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getting to know malaysians


 


Flinstone's
Fredo

With pleasantries out of the way, FREDO properly introduces himself. Born Villenguez Alfredo Valentino, he is a Filipino by descent and a Singaporean by nationality. He hails from a musically inclined family; his mother was a 'bangsawan' and his father, a saxophonist. He has seven siblings and the other three boys were also into the music scene in their younger days.

"Music was an integrated thing, a way of life. I grew up calling people like P. Ramlee and Saloma 'uncle' and 'aunty'."

Fredo recalls how he used to dance around his relatives on special occasions such as Christmas with a song that goes like this:

If I stick out my right hand, ten cents

If I stick out my left hand, five cents

If I stick out both hands, twenty cents

That's one kid who knew how to capitalise on his talents.

His first public performance was at eight when he entered a talentine contest as a soloist.

"I was the youngest and most daring so they gave me a consolation prize even though I was off key," he says with a chuckle.

Then he began to learn how to play musical instruments, starting with the ukulele and progressing to the guitar, drums, saxophone and keyboards. At 15, he made his debut as a professional musician with the TOMBS, then the Trackers, the Jets, and the Asians.

The Asians were later renamed the Flybaits and they were one of the most popular bands in the region in the seventies. They worked the club circuit and cut four albums. Fans will surely remember the haunting 'Kenangan Lalu', their greatest hit. One of their albums was in English but unfortunately it didn't fare too well.

After fifteen years with the group FREDO decided to call it quits.

"We recorded commercial stuff but the band was basically into jazz rock. The other members wanted to play music that please them and not the audience so I left in 1984 to form the Flinstones. Not long after that the Flybaits disbanded."

FREDO didn't name his band as such simply because it was apt.

"The Flintstones are a family thing. It's about this stoneage guy who is rough and tough but he is into family values. I wanted to create the family atmosphere in the band, where everyone sings along happily and there is peace among the members."

With the longest surviving member in his sixth year and some in their third or fourth year, he has probably done it right. As far as Fredo is concerned, it doesn't matter if they are with him for a brief stint but he wants everyone to work in harmony.

"I don't sack anybody for no reason and I'm not the kind to throw away the bad when something good comes along. I nurture the bad and make them good but I don't want the good to become bad too."

That's why he demands a lot from his band. He uses a slingshot as an analogy.

"I'm the front man with the Flinstones behind me. They've got to play with feeling and when they push really hard I hit the audience with an impact that leaves them stunned."

For the first three years that he formed the band Fredo cut four solo albums with Polygram. With the Flinstones, he has performed all over Asia but his best hunting ground remains the local circuit where they are much sought after for two to six month gigs.

"We work ten months a year and the money here is good. As long as you build up a demand there is no shortage of work."

Fredo cites two reasons as to why the Flinstones have yet to cut an album.

"Today's generation is more demanding, moneywise. They don't think of the future but today. I'll never force anyone to stay. What I believe in is that you come in nicely and leave in the same way. That's why I don't want to bind my members to a contract and if you cut an album you've got to have the original people around when it is released. Otherwise it'll be like the Three Degrees ending up with Three and a Half Degrees and the Four Tops becoming Four and a Quarter Tops."Fredo's apprehension of cutting an album 
also stems from being disillusioned with
the recording companies

Fredo has never had problems replacing his band members. He sees it as a challenge and he believes that as the leader of the band he should not depend too much on individual members to the extent that the departure of anyone would mean the demise of the band.

He is not particular about what nationality his members are as long as they are committed to giving off their best. Currently, his band comprises six members both locals and Filipinos.

Fredo's apprehension of cutting an album also stems from being disillusioned with the recording companies.

"They seldom deliver their promises and when they do it's all glamour and very little money. I don't need the glamour anymore. As for cutting an English album for the international market, that's even more of a waste of time. There are a lot of good bands here but they're not getting what they deserve. If our top bands were American they will be driving Rolls Royces today."

 


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