The Singaporean (mis/)conception of musicians
On Tuesday, Kevin Mathews (longtime musician, artist, music journalist and main man behind Power of Pop) posted this on his Facebook wall (excerpt taken from private post, used with permission):
“Where are you playing?” is a common question I get when I mention that I am a musician to an new acquaintance or even an old one. This query demonstrates the general public’s understanding of what a musician does in Singapore i.e. playing cover music at some local pub or club. It’s not their fault, that (mis)conception is actually true and as long as 99% of music being made in Singapore every day of the week are covers, our music scene will continue to lag far behind the local film and theatre scenes[…]
His post really struck me, as someone who has been doing music and carving out a name for himself for many years, still experiences the same attitudes towards music from people around him as I do, even though I’m just starting out.
I know what he means when he says most of the music being made in Singapore are covers, though. Most musicians don’t write original music (I can even speak from experience on this). And those who do, still need to perform covers to get a slot in a bar gig, or so that people will listen to their YouTube channel.
Let me get this straight, though. This post isn’t about whether or not there is original music in Singapore. There are tons of original songs released by Singapore artists and bands. But I may only know them because I’m a singer myself. This post is about the general conception of music in Singapore by people who are not in the music scene, who may not even realize there’s tons of original music out there, and that the local music scene isn’t all about cover bands playing nights at bars.
On this specific topic of people’s conceptions, I can share some comments people have said to me in the past:
“Where are you playing?” (Surprise, surprise!)
“You should sing those oldies, classics, songs everyone knows and can sing along to”
“You’re doing music as a career? How long are you giving yourself to make it?”
“What did you study in school? Oh, you went to university??”
“You know what you should do, you should sing Chinese or Malay songs, then you can really make it”
“You don’t have a nice voice, how are you going to become a singer?” (This was MY MOM btw)
“Your voice is so good! You really sound like [Selena Gomez / Shakira / whichever person’s song I’m singing at the time]”
“Oh, you love singing, right? We have the perfect event for you to showcase your talents. There’s no pay, but you’ll get a stage to perform!”
“We know as an artist you’re looking to take your career to the next level… that’s why we’re offering you the chance to perform for free at our international events. If you join us and pay us membership fees”
Now I’m not trying to diss the people who said these, I know they said it with the best of intentions (well, some of them at least). But I’m also painfully aware of the vast difference in perspective they and I have towards making music.
On a positive note, though, I have received a few very encouraging comments. Some people said they would support me in my music (and they aren’t even musicians, bless them). Others, who are from a different country than Singapore and apparently have an understanding that being a musician is something professional, asked me things like “How long do you rehearse your singing every day?” or “What are your next plans?” I’m really grateful to people like these, who give my profession credibility and make me think that I could give it more credibility too, lol.
By the way, I also write original music, I just haven’t released them yet. Releasing new music isn’t something you do just like that! But I did perform an original somewhat recently:
If you’re a musician too, what are some of the funny comments you’ve received from others? Feel free to share them in the comments below! 🙂
P.S. I finally set up a Mailchimp account! So now you can subscribe to my mailing list 😀 You’ll notice the sign up forms on the sidebar, and also on my homepage. Just for now, I’ll include it right here for your convenience too. It’s for important updates only, so if you want to make sure you’re updated about upcoming performances, music releases and other exciting things, do sign up yea! Thank you so much! ♥