A brief chronicle of the local indie music scene
While I wholeheartedly support Singaporean English-language pop music, I have to admit that I haven’t been a fan of any musician since Electrico in the early 2000s (nope, not even the music of Sam Willows or Jasmine Sokko, and, ironically, I’m listening to Thai musician, Phum Viphurit, as I write this). And, being in the US for 4 years meant that I stopped following the Singapore pop music scene temporarily. As a side note: Singapore mando pop is a bit different; we have some mega stars like JJ Lin and, of recent years, Nathan Hartono and Joanna Dong. The latter two made a name for themselves through Sing! China.
Before I left for the States in 2007, I really dug the local indie creative scene – the movies, the books and music from Lush 99.5 and programming on Mediacorp’s Arts Central . For music, I was proud of the indie pop rock scene with bands such as The Observatory, Humpback Oak, Concave Scream and many others. English indie pop rock music had a decent cult following, inspired by American and British alternative rock counterparts like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Oasis.
Some of the works are featured in this CD, Dazed and Confused. I found this album some months back at my parents’ place and, truly, it was a blast from the past for me:
Released by Springroll Creative Entertainment, the album is a compilation of some of the best local English pop music from the 90s. Music by Lizards’ Convention, Ger Ho, actress Michelle Goh and, of course, our rockers. One of my favourite tracks in this compilation is ‘Driven’ by Concave Scream:
Back to what inspired my post: Hear65’s weekly Sing Along SG. Hear65 is a National Arts Council funded project by local music portal, Bandwagon. Its a drive to promote Singaporean music. Admittedly, many Singaporeans I know really aren’t into local our local music scene; we love our American EDM and R&B/hip hop, Korean ‘Hallyu’ content is a also huge part of the Singaporean diet, especially among millenials and younger generations. Many of the big concert sellers at major venues are Kpop concerts. Folks who diss Kpop are probably lying. The Korean pop music industry have many talented performers and producers for decades. As a connected urban megacity, Singaporeans have long embraced a very diverse, international music diet from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, China, and many more places.
In recent years, I have been listening to a lot of Japanese city pop music, a genre of US-inspired retro music. One big name that pops up is Tatsuro Yamashita. I also am really into this young Japanese musician Vaundy. During my college days 10 years ago, I got into Kpop thanks to my Korean roommates who fervently shared about their favourite Korean musicians. I wish Singaporeans would do this and share about our local musicians like Charlie Lim and Olivia Ong.
As the common saying goes, local musicians have to break into overseas markets first, before getting recognised here. I guess I can only conclude that Singaporeans have a very high bar for top entertainment content. Why would anyone want to listen or watch content that is substandard? But, then again, maybe that’s not the case, and our local music talent just need a bit of a nudge to become world-class.
Occasionally, while watching ‘Terrace House’ or ‘I Live Alone’, I would wonder what our local creative talent at home are doing. This is because these foreign programmes actively feature and promote their own homegrown Japanese and Korean musicians.
Thankfully, our government is acting on pushing out our talent through agencies such as IMDA, NAC and NYC.
Anyway, Hear65’s final online live concern airs tonight at 7:30pm. I tuned in briefly over the past two weeks, I must say that our musicians are on par in standard when compared to foreign counterparts. Sezairi and M1LDL1FE impressed. I had not heard of the latter till 2 weeks back, and I was surprised that they performed at National Day Parade in 2018. They’re really good:
For my Singaporean friends, please check out the live show at the following channels:
A note from a friend at Bandwagon who contacted me, on why they started this show (Clue: it has to with Covid-19):
“Concerts & events which is our lifeblood, has ceased suddenly. My team and I were looking at what’s going on in society, amongst healthcare professionals, migrant workers, and wishing we could do more. We may not be able to help with the vaccine, nor provide housing for those affected, but doing what we know best, music, using that to spread joy and inspiration.
In a space of 2 weeks, we gathered and worked remotely with over 90 Self Employed Persons (SEPs) in the Arts, to make this program happen while the whole city is still on stay-home-notice. Each of these artists represent a very special pocket of what makes Singapore’s diverse and culturally rich music scene. We’re very grateful to have the support of Singapore’s Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth (MCCY) and National Arts Council (NAC), as well as internet platforms YouTube and Twitter supporting this project.
We’d love for as many people to see this, so please tune in and help spread the word. There’s also a donate option where 100% will go to the artists. The program runs from 730pm till 1030pm, each Saturday from today till 13 June 2020!”
Catch the FINALE at 7:30pm tonight: