PETALING JAYA: A fair number of Malaysians have settled down overseas. And while there are substantial Malaysian communities in Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom, they can still be quite hard to find.
Sherman Tan, 51, can certainly attest to that, given that, in his own words, he is the “ninth out of the 10 Malaysians in Lithuania”.
If his name rings a bell, it’s probably due to the fact that he recently made headlines here for an outstanding achievement.
On Sept 10, he clinched the coveted golden buzzer in reality TV show “Lithuania’s Got Talent” with his personal take on the Goo Goo Dolls’ classic “Iris”.
FMT Lifestyle recently spoke with Tan, who resides in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and runs a live music venue there called Lucille Blues Bar.
Tan revealed that he lives in Lithuania because he was once married to a Lithuanian citizen. “I have been here for about four and a half years now, but I’ve been going back and forth to Malaysia throughout this time.”
After his relationship ended, he decided to stay on as the country offered him a welcomed change of scenery.
“It was quite a different culture altogether and I quite liked it,” he said, adding that he greatly appreciates the peace and quiet there. Given that Lithuania has a relatively miniscule population of under three million inhabitants, the pace of life is much slower. “They’re so much more chill here.”
From Tan’s observations, Lithuanians tend to be a little more reserved, with younger folks being more cosmopolitan than their parents who grew up under strict Soviet rule.
Communicating with the former group is easy, thanks to their English literacy. “The older ones, though, don’t speak English. They speak either Russian or Lithuanian, mostly Lithuanian.”
Tan said he also loves the country’s natural beauty and climate, aside from the occasional chill during winter. “I’ll just go back to Malaysia then,” he said with a laugh.
“In the summertime, everyone goes to their country homes where they pluck mushrooms, strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I wouldn’t say they’re all farmers, but that’s just what they do.”
There are so few Malaysians in the region, he added, that if he requires the services of the nearest embassy, he heads to Warsaw, Poland – some 490km away from Vilnius.
That’s a rare occasion though and most of the time, he can be found running his bar, which he opened last year.
“The building which my bar occupies is part of a Unesco protected site,” he said, adding that his bar is one of the few live-music venues in the city.
This bar is also where he can be found crooning his heart out on the regular. Tan has been singing since his 20s, apparently.
“I was a hotelier then and I studied at the Stamford College near Masjid India,” he shared. “I went to Pelangi Beach Resort in Langkawi for training.”
In his free time, he performed with his guitar for his colleagues, which was how he landed a job at the hotel bar as a performer.
This basically signalled the beginning of his music career. He soon began performing overseas and participated in talent competitions.
Tan loves blues, folk as well as country and western. “I’m a man of many genres. I’m an old-school guy.”
As to how he ended up on “Lithuania’s Got Talent”, someone working on the show reached out to him.
“I had actually joined a competition before in 2019, when I had just arrived in Lithuania,” he revealed, adding that he got into the top 10 before being voted out.
Hence, he was not particularly nervous when he got onstage to sing. “I just got up and did my thing. Fortunately, it worked out and I got the golden buzzer for it!
“Of course, it was a surprise. For me, I was just closing my eyes and just saying, ‘Just do what you do in the bar every night.’”
So, in the event he wins the competition, what would he do with the prize money? “I would really love to travel around Europe and perform gigs.”
And what does he miss most about Malaysia? “Oh, my God. Nasi lemak, roti canai, roti jala, wantan mee, nasi kandar. I’m planning to open a Malaysian-cuisine place here one day!”