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Towards the end of this conversation moderated by sound artist weish and featuring singer-songwriter Charlie Lim, hip hop trailblazer Yung Raja (whose real name is Rajid Ahamed), and music multi-hyphenate Ruth Ling, a very Singaporean sound started to rumble across the island and filter into the recording spaces of all these local music-makers—the unmistakeable symphony of an equatorial rainstorm.
Besides illustrating the sometimes unavoidable pitfalls of remote recording, these peals of thunder and lightning erupted at a particularly ironic point in the conversation, namely when all these speakers were explaining why exactly they believe the future of Singapore pop is bright.
Part of their optimism is related to the possibilities of technology, which has already helped to create opportunities for many young artists today and looks set to reshape the music industry even more in the years ahead. Other factors include the emergence of ecosystems that are nurturing local creative communities, and how music-makers here are engaging with their Singaporean identity in inventive new ways.
In this finale episode of PopLore, find out more about what Singapore’s pop music history means to these shapers of its future, and how they view the unique traits and burgeoning potential of homegrown pop.
PopLore: Stories of Singapore Pop, produced by Hong Xinyi and Dorothy Ding, is commissioned by Esplanade as part of PopLore: A Year of Singapore Popular Music in celebration of its 20th anniversary in 2022. This episode was produced in collaboration with indiego.
Catch Charlie Lim with his band The Mothership and guest artists on 16 Sep at Esplanade Concert Hall.
weish is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice spans a diverse range of genres and disciplines. She is part of electronic duo .gif, experimental group sub:shaman, audiovisual collective Syndicate, is an associate artist at Checkpoint Theatre, and also performs solo with her signature live looping technique. With her bands, she has graced stages like St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, BIGSOUND Australia, Georgetown Festival, HUSH! Macau, Java Soundsfair Jakarta and more.
She has also written both music and text across the fields of theatre, film, and dance, experimenting with divergent and form-bending modes of storytelling that have been presented at multiple festivals including the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, as well as exhibited in the National Gallery. Her unique works have taken her around the globe—from Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City to the Golden Melody Awards in Taipei. International collaborations have also seen her building sound art installations in London, working with DJs in Tokyo, and writing the theme song of award-winning movie Shirkers on Netflix.
Ruth is an established multi-talented performer, music producer and music business executive with over twenty years of industry experience focused on pop, jazz and theatre. Since graduating from Berklee College of Music, Ruth has toured globally with the likes of Stefanie Sun, A*Mei and Karen Mok, and arranged music for West End musicals, Golden Horse Awards performances, TV and film. She is the founder of Red Roof Records, which signed and groomed local mandarin jazz singer Joanna Dong, created SingLove, and produced two editions of SingLang, celebrating music by Singaporeans. An NAC Young Artist Award recipient, Ruth recently stepped away from her role as the Head of A&R at Universal Music in China, and continues to collaborate with artistes across the region on various projects.
Singaporean breakthrough artiste Yung Raja has been dubbed as Southeast Asia’s next avant-garde bilingual hip hop artiste, known for his tasteful unification of Western and Tamil culture in his lyrics. Yung Raja found viral success in Malaysia and Singapore following the release of his debut single Mustafa. Lauded for his formidable command of English-Tamil rap, Yung Raja continues to confront the industry with his seamless bilingual delivery and distinct amalgamation of cultural references as a starting point for celebrating inclusivity in society.
Born and raised in Singapore, Yung Raja aims to reinvent societal views in and out of his homeland, inspire the next generation of cultural conservators, and elevate Southeast Asian hip hop to world class stages through his music. In 2019, the rapper signed to Def Jam South East Asia and continues to stay rooted in his culture whilst promoting music that stems from his upbringing that’s combined with unadulterated traditional South Indian influences that enables him to push the boundaries in his music.
Charlie Lim is an award-winning singer-songwriter and producer from Singapore, whose records TIME/ SPACE and CHECK-HOOK clinched #1 spots on the iTunes Singapore charts, and was named Best Pop Album of the Year by The Straits Times and awarded Best Song of the Year by Apple Music Singapore with over 10 million streams across digital platforms. Gathering accolades and prominent festival slots as well as having a central role in writing and performing the theme song for Singapore’s National Day, Charlie has quickly grown into one of Southeast Asia’s most unique and prolific voices in contemporary pop music.
Charlie’s music has made its mark across the region’s live stages: He’s performed at Summer Sonic (Tokyo), Clockenflap (Hong Kong), Java Jazz Festival (Indonesia), Singapore International Jazz Festival, Urbanscapes (Kuala Lumpur), Brisbane Festival, Jarasum Jazz Festival (Seoul), Shout Out Festival (Taiwan), Wanderland Music Festival (Philippines), OzAsia (Adelaide), and Bigsound Australia (Brisbane). He has also shared the stage and collaborated with international artists such as Kimbra, Khalil Fong, TENDRE, Elephant Gym, Jose Gonzalez, BIBI, Taku Takahashi (M-FLO), Kan Sano and Clara Benin. The NAC Young Artist Award winner and COMPASS Young Songwriter of the Year has also played a role in helping to shape Singapore’s burgeoning music scene by being a mentor and an advocate for younger artists through several mentorship programs as well as a guest speaker at schools and universities. He is currently music director of indiego, an internet radio station focused on playing local and independent music.
A seven-episode narrative podcast series about Singapore pop.