Day: November 23, 2014

GARETH FERNANDEZ EP LAUNCH: MOVIN’ ON UP!GARETH FERNANDEZ EP LAUNCH: MOVIN’ ON UP!

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2014 has been a very good year for made-in-Singapore pop music with more album/EP releases and more live performances to capture the imagination of the music-loving public. One significant factor has been the EP Grant administered by the National Arts Council which awards the sum of S$10,000 to a band/artist applicant for the cost of recording, production, marketing and launch of a 4-song (minimum) EP. This EP grant not only gives the successful band/artist the platform to share the music but also generates business activities for producers, recording studios, sound engineers and venues. In short, the grant has been a boon to the local music scene as a whole. Thus far, 15 such bands/artists have benefitted from this grant – including Celina Kimble, Gentle Bones and Gareth Fernandez.

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Fernandez’s debut eponymous EP was launched at The Barbershop by Timbre – a relatively tight venue (in terms of space) – but that didn’t stop singer Fernandez, his four-man backing band The MommaShop (Sikai Goh – Keyboards/Organ, Titus Ng – Bass, Anson Koh – Drums, James Lye – Guitar), three-man horn section (Daniel Chia – sax, Vignesh Mohandasan – trumpet, Deric Tay – Trombone) and a duo of backing singers (Tok Xue Yi & Andrew Mark Oh) from bringing the (Arts) house down with a scintillating display of sinewy soul-R&B prowess. The sound throughout was fairly competent when considering the challenge of 10 persons on stage to deal with and there was hardly any issue with the sound that got in the way with a full and complete enjoyment of the show in front of us, the audience (which consisted mainly of hip and trendy twenty-somethings, include well-known local musicians like The Sam Willows, Joel Tan (aka Gentle Bones) and members of hot indie bands like Stopgap and Take Two).

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The show opened with the crowd parting like the red sea and the band making a dramatic entrance resplendent and looking sharp in their suits before Fernandez made his way to the stage. Drawing mainly from the songs off his debut EP and a couple of choice covers, it was all systems go right from the moment Fernandez and band launched into a feisty Physical (also the opening track of the EP) which sounded more authentic than the recorded version when sans the cheesy electronic keyboards. When you consider how sophisticated the song arrangements tend to be, the talent and effort demonstrated by Fernandez and band was impressive.

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My personal favourite moments arrived with passionate renditions of Movin’ On and Northern Lights – songs imbued with the classic soul vibes of the 60s & 70s. The former had Fernandez engaging the audience with a call-and-response that all in attendance participated in whilst the latter brought the crowd to a collective emotional high (or low, depending on your perspective) with its fragile piano balladry and prayerful sentiment (“Come back home”). With well-worked covers from Allen Stone, Justin Timberlake and Sam Smith operating as appropriate fillers (in the absence of more original material), there was a welcome surprise with Heart Walls, an original explicably left off the EP – a suitably impassioned albeit heart-breaking rant about a severed relationship.

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And while it is accurate to pay due credit to the fabulous musicianship on display, the star of the show was Fernandez with his sparkling vocals, physicality, stage presence and casual banter, which won the hearts and souls of the rapt audience in a manner that would suggest that Fernandez deserves to showcase his promise and potential on bigger stages in the future.

(Originally intended for TODAY newspaper)

Photo credits: Cherlynn Lian

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Inch Chua at SingFest 2010. Photo credit: JY Yang

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

I am often asked about how the current Singapore indie music scene compares to what we had in the past. It’s a valid question, of course. Since the 90s revival and subsequent economic depression, the scene has been growing at a steady pace in the last decade or so.

To assess how far we’ve come, we need only look at two factors. First, the improvement of the technical abilities, musicianship and songwriting capabilities of our artists/bands and second, the expansion of the fan base – the increase of awareness, acceptance and approval amongst Singaporeans for local indie music.

As important as the first factor is – aided by the number of music schools that have proliferated across the island – the challenge has always to build up a fan base at home for homegrown music. Whilst still not ideal, there has been a marked improvement in that area.

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Back in 2010, I recall kids rushing to the stage when Inch Chua opened at SingFest but then walking away when they realized that she was ‘local’. Contrast that to the generous reception of local bands at music festivals today, where bands like The Sam Willows (above), Gentle Bones and others have the acceptance of the audience. Not only that but many artists/bands have rapturous EP/album launches where pundits actually fork out cash to watch their local heroes.

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And what about Inch? She has gone from strength to strength – chasing her dreams in the USA (see above) and elsewhere, and those kids in 2010 are probably cheering her on, whenever she does play back in her hometown.

There is much to be optimistic about but we must not rest on our laurels. We still do not have enough opportunities for indie bands/artists to play on a regular basis.

My wish list for 2015 and beyond?

(1) Venues to have residencies for our bands to develop their own music.

(2) More local bands opening for foreign bands.

(3) A regional touring circuit be established for our bands.

(4) Local bands breaking into overseas markets.

(5) Original music no longer a dirty word to Singaporeans.

There is so much work to be done but these are exciting times for the Singapore indie music scene.

… still there’s more … 

RETHINK AIDS: LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKINGRETHINK AIDS: LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING

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Photo credit: Dawn Chua

Always a boon when given the opportunity to catch Singapore rockers in their element. AND when a good cause is the rationale behind the music event then it is time to pause and consider exactly what that cause is. For the organizers, it’s simple and clear.

Through our event, we hope to generate awareness among youths and reduce the stigma associated with people living with HIV/AIDS. Its time to change our perspectives and #RethinkAIDS!

(more…)

DISCOVERED @ SPOTIFYDISCOVERED @ SPOTIFY

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A week away from the deadline for our Power of Pop – Spotify giveaway! A premium account (for 6 months) awaits. Submit your playlist of 12 favourite songs for 2014 to info AT powerofpop DOT com before 30th November to stand a chance of winning. In the meantime, follow us at Spotify and enjoy our curated playlists.

… still there’s more …