Ep 1: Ah Boys to Jazz
Ep 2: Jazz Do It
Ep 3: Jazz of All Trades
Time taken : ~10mins
Passion is a young man's game. Aaron and Matthew would know—they’re youths trying to make it big in the best way they know how: jazz music.
But as it turns out, it’s a rough road to tread without the network and experience afforded by age. RICE speaks to these two passionate young musicians who dream of an unorthodox career that promises them a life of doing what they love.
Aaron James Lee
Aaron has had the opportunity to grow up amongst National Treasures here in the local scene. Musicians such as Don Gomes, Christy Smith, Joshua Wan, Andrew Lim, Tan Wei Xiang, Wen Ming Soh, Chok Kerong and Jeremy Monteiro have paved the way for musicians such as Lee, who has been blessed with the opportunity to work with each of them, to thrive as an artist here in Singapore. Lee has worked with some international acts who have come through Singapore—James Moody, Alex Sipiagin, Tony Lakatos to name a few and as a former band member of The Steve McQueens, has also been brought on the road to Japan, London etc.
Entirely self-taught, Matthew is a pianist who is heavily influenced by the jazz idiom, which has inspired him to explore not only the aesthetics, but also the science of music. Matthew was a former band leader and arranger for the Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band, and thereafter, he has performed at numerous venues and occasions in Singapore. He emerged as one of two best soloists in the Singapore International Jazz Battle in 2018. Besides being a pianist, Matthew also plays several other instruments including the saxophone and trumpet, and being classically trained in computer science allows him to share his knowledge of music from fresh perspectives.
Think jazz and you’d think dim whisky bars with patrons enjoying tunes over drinks and cigars. Essentially, not something you’d associate with the Muslim community—much less a Muslim women in a hijab.
Iman, however, is on a path of dismantling that perception as a Muslim jazz vocalist. What happens when your faith could come into conflict with doing what you love? RICE sits down with her to talk about the delicate balance between her personal identities.
Siti Nur Iman is a young, up-and-coming jazz vocalist born and raised in Singapore. A recent alumnus of Esplanade’s Mosaic Jazz Fellows (2019), she performs regularly with her close-harmony trio, The Sugar Bees.
Music producer. Bass guitar sessionist. Father. Colin Yong juggles all his roles with aplomb, but not without some thorny thoughts about the local music industry.
Just like jazz, Colin moves with the ebbs and flows, never restricting himself to the singular mindset expected out of artists. Despite never making practical use of his Economics university degree, Colin’s perspective offers a pragmatic view on the socioeconomics at play in the music scene.
A session bass player, Colin Yong has never been partial to any genre of music. He has worked with jazz and pop artists from all over the world, such as Jeremy Monteiro, Kit Chan, Ernie Watts, the late Eldee Young, Eugene Pao, Tots Tolentino, David Packer, Michael Veerapen, John “Kaisen” Neptune, V Selvaganash, Patricio Buanne and Fei Xiang (aka Kris Phillips). Colin has also performed at numerous music and jazz festivals internationally.
He has played and recorded for many Singapore musicals, including W!LD RICE’s Cinderel-LAH! (2003 and 2010), Aladdin (2004 and 2011), Oi! Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty & the Beast, Dream Academy’s Dim Sum Dollies (2004 – 2008), Sing Dollar (2009), Broadway Beng (2007-2008), Theatre Practice’s mandarin musical If there were seasons (2006 & 2009), and Toy Factory’s 881-The Musical (2011).
Off Beat is a three-part video series about unexpected people in jazz, commissioned by Esplanade Offstage and produced by RICE.
Siti Nur Iman is performing at Jazz in July on 3 July 2023.