Culture, Opinion

The Case Of The Local Music Scene Vs. You, The Consumer

The Audience
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


Inch Chua Can Rule The World

credit: inch chua

Stop on by the Esplanade Recital Studio this Friday evening for a real treat by one of our own homegrown talents, Inch, and be treated to some of the loveliest ditties you’ll hear this side of the equator.

Inch has paid her dues, fronting the popular alterna-pop band, Allura, and also launching her solo career by releasing her debut full length album, Wallflower, online earlier in July. But this Friday, this Friday is special, it’s the actual album launch at one of the best acoustically treated venues in Singapore, the Esplanade Recital Studio.

If you don’t already know her style, I’ll just say it’s a quirky mix of lithe folksy acoustica and jazz-birds. But you should school yourself by downloading her album that she’s kindly put up for free. Seriously, you have no excuse not to get your hands on this. Download from her bandcamp –> HERE <--

Dan at Waking Up To also makes special mention of my favourite song of the new album, Wallflower.

Album Launch Details
Date: Friday, 30 Jul 2010
Time: 930PM
Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets: $25 from Sistic


The Fire Fight Say So Long, For Now.

So Long For Now, 13 June 2010
credit: photoperplexed

Singaporean rockers, The Fire Fight, are taking a hiatus from the Singaporean music scene as various band members pursue other aspects of their personal life. Frontman Joshua Tan will be furthering his studies overseas and drummer Iain Tham will also be focused on pilot training in the future as well.

Just last Sunday, at the new Scape Warehouse, The Fire Fight played their last swansong before parting ways and new adventures. But let one thing be clear, this is only slong, for now, as they have promised to be back together and continue making music in the future.

This gig set out to be different from the usual intense blazes of live performances that the band are known for, and instead opted for the glowing embers of a Storytellers-isque stage setup that had each band member facing each other, perhaps symbolic of the brotherhood that they shared, that this was for them as much as it was for the fans.

However, the stage was not without problems. For some reason, the sound mix was terribly muddy and unbalanced, not allowing the vocals to be heard properly. This made appreciating the intimate vision that The Fire Fight tried to achieve, a rather arduous process for a gig goer. As such, it was probably pure sentiment that saved this show from being a complete washout.

As that may be, sentiment is probably one of the strongest arsenals in the Fire Fight’s musical talents. They’re fighters, and rather uncompromising in terms of what they want to achieve, and to do it on their own terms. By the time their first musical guest, Angel, appeared on stage to sing People & Spaces with them, that’s when the magic happened. Perhaps that’s when the band as a whole fully embraced the vision they were trying to achieve. When they didn’t need to to try to impress their vision on the audience any longer, but they were now sharing the stage with one of their friends and long time partners, transforming their vision into reality by just surrendering to the greater powers and appreciating that this was exactly what they wanted for themselves.

So Long For Now, 13 June 2010

And so the night continued with a few more musical guests ranging from their manager, Esmond Wee who shared a duet with Joshua on a Jimmy Eat World number, and Saiyful from The Great Spy Experiment. But the highlight of the night probably went to Sonnet, performed by Joshua and Matthew of Hardcore band, A Vacant Affair, sharing a particularly touching and insightful story about the song, just made it mean that much more. And when you put two of the most emotive and prolific of Singapore’s lyricists together, well.. it was special.

The last collaboration of the night went to Kevin Mathews, who was a judge at the band’s Baybeats 2007 audition, and shared the song they auditioned with, Train Song. In true Kevin Mathews fashion, the acoustica rearrangement really worked for this particular interpretation of the generally upbeat song, and it was heartening to see two generations of Singaporean rockers sharing that stage.

And ultimately, that’s the gift that was shared that night by The Fire Fight. Regardless of who you were before, or what you will become, the band celebrated it all. It was a touching swansong and reunion, one that only a band like The Fire Fight could pull off because of the many friends they’ve made over their five year career. ir gig started with a fear of what the unknown held for everyone, but the night ended with everyone knowing, come what may, it would be together as a family.

The Fire Fight are performing one FINAL show, opening for American indie-rockers, Mae, who are performing at S*cape’s new building’s opening launch, this Sunday, 20 June, 2010. details at S*cape.

For more details about The Fire Fight, do check out their Myspace

Photos were kindly supplied by Thomas, who is a stunning photographer and usually seen at gigs taking photos. His flickr page is photoperplexed.