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Blog // Artistry
September 15, 2012

Singapore Music Dialogue

This time last week, I attended a public forum called Singapore Music Dialogue, organised by sgmuso, the Singapore Music Society. I’ve been hesitant to comment, partly because I’m an outsider. But, I not only live here, I made the decision to move my studio, my business and my musical hopes and dreams to Singapore after […]

Charlie Lim performing at the Singapore Music Dialogue (sgmuso)

This time last week, I attended a public forum called Singapore Music Dialogue, organised by sgmuso, the Singapore Music Society. I’ve been hesitant to comment, partly because I’m an outsider.

But, I not only live here, I made the decision to move my studio, my business and my musical hopes and dreams to Singapore after five years in Hong Kong. I may be an outsider, but that doesn’t mean I’m not invested in this place.

What Was The Dialogue?

There’s been a bit of comment online since the forum. A critical but positive review on Power of Pop and a somewhat more circumspect review on HYR. The latter drawing attention to the rather bellicose and maudlin comments on the event’s Facebook page.

It was certainly an odd meeting. The afternoon opened with a short performance from Charlie Lim, a performer I highlighted in my MusicMattersLive roundup in May. We also had some encouraging presentations; Graham Perkins, the president of sgmuso described the kinds of (very generous) government support available for music and arts initiatives, Syaheed from Bedsty on the SingTel Amped service and Arica Ng on YouTube’s approach to music partnerships.

However, the discussion sections of the afternoon, which really accounted for most of the meeting, were surprisingly negative, lurching all the way from self-pity to self-aggrandising disparagement. I lost count of the number of times “you,” “they,” “should” and “try” were thrown around.

And, of course, there was plenty of talk about what the government ought to do. To be frank, nothing tires me more, than talking about the government. Not to say education and opportunities don’t matter, because they do. I wouldn’t be where I am without venues to play in, space to rehearse and learn, lessons and studios to record in. They made me the musician I am. Of course, in my case, none of them were supported or created by government money.

If you are an artist, be it a musician, photographer, painter, writer or whatever, you live with a fundamental problem – what is my art and how will I realise it? The answer to that question does not start with “the government should…” it always starts with “I will.”

To be fair, seeing government as the answer is not specifically a Singaporean problem. I remember attending a Hong Kong focussed panel at the 2011 Semi-Permanent conference that was constrained by the same kind of rhetoric. As I wrote at the time “… the discussion never got past the old cliches about the government not doing enough, Hong Kongers still suffering from colonialism and the pervasiveness of market capitalism.”

Where’s The Beef?

I feel like we needed more conversation about making music. There’s initiatives to get more locally produced music out through SingTel Amped and maybe on local radio, but many of the celebrated local acts have small catalogues of recorded music. It’s great to have the MusicMattersLive showcase on our doorstep, but they don’t usually play the same acts more than once, so we need new performers to fill those slots by May 2013.

Which is another way of saying we need more new music.

The dialogue that really interests me is centred around writing new music, creating new bands and collaborations, recording new music, finding new artists and encouraging new work and new musical directions. That’s what I did, in a small way, with the SoundCloud meetup in May & of course, others are doing similar things all the time.

The dialogue that interests me is also full of passion, optimism and enthusiasm. It’s full of the values I mentioned yesterday. It’s full of hope.

The Future Is Now

I’ll admit last week’s event shook me – I’ve had some sleepless nights since then. But, upon reflection, my hopes for music in Singapore remain and my desire to continue recording and creating here is strong. There’s still a few months left in my big adventure for 2012 and I promise you music plays an important role in what you’ll be seeing from me in the coming months.

Update

Since the meeting I’ve had a number of people reach out to me to express everything from concern to dissapointed resignation over the tone of the meeting. Also, in a curious turn, this post dropped completely off Goggle’s radar on the 19th of September, now matter how you search for this page, it won’t appear on a Google search. But, search for Singapore Music Dialogue on Yahoo and it’s there at the top of the results.

I’m taking both these as omens.

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