By Sheela Sarvananda
Sitting down with Cara Van Miriah and Ivan Lim for an interview is like sitting down with two of your closest friends over a cuppa.
You feel an immediate shared warmth with the couple, and are drawn into their intimate world, as they regale you with story after story of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the nightlife in Singapore.
Partners in both marriage and work, that they are a team is clearly evident. Listening to them talk about their books is like watching a deft performance in motion. One picks up where the other leaves off, both chime in with hilarious anecdotes on-cue and without missing a beat — and you're left hoping the show won't end any time soon.
If a chat with the couple is such a hoot, one can only imagine what the books themselves hold in store for readers.
Make no mistake, theirs is no amateur attempt at telling a tale. Both are experienced journalists, who have covered the entertainment scene in Singapore for decades. It's no wonder then that they have written a series of books — a sort of "insiders' look", if you will — on all things entertainment here. Titled 'Nightlife [Confidential]', the books are an immediate page-turner.
With the Velvet Underground launch of volume two in the series of four just behind them, the couple spoke about the creative process involved in developing the books. Lim says the series is more than just about humour. It's also about getting acquainted with the ins and outs of the scene here.
"You would get insights into the nightlife in Singapore. In fact, the whole purpose of doing this is — through a funny way — to get people to come out, you know what I mean? It's a primer to the noobs. If you're scared to go out, and don't know where to go, after you read the book, you'll feel confident!" he says, laughing.
The second book celebrates some of the best musical talent the country has. It covers about 60 talents across the spectrum — from live acts to DJs — all chosen by the authors, and culled from interviews with local personalities, insiders and even a street poll of about 200 clubbers.
Acts — both emerging and established — are featured. These include pop-synth band Quick Quick Danger, music promoter Midnight Shift and Japanese-born Singaporean turntablist ToMU. In the book, the artists — standouts in the arts scene here — lend insight into their aspirations and inspirations, culminating in a great read.
Van Miriah says this process of selecting the right talents to delve into and feature was no easy task, but it was a labour of love. She reveals how in the course of their research, they were privy to some of the bigger egos involved in the industry, and for them, it's the stronger talent that made the cut for book two.
"We wrote from the point of being journalists. And along the way, you meet all these egos. They will really drive you nuts, you know? There are different characters whom we've met — as customers, you'll see it as well, and even as journalists you see it. You see how they irritate people," she sayd.
"We made it a point to feature the good ones, for people to know where they are performing. We include the QR code to their websites as well and we also have a listing at the back, so people will know where to go," she adds.
With the burgeoning local nightlife and some of the best hotspots in the world, perhaps the timing couldn't be better for the series. But this is no sombre, perfunctory look at what the arts has to offer, no. Learning the ropes of local nightlife aside, the series will also appeal to those looking to cast a shrewder eye on the underbelly of the entertainment scene here.
The books relate ribald, insightful stories on the goings-on of a previously hidden underbelly of Singapore nightlife -- the world, according to carp, if you will. Tongue fully in cheek, of course.
Take, for example, the story of a Mariah Carey-esque wannabe here who hits the high notes (and quite a few low ones, it would seem) on an average night in her club stint. When brought to the Van Miriah's attention, the writer says with a deadpan look, "A singer such as this one could have a great career with dogs or dolphins, or any animal whose hearing extends beyond the human register. She could have long, exciting concerts to entertain them without annoying any humans."
Meow. But readers will be willing participants to the couples' storytelling prowess and process. Humour is interwoven with a discerning take on musical talent in the country, and the end result is an interesting tome you will want to read from cover to cover.
You get the inside-scoop, and the gloves are off — but they hit you with a soft touch, rather than the ol' one-two punch. Lim says, as journalists, they are well-aware discretion is the better part of valour — and gives rise to a better read, to boot.
"I would say I think we hold back a bit still. Because of our nature, we tend to be quite measured, really. We sort of hint without saying so much. And when you read the books, you'll laugh when you can guess who we are writing about," he shares.
With the release of the second paperback in the series of four, expect a detailed look at the music industry and arts scene here. If you're in the market for a little navel-gazing, guffaws galore and a great time, 'Nightlife [Confidential]' is a must-read for the authors' insider-take on entertainment. Shhh, you read it here first.
Nightlife [Confidential] is available in major bookstores like Kinokuniya and MPH.