Who Will You Discover? (By Jeanette Chin)
Music Matters Live is a showcase, a chance to present a live demo in the flesh to the right people, the people who could potentially help to push music careers to the next level. This is a chance for the public to see the music business in action. Although the various acts are required to present their music in a live festival-type setting, this is not a concert situation where everyone in the crowd already knows who they are and has paid for a ticket to see them performing live onstage. This crowd is different, this audience consists of more discerning listeners who have probably heard thousands of bands worldwide that may sound somewhat alike… so how do you grab their attention?
There are various ways to go about it. Some folks take the opportunity to show off their “greatest hits” to date, songs that best represent what they’re all about, in order to sell their brand of music to industry professionals who may be present in the crowd during Music Matters Live. Some folks assume that the listener has done his homework before coming to Clarke Quay, and decide to debut unreleased new material – either new songs, or a preview of their latest independent album. One thing is for sure, it’s hard to catch the attention of the professional trade listener who is spoilt for choice at Music Matters Live, with more than 40 artists/bands to listen to from 15 countries over 3 nights at 8 different venues in Clarke Quay – definitely not an easy situation for a local artist to be in.
For these 3 nights, Clarke Quay isn’t just the usual nightlife entertainment district that our local artists are used to, it gets transformed into an international music marketplace, where our local talents have to compete with some of the best independent artists that the world has to offer just to be heard, hopefully by someone who matters. To have a successful run at Music Matters, you really have to do all you can to ensure that you stand out in this international crowd, you must be ready to grab the world’s attention with your music, and you must be ready for the world to discover you.
Music Matters Live last year resulted in offers to perform at the bigger festivals locally and worldwide for some bands, for others it meant getting signed by a record company, so the opportunities are very real here. With a stroke of luck, this could be your big break too.
This year, the spotlight was on the Koreans, the Canadians, and the Australians, but Singapore was well-represented too, with about 25% of the artists being Singaporean. On Friday night, the second night of the Music Matters conference, I was able to catch 4 of our local artists/bands in action at Clarke Quay – Shigga Shay, Inch Chua, The Great Spy Experiment, and The Guilt.
Shigga Shay performed at Forbidden City. He was the first artist I watched that day, and what an impressive set! After an explosive opening, he went on to play a good selection of songs from his latest album that just dropped on 12 May 2012, tracks like “Let’s Roll”, “Shigga Shigga”, “Rock My World” and “Break Me”. Of course, he couldn’t resist dedicating “Rock My World” to all the ladies in da house. In his album, “They Call Me Shigga”, local vocal powerhouse Vanessa Fernandez is featured singing in “Rock My World” and what a great collaboration this turned out to be! Shigga most definitely put on a show to be remembered, leaving the audience on an up note with “Break Me”.
My Music Matters Live adventure took me to the Beer Market next, where Inch Chua was going to perform. Inch Chua is one of the most innovative young artists in Singapore, her creativity in songwriting is undeniable, but would she be able to connect with the Music Matters audience and with members of the general public also present? Her brand of music isn’t really meant for the everyday man-on-the-street listener. She’s like the Bjork of Singapore rock. Either you like her music or you don’t. If you’re the kind of listener who likes hearing an obvious verse and chorus with the song title in it, then you might not find Inch’s music very appealing. If you’re a more serious listener, or if you’re into acoustic music with a touch of folk and something new to it, then you might be able to appreciate Inch Chua. She has a wonderful singing voice that makes you want to listen more, and it is clear she has amazing songwriting skills and musical talent, but if she’s looking to go commercial, then we’ll need to hear more songs like “Artful Dodger”, “Aqueous Oblivion” and “Rule The World”.
Going from the Beer Market to the Main Stage in the heart of Clarke Quay, I watched The Great Spy Experiment. They are one of Singapore’s leading bands, having played at Baybeats, Mosaic & Zoukout before. During their set, they tried to squeeze as many songs as possible into their 20 minutes onstage. The crowd got thicker as they continued to play, and I realized that these are local fans who came just to support them. By the time they started to play their last song, “Class ‘A’ Love Affair”, the crowd had grown in size, and their music seems to have caught the attention of many passersby who also stopped to listen. Our local rock royalty got the crowd clapping along, and everyone looked like they were having a good time. They took the opportunity not only to play crowd favourites like “Siti In The City” and “Class ‘A’ Love Affair”, but also provided a preview to some songs from their latest album offering, “Litmus”. If the crowd response was anything to go by, then “Litmus” is an album to watch out for!
After getting high on the electro-pop dance-rock sounds of The Great Spy Experiment, the unique acoustic sounds of Inch Chua, and the explosive hip-hop stylings of Shigga Shay, I found myself at the Crazy Elephant watching The Guilt play. For those of you who might not have heard them play before, The Guilt has a very unique musical style dubbed as “Lounge Rock”. Some might say it reminds them of getai performances or of hostess lounges. I think it sounds a bit like Santana meets the lounge music of yesteryear updated and modernised to become the sounds of The Guilt. They played recognisable songs like “Shanice”, “Luv Is A Peach Blossom” and “V-Day 99”, and finished their set with the aptly titled “Gotta Go”.
Bearing in mind that each act was given 20-30 minutes to play, they were each able to showcase between 6-8 songs on average. Watching these 4 local acts play live among other international acts was a real treat for me, it made me feel proud to see them reaching for the stars. Local talent is very much alive in Singapore, there is so much of it out there! The world came to Clarke Quay to listen to them at Music Matters Live, but the question is… are we listening, and have we discovered them yet?