Back in 2011, in a public Facebook note, singer-songwriter iNCH (a.k.a Inch Chua) criticised Singaporean attitudes toward local music. iNCH even moved out of Singapore (to the US) in order to pursue her musical career. Four years later, back in Singapore, as a packed audience demonstrates their hearty approval, iNCH is moved to tears by a post-gig video filled with expressions of congratulations, love, admiration and celebration for the launch of iNCH’s new EP, Letters to Ubin.
Having come full circle, the EP launch was a triumph, not merely of iNCH’s tenacity & self-belief but of the truth of art demonstrated through words, music, visuals and performance. And I make no bones about describing this EP launch show as a work of art, conceptual art even.
From the cricket noises, the mouse deer horns, the personal stories, the history lessons to ultimately the songs, iNCH left no stone unturned and with an impressive attention to detail immersed the audience with iNCH’s self-styled relationship with Ubin.
Whereas pop artists often delve heavily into the emotional toll of human relationships, iNCH somehow developed a spiritual bond with this island, with implications and reflections of Singapore’s own journey through the decades of material progress and prosperity.
One might argue that Letters to Ubin is the most incisive SG50 reflection of them all!
The EP songs — “Mousedeer”, “Simple Kind of Love”, “Granite”, “Breakbone” and “Dust That Moves” sat up nicely next to ‘oldies’ like “Chufalo Knot”, “Artful Dodger” and the absolutely new “Everest” — delivered with panache and emotional intensity by a crack band that included Tim D’Cotta (bass), James Lye (lead guitar) and EP producer Evan Low (electronics). Not to mention the moving duet of Queen’s “Love of My Life” with Dru Chen.
And when iNCH & band re-appeared for an electrifying encore, somehow miraculously the music moved up a level.“Hurt” was presented by an all-female cast as iNCH was back by kindakid (violin) and Lisa Haryono (cello) AND the vocal aggregation of Vanessa Fernandez, Narelle Kheng, Michaela Therese and Joie Tan! A wonder to behold. The full band returned to close up the night with scintillating renditions of “Dear Paramour” and “Rule the World”.
After the show, as the crowd milled about, it was impossible to ignore not only the sense of community within the Singapore music scene but the multitude of unfamiliar faces that formed iNCH’s own fanbase. Yes, Singaporean attitudes towards local music have changed since that fateful day when iNCH posted that Facebook note – the struggle is still real but there was enough encouragement here tonight to suggest that we are all moving in the right direction.
… still there’s more …
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