The Fringe Club's City Festival kicked off on Thursday night with a reception in its roof garden. The festival is now in its ninth year, and artistic director Benny Chia Chun-heng and chairwoman Wailee Chow continue to thrive by offering a programme that is offbeat and entertaining.
Entertainment at the reception provided a perfect example of the offbeat nature of the festival. One of the festival acts, Lan Cao, played a bit of their Mongolian bluegrass mix of banjo, mandolin and Mongolian shepherding tunes. Imagine home on the range with yaks. It was not just fascinating; this eastern country music became downright mesmerising. Their female singer started doing some traditional male-oriented throat singing - the guttural sonic yelps that are a trademark of the region - and people's jaws dropped.
In an emotional speech, Chow was almost Hillary-esque as she recalled how she had to convince her patriarchal father to let her, then an architecture student, design the renovations for the family house. 'If you have the opportunity, you have to support local arts,' she said. Things returned to a lighter tone when Australians Libby O'Donovan and Matthew Carey performed a couple of ditties, Say A Little Prayer and Always Something There To Remind Me, from their cabaret show Flat On Your Bacharach. But it wasn't prayers that Fringe boss Chia used to make sure rain didn't ruin the launch - he checked with the Tung Sing (Chinese almanac).
Lan Cao's second of two shows is tonight at 7.30pm at the Fringe Theatre. Check 2521 7251 for ticketing status.