MPW Travel Scholarships - Singapore

Last summer vacation, I spent about a week in Singapore. I went to several classical music concerts, as well as free-style music performances. I was particularly impressed by the local pop music bands. So I talked to three different bands and asked them some questions about their musical lives.

The first band was called Breakbeat Theory. The lead singer is a young girl who is really dedicated to her singing. The band also has an unusual music style. The accompaniments are always quiet, and the lead singer uses a lot of very high-pitched falsetto, creating a gentle and beautiful sound. The drummer just hits the side drum every beat, underpinning the melody with clear rhythm. The third musician provides some engaging background colour to the group’s sound.

The second band that caught my eye was A Vacant Affair. The band is one of the first groups to bring heavier music to the mainstream audience and reach the local charts in Singapore. The band consists of Matthew Lim (vocals), Joshua Tan (vocals, guitar), Rudi Osman (guitar), Tan Wei Shen (bass) and Hafyz Tajuddin (drums). They have so far released an EP and one full-length album. Their performance was in the open air, and the seats were all taken almost an hour before it began. Apparently, local teenagers love this style of music. The members of A Vacant Affair met each other at gigs played by other bands. They talked to each other and found out that for all of them music was the most important thing in the world. As their lead singer Matt said, “It has been there every time, and I will even go as far as saying that music has saved me and made me the person that I am.” The band is influenced by metalcore/post-hardcore bands such as Funeral For a Friend, Glassjaw and Underoath, and they combine different styles together, e.g. hardcore, indie, rock. It is obvious that they live simple lives and just do what they want to.

The members of B-Quartet are blood-related: they are cousins. The whole family gather every week to have a family dinner, and the band started around late 1999. The lead singer, Faizel, said “Music becomes an integral part of your conscious or subconscious memory, invoking emotions, creating an impact on oneself.” And that is what keeps them passionate about what they write and how they write music. Another member, Haykal, said “I’m interested in the abstraction of music, it’s logic. I’m interested in understanding music for what it is and what it can be, as opposed to what it presently represents, or is represented to be, from a popular-culture perspective. How it is a medium for expression and interpretation at the same time and how it is intertwined with modern culture – especially true cultures, those that are invisible in Singapore. How compositions can narrate specific things and act as a means to abstract logic.”
I learned a lot about pop music, and about how bands work, by talking to these people. Singapore is also a very modern and special country, which mixes music styles and languages as well as culture. Music is certainly a bridge connecting everybody.