Book review - eileen chai's teach a life for life


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A review of Eileen Chai’s bestseller autobiography and her songs

Eileen Chai is an over achiever and I mean that in the best possible way. I have no qualms in paying her the ultimate tribute. She is a former national athlete who represented Singapore in gymnastics, springboard diving and athletics. She is a classically trained violinist and now violin teacher. She is a “live looper”. To add to the list of her accomplishments, she is an author and has chronicled her life’s journey in a book called “Teach a Life for Life”. In fact “over achiever” doesn’t seem to be adequate for such an all-conquering individual.

The first time I met Eileen Chai was in October of 2013. Eileen was sessioning and playing violin for Kevin Mathews who was making an appearance on soft TV – the singer songwriter series. By some sheer coincidence both Eileen and myself harbored foot injuries and we hobbled pretty much thru the evening’s filming.

The second time I met Eileen was in hospital where I was warded for a life threatening condition. I hadn’t really known her that well but I was touched none the less that she would take time out of her busy schedule to come pay me a visit. It was during these first two times meeting her that I realized just how kind and optimistic a person she was. My later meetings with her, when she was a soloist on soft TV and when she collaborated with me at the Esplanade, cemented my deep respect and admiration for her as a musician and a kindred spirit.

“Teach a Life for Life” takes the reader very much on a trip thru her life’s journey and thru her eyes, mind and heart. The positive theme of the book mirror’s Eileen effervescent personality. This is particularly so in the opening chapters where she retells her story with the innocence of youth. We are awe struck as she tells us of how the little girl who considers sporting competition as “games for fun”. It speaks of the loneliness and trepidation she faced as a budding athlete. The later chapters touches on her journey into the arts as a classical musician while overseas and alone before eventually becoming a “live looper” and a busker back in Singapore.

Eileen is pretty much candid in telling her life story. However the reader also is imbued with the notion that just as an iceberg on the ocean only shows a fragment of its true size, Eileen’s full life journey is just as gargantuan and this book is her iceberg surface above the water. She does reveal, with unhidden sadness, the bleaker moments of her life. The reader feels for her sorrow and pain and later in the book we marvel at her redemption. The book includes comprehensive collection of photographs of Eileen, showcasing her life from a precocious seven year old to her teenage years to the matured worldly wise woman she is today. People who have been fortunate enough to have met her and shared in her humor will instantly recognize the “precocious seven year old” in her girlish laugh.


Enjoy the ride.

Eileen’s message in this song is mainly to communicate the positive aspects of moving forward in life in seeking and working towards one’s goal. One must never forget that the journey that one embarks on and the success achieved at the end of the journey is a result of collective efforts. One simply does not get to the top without help from others. It’s a long trip but she tells us must also “enjoy the ride” in getting to your destination. The entire song is played on violin and Eileen loops a sonic landscape of layers of strings orchestration. The main melody is somber and serious, sounding not unlike most classical pieces. Eileen’s breathy vocal style adds to the mystery and the feel of the song.


Reborn is about self-reflection and harnessing the power of one’s inner strength to face one’s battles in life and not just lamenting about one’s fate. The live loop intro has an almost Chinese feel to it as it builds up. Once again Eileen builds up a sonic landscape. All created by her violins. Closing my eyes I thought I heard an Australian didgeridoo. The main melody kicks in seamlessly. By the time we get to the vocals, our senses are enveloped with a kaleidoscope of sounds and ambient “noises” that come together harmoniously. The lyrics were written by lyricist Y W Lee. Reborn is an optimist and beautiful song that complements and serves as a “Ying / Yang partner to “Enjoy the Ride”.

You can watch Eileen Chai’s appearance on soft TV at:

To learn more about the “Teach a Life for Life” program and book do visit her website at

Go ahead, check it out, it might just make your day – it made mine.
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