Beat it out

by | April 14, 2015

Seniors stay active by playing Chinese drums at Geylang West CC every Sundays.

BY: Eleanor Yap

The Chinese Drumming Interest Group at Geylang West CC.

Seventy-nine-year-old Ivan Hah used to do line dancing, pickerball and qigong. However, that all stopped when he got osteoarthritis, a chronic condition where sufferers complain of stiffness and pain. He wanted to exercise his hands and still stay active so he decided to try Chinese drumming at the People’s Association (PA).

“It uses my hands instead of my legs,” he said. Considered the oldest in the Chinese Drumming Interest Group at Geylang West CC which meets every Sundays for two hours, Ivan also belongs to another drumming group at Geylang East CC on Saturdays.

The oldest is Ivan Hah, while in the back is Heong Kum Chee.

He couldn’t be happier with his choice. The father of two and grandfather of one said, “It is better than idling at home.” The ex-civil servant has gained new friends and he happily admitted that his hands have now gotten stronger. Besides his commitment to drumming, he brisk-walks twice a week and he teaches people how to play mahjong at MacPherson CC every Fridays.

Similar to Ivan, Teo Boon Woon, 67, said she was very active, participating in Chinese traditional dance and performing at a community centre for five years. However, she got hit with leg pain so she decided to look for other options and chose to join the drumming group at Geylang West CC as well as the group at Geylang East CC. “It is indoors and I have an interest in it. I enjoy doing it and am happy, and I get to look young too!”

Besides drumming, she swims three times a week, sings karaoke at the Bedok CC once a week, and does a bit of qigong. “You can’t always stay at home,” advises the ex-hairstylist. She also volunteers once a month distributing meals to needy elderly.


Teo Boon Woon.

Benefits to drumming

Started in 1998, the Chinese Drumming Interest Group at Geylang West CC initially had six women. Two years ago, it started to actively attract more men. The youngest in the group of 20 members is 47 years old. They faithfully practice every week. If there are PA events, the group practices an additional hour, including for the visit in March by DPM Teo Chee Hean. Some of the members are also members of the Healthy Lifestyle Club at the CC.

The group’s teacher is 65-year-old Betty Hiew, who has been teaching them since 2003, replacing the previous teacher who retired. “I really love music. What I learn, I can pass on; I don’t want to keep it for myself!”

Betty Hiew leading the group.

She shared that over the years, two of its members have passed on but she continues to push on, as she strongly believes in the benefits of Chinese drumming. “It builds up the memory as you have to read the notes. When performing, there are no notes so the members have to remember. You also have to have the strength to play the drums,” said the mother of four and grandmother of five who used to run her own coffeeshop for 25 years. She shared that the members also meet up sometimes for dinner or get together for tours overseas.

Another drumming member, 74-year-old Heong Kum Chee, an ex-compositor for a printing company, agrees and encourages more to join. The mother of three and grandmother of five has been with the group since 1998 and couldn’t enjoy it more. “I continue playing so to keep my mind active and to stay healthy as I get to learn new variations of drumming.”



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