With their rich multi-cultural vibrancy, Singapore has a healthy, thriving indie music scene! Already hosting one of Australia’s major touring festivals, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, the city is an untapped hotbed for touring Australian artists and local emerging talents alike, making it a great touring destination to bridge the Australian music scene to Asia!
Hear65 is a Singaporean organisation which celebrates and promotes all forms of Singaporean music. An initiative by the National Arts Council and produced by independent music media company Bandwagon, Hear65 raises the profile of Singaporean musicians through partnerships with events, companies, and advocates throughout the year, as well as a microsite which serves as a one-stop digital destination for the discovery of Singaporean music.
Showcasing four artists with distinctly diverse sounds, Hear65 is doing all that and more with their upcoming showcase at BIGSOUND this year. Described as a movement to celebrate and promote all forms of Singaporean music, it’ll make for a really fresh and unique event at BIGSOUND 2018.
Tell us a little bit about the Hear65 Singapore Showcase at BIGSOUND this year and what we can expect from it.
Much of the rest of the world thinks of Asians making music as K-pop or J-pop, but I feel Aussies know it’s a lot more varied than that, and I feel the Hear65 Singapore Showcase reflects this diversity. Linying sets poetry to folk-pop, Charlie Lim is influenced by neo-soul and his new stuff has this modern take on UK garage/two-step with the help of Aussie producers Yeo & Simon Lam. Intriguant makes hip-hop inspired electronic beats and his live show incorporates live guitars, while The Steve McQueen’s make modern jazz-soul-funk that’s sick to watch live. The last time we were at BIGSOUND in 2016, punters were impressed that we had such a range of music and that we could perform it solidly. I feel this year will be the same!
How did this showcase come about? Could you explain the important role that the National Arts Council Singapore has in all of this?
For a first-world country, Singapore is still pretty young in terms of music history. From an artist’s point of view, because there’s so many more of us producing great work and able to use social media to build audiences, there’s been accelerated growth in the Singapore music scene. I feel the National Arts Council has helped develop and support this at a crucial stage while we’re trying to turn a scene into an industry.
How were the four artists selected?
There was an open call for submissions and we had assembled a team of eleven Aussie music industry experts to rate the artists on criteria including, but not limited to, their music & marketability in Australia. We asked men and women who were in different facets of the industry so there would be a range of ears and perspectives, but certainly experience and expertise. The top artists they shortlisted were then sent over to BIGSOUND’s programmers who ultimately chose who they wanted for the festival. We felt including the Aussie music industry perspective at an earlier stage could be more inclusive and helpful to the process.
What has been the most challenging part of producing this showcase?
I think the uncertainty of whether we’ll have done all we can, because I really do appreciate and want the best for our Singapore artists. Nothing is ever fully in your control though so we’ll just have to try our best and let the music speak for itself.
What is the indie music scene in Singapore like at the moment?
It’s amazing. There are people making music from hip-hop to prog-rock to future bass and everything in between. Singapore musicians are self-starters and hustlers so most of them organise their own releases & tours without labels, managers, agents and less media promotion. On the one hand, a less established, well-oiled ecosystem means it’s much more hard work, but on the other hand I feel it results in artists who are savvy on social media, have a much sharper vision of their art, and a stronger work ethic.
Have there been noticeable changes in regards to which genres have become popular in Singapore over recent years? Are outside influences noticeable?
Singaporeans are quite heavily influenced by both western and Asian cultures. At a mainstream level, we probably follow the US market the most. On an indie/underground level though, punters are quite intellectual about their consumption of music so their tastes are more widespread and it takes a lot to impress them. Like the rest of the world, the internet has made it easy for everyone to listen to more different types of music from anywhere, so whether you’re a Singaporean who enjoys pop or more underground culture I think everyone’s playlists are generally populated with more genre variety that’s customized to their own wide-ranging tastes and influences than ever before.
Could you explain the importance of bridging indie Singaporean artists into the Australian music scene? Is Australia always the next logical step or do Singaporean artists try to break through in a different market first?
First of all, we’re familiar with each other so it’s easier to build on that relationship musically too. We’re neighbours and so many Singaporeans have furthered higher education in Australia, holidayed or have family there. Likewise, many Australians are familiar with or have visited Singapore and don’t confuse us with being in China or Malaysia like some other people do! Secondly, on a mainstream level, Singapore has grown over the years as a concert destination and holds its own as such together with say, Japan, and Hong Kong. People like working with us because we’re efficient, easy to deal with administratively plus we do business in English. I feel we’re unique from our other Asian and Southeast Asian counterparts because of this. If Singapore and Australia spent more time getting to know each other’s indie scenes, artists, and promoters, I reckon there’s potentially a great indie touring & promoting network we could build together that could also extend to audiences who consume indie English music in other parts of Southeast Asia as well.
What are you looking forward to the most about BIGSOUND this year? Are there any Australian bands that you will definitely check out?
I’ve been to a few festivals around the world and what I like about BIGSOUND is that there are so many great acts who nail it live, which goes beyond marketing hype. I also enjoy the depth of conversation with Aussie industry people, because as hosts you are very warm and open, knowledgeable and culturally open-minded. Given that I like urban & electronic sounds, without the luxury of living there so I can’t be sure who’s hyped, and just going off of the bios & music on BIGSOUND’s website I’m curious to check out: Mookhi, San Mei, Dreller, No Mono, James Wright Trio, Pink Matter, Cxloe, T$oko, Didirri, Kaiit, Kirara (and the Korea showcase in general), Arno Faraji, Adrian Eagle, & Beatrice.
And last but not least, when and where will the Hear65 Singapore Showcase be taking place? Just so we can make sure everyone jots it down in their calendars immediately.
Wednesday, 5th September, 5-8pm at Ric’s Big Backyard. Come for the free drinks (for BIGSOUND delegates), stay for the great music! See you, future new friends!