Icons of our time

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 1997, 12:00am

Name: Rico And The Robots.

Or: The Filipino house band you find playing in the lobby bars of hotels and sometimes in nightclubs.

Key ingredients: A drum machine/synth programmer manned by a slightly dazed-looking individual and between one and three singers (uniform: mini skirt, sequinned top, high-heeled ankle boots). The singers take it in turn to butcher easy-listening favourites by singing in a way that even Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey might find a little over the top. The singers also make a point of doing that little dance when you bring one instep neatly into contact with the other before repeating the movement on the other side.

Favourite locale: Behind the potted plants and next to the giant karaoke machine.

Hours of employ: From about 6 pm till midnight. They play in short sets which give them plenty of time to flounce off through the crowd receiving admiring messages from drunken fans.

Standards: I Just Called To Say I Love You, Hello, I Am Sailing, I Will Always Love You, Yesterday.

Reality check: These people are talented musicians (from a land filled with them) who sing excellent original music at home but, alas, are forced to pay the bills by churning out the above song-list for the edification of frazzled tourists and misguided office workers.

Number one fan: These lobby outfits always have a regular fan, usually a grizzled old expat who fancies either one or all of the singers and makes a point of applauding loudly when they perform his favourite number, Streets Of London.

Closely related to (1): The chap in a dinner jacket who sits in the basements of shopping malls playing music which sounds suspiciously like that emanating from the speakers in the lifts.

(2): The stuff you hear when someone puts you on hold.

Not to be confused with: Expat bar bands. With a few notable exceptions, this lot also tend to plod their way through predictable covers, but with less finesse than their Asian counterparts.

Biggest drawback: It's one of Sod's Laws that, unless you are a complete musical Philistine, Rico And The Robots will never play by request something you actually like. You've got as much chance of getting them to do, say, a Tori Amos number, as you have of getting the keyboard player to perform anything that's not been pre-programmed.

Exceptions to the rule: One or two bars in Hong Kong feature Filipino bands who are genuinely exciting. Few of them play originals, but at least these bands play good covers of good songs and do them well.