Image used with no permission from: Baybeats
Despite having only one hand to type, I will, because I believe this is important for the Singapore Music Scene. I’ve been thinking about the issue between Singfest 2010, The New Paper and the Singaporean music scene ever since I first laid eyes on that tweet in the morning. Something about local media disparaging local acts (aka “writing us off”) because our local representatives were only known as “another local band” in a local rag and another band, was bumped off due to time constraints to allow Kanye West to take the stage.
Of course this breaks my heart, because Inch Chua is a very talented singer and her management works uber hard with her, and Sixx who got bumped, are also equally talented, and I’m sure they worked just as hard to make sure they could deliver to the pundits who attended Singfest.
To put this in context, there is some murmuring in our community in the way corporations, event organisers, international artists + management, and most importantly, you / we the consumers, treat locally created art. This is probably best summarised in Luqman Hakim’s blog post. (Luqman plays for the band, B-Quartet.)
To put it bluntly, nobody gives a shit about local bands in Singapore. We are so marginalised that our community is pretty well integrated, and you are very likely to see the same people at gigs, the same people talking about music, and the same people playing in different incarnations of different bands. Yes, I know this, because I have been playing bass in Singaporean bands for the past 10 years, and I’m not saying anything about ability (I am merely average), but I’ve seen things, and I’ve come to understand certain things.
So with that, I present the case of the local music scene, vs. you, the consumer.
You Don’t Have To Give A Shit (But It Would Be Nice If You Did)
To make people give a shit about local music, and progressing from that, to part with their money to watch, listen or buy merchandise and music is a complex thing. I’m no expert in it, but I can recognise that entire industries were built from the ground up, massive investments were made to nurture talent and market them, technology is invested in.. bla bla bla. If you’re making music commercially, you are a commodity and a product. Full Stop. There is no argument there. If we want to do this full time, we have to give the masses what they want, because they are customers. Google recently killed Google Wave, because even though it was a swell piece of programming, it was too far ahead of its time, or it wasn’t what people wanted. But the experience gleamed from that, well, some will argue it was a worthy investment for the future.
But that’s my point, there’s no sense flogging a dead horse about the media not caring, or local audiences not caring. Selling a product to the masses is exactly what it is. Regular folk will not buy something they care nothing about. Media does not care about selling stories to what people don’t want to consume. The public came to watch The Wonder Girls, not any of us play. The media / unsavvy journalist may not have cared, or his/her editor may not have cared. And you know what? I don’t even read The New Paper, so I don’t care. It’s a vicious cycle, house of capitalistic cards.. or however we want to describe it. But y’know what? I didn’t create the rules to the game, it’s about the money for such events, art, or what art means.. was probably not part of the equation. It’s an INTANGIBLE benefit most of the time.
If you want them to care, give them something to care about. Give them something juicy to write about. Hijack the stage from Kanye if you have to, or maybe Ris Low has a singing talent and she should front your band. We’re not in a renaissance where people talk about art and buy it because we’re cultured, or believe that much in Singapore made things. We don’t even believe in the INAUGURAL YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES, where we will be on the mafucken international stage, and you want ‘lil Miss Lian who listens to the Wonder Girls on her commute to dead end job at XYZ company to give a shit? No.. in this case, of a paying gig with international celebrities, sadly no one gives a shit. And they’re entitled not to.
We’re Doomed Aren’t We?
You can criticise me for giving up my dream of making my own music and earning a living of it, allowing myself to be killed by what others think. But the news is that, for those of us still passionate, we’re still making music, we’re still fighting the good fight. We’re not fighting for ourselves, we’re fighting for the next generation. For every gig that you play, you lay one more brick on the foundation that will one day put Singapore on the map for a great cultural product. For every song that’s being written, it’ll inspire someone, and maybe that someone could do something great.
We don’t make music to be famous, or even to live our dreams. No, we don’t have that luxury. Maybe not in this life. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Is it worth the sacrifice?” Anonymity, juggling a job and a craft, being written off by your own countrymen, or worse, selling out and being that commercial success.
My friends, I say to you.. IT IS WORTH IT. We have been blessed with a spirit, that sees life differently, a talent that allows us to express ourselves, unique only to us as individual artists. You’ve tried to justify why you don’t do music anymore, or why no one else cares, or why it’s all about the money. But I say, screw it all.
The muse, she visited you, and you’re forever haunted by her ghost until you exorcise her in the form of song. You can’t help it, and we will keep making music not for us, but for you. It is our duty as stewards of an art that can move mountains, to play the songs as long as one pair of ears are listening, and one heart needs beating.
With that, I leave you with a quote, that still speaks to me this day, about why I cannot help but GIVE A SHIT.
All my love, to all my brothers and sisters playing music in Singapore, beyond genre, styles, success, failure, language or religion.. let’s just play each gig like it’s the last, best damn show in the world.
- brian. (Leeson + Shelves)
“of us all, he understood most about the world. about people. about society and what’s happening to it. things everyone knows in the gut. things everyone too scared to face, too polite to talk about. he understood. understood man’s capacity for horrors and never quit. saw the world’s black underbelly and never surrendered. once a man has seen, he can never turn his back on it. never pretend it doesn’t exist. no matter who orders him to look the other way. we do not do this thing because it is permitted. we do it because we have to. we do it because we are compelled.” – Rorschach, Watchmen issue vi