swim right in the middle of our act. When questioned later, they lady said we prompted her into doing what she did. Freaky huh?" laughed Talib, the quiet one in the group.
Alban is of course oblivious to what he does. He’s in his own world on stage. That perhaps is an understatement. He’s out of this world. During any instrumental break, he kisses the cymbal affectionately, swings the microphone chord with a juggler’s case and hits the skins of his percussion unit with the stick between his teeth.
The others too share this same dynamism, but to a lesser extent. They complement Alban’s zaniness with adroit musical and vocal support that lends credence to the fact that Tania is one of the best things to have happened to the Singapore music scene in a long while.
From the doldrums to riches. Tania is reputedly one of the best paid lounge groups in Singapore. It explains why the group has not been swayed by foreign offers.
"Our main aim is to save enough money and head West. There's surely enough money to be made here but can you imagine us as a 40-year old rock and roll outfit? There must be more to showbusiness than providing cheap thrills,” said Zul.
Earlier this year, however, Tania made its first move to getting out of the performing rut by cutting an album for EMI. Having performed only in Singapore (and a short gig in Jakarta), Tania is only known by reputation in the neighbouring countries.
"Most good musicians improvise and try to improve upon songs. We simply do it for mass appeal. We have a show to offer. We also have a natural instinct for knowing what our audience wants. This I feel, is the key to the success of any performing group," summarised Zul.
There’s so much truth to that really. In an informal atmosphere. Tania really electrifies with its daring concept.
Hardly a night passes on when something doesn’t happen That night, a queer bunch of guys, all dolled up, whizzed in wearing roller skates skates and pyjamas. It makes you wonder who really gives the Pebbles Bar its out-and-out reputation - the audience or Tania?
- Christie Leo, "The way-out world of Tania", New Sundays Times, 28 December 1980.
This article was written by Roy Tan.