Walk the streets of Singapore and the music that greets you are most likely American singers and bands, such as Britney Spears, Greenday and the likes. It is rare that one hears the local sounds of bands like The Great Spy Experiment or Singapore Idols like Taufik Batisah or Hady Mirza blasting as you shop. The popularity of music from the West does not appear to be wavering, thus begging the question to be asked, is it ever possible for local music to grow on this island and for our local bands to one day dominate the airwaves?
Sadly enough, many aspiring musicians in Singapore do not think that that day will come anywhere in the near future. Musicians in Singapore do try to break out into the music scene, but only few ever succeed, and even then, never really make it as big as international acts. Sadly, it is not due to the lack of talents on the part of our local compatriots, but rather the lack of demand for local music by Singaporeans.
According to Saiful Idris, the vocalist/guitarist for local band, The Great Spy Experiment – one of the local bands that have managed to gain themselves a following and ‘break out’ into the music industry here – Singapore does not appear to be a very viable market for the music industry due to the fact that “as a nation, there’s a general lack of national pride in pretty much everything that’s made in Singapore” and according to him, “it’s so much easier to get approval from (audience) outside of the country than within”.
Saiful also added that the fact that musicians here are restrained by the money factor as “almost all Singaporean bands operate on self-funding, and that is very difficult to sustain, especially without a viable market”. This is unlike bands in America who are often picked up by labels and thus are able to focus solely on making their music without worrying about the financial burden.
Another aspiring musician that SGClub spoke to, Naufal Anis, who also is a trombonist, attributed the lack of success of musicians in Singapore to the lack of encouragement. “It’s hard to focus solely on music in Singapore because the emphasis is placed on a proper education and a good qualification. There is no encouragement from schools or the government to pursue music solely,” said Naufal.
However, despite the lack of platform for local musicians to thrive in Singapore, they are definitely not giving up hope. As Saiful puts it succinctly, “Singapore is just a dot on the planet – there are plenty of other places and audiences we can touch with our music. Hopefully, when enough of the rest of the world listens to us, Singaporeans will too”.
Writer: Syahirah Anwar