The late 1980s was a gilded age for Singaporean musicians: Jazz performer Jeremy Monteiro made his international foray at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in 1988, while Dick Lee remade Singapore pop with The Mad Chinaman in 1989. It was also during that decade when homegrown Mandarin folk song movement known as xinyao flourished.
Home-grown musicians have not looked back since. Today, Singaporean artistes such as JJ Lin and Tanya Chua have become bona fide Mandopop superstars, and singer-songwriters the likes of Willie Tay and Lenny Wee, who ventured to the West, have made good on their unique brand of Singapore music.
88.3Jia FM DJ Ivy Tan concurs that Singaporean musicians have made significant strides on the world stage: “The younger artistes nowadays are bringing something different to the table – they are more daring and expressive in their music.”
Success isn’t easy, though, says Colin Goh, managing director of home-grown label Ocean Butterflies Music.
“With the current music industry landscape, it is extremely challenging for musicians to make music as a full-time career. Working with a good agency or music label will definitely help,” says the music industry veteran.
Aspiring Singaporean musicians also need to rethink the kind of success they desire, Goh adds. “It’s thumbs up for Tanya Chua and JJ Lin for making Singapore proud,” he says.
“However, passion for music does not always come with material rewards. For indie acts, their reward will probably be the public’s acceptance of their music. The question is: Should these indie bands turn to pop or mainstream music, and are they willing to do so?”
Aspiring young musicians must understand that they need to have grit, says Goh. “At the end of the day, a musician’s enthusiasm, hard work and perseverance are still the keys [to success].” Tan concurs. “Once you have those, you’ll be ready when Lady Luck comes knocking on your door.”
Train At A Music School
Sign up for music lessons at Ocean Butterflies Music, which launched JJ Lin’s career. You can learn to be a singer by taking up vocal lessons or join the OB Music Career Programme, which trains you to be a singer songwriter. You’ll learn composing, lyrics writing and music arrangement. Vocal lessons: $1,500/12 lessons (individual) Music Career Programme: $6,500 (6 months)