Millions of Singaporeans take public transport every day. Now, they will be able to experience their daily commute with fresh eyes—and ears.
On 30 August 2023, Hear65, a national movement by the National Arts Council (NAC) and music media company Bandwagon, officially debuted ‘I Play SG Music’. The national campaign aims to promote the local music scene—be it pop, jazz or classical music—by playing homegrown music in 125 MRT and LRT stations as well as bus interchanges for the first time.
You can now groove to the beat of local hits while on-the-go, thanks to the partnership between the National Arts Council (NAC) and SMRT Corporation Ltd. Image credit: NAC
“By filling public transport spaces with our homegrown melodies, we are also enhancing the commute of Singaporeans and widening the awareness of Singaporean music at the same time…This will allow Singaporeans to learn more about homegrown talent and support them,” said Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, at the launch of the campaign.
Indeed, ‘I Play SG Music’ will be crucial in spotlighting homegrown tunes and talent. Its playlists will be carefully curated to fit different times and moods of the day, as well as refreshed quarterly to include new artists and songs. Who knows? They could find their way into your Spotify playlists too.
A Singaporean noteWhile music is an integral part of our lives, Singaporean music hasn’t received as much attention on home ground as its international counterparts, besides the big names like JJ Lin, Tanya Chua, and Stephanie Sun.
National Day songs are probably the most listened to local songs. Singaporean singer-songwriter Nathan Hartono, famously known for being the runner-up on reality show Sing! China in 2016, once joked on The Straits’ Times’ Music Lab podcast that Everything I Am, the NDP theme song for 2022, was “the closest (he) ever got to having a hit song”.
Catch Sezairi’s latest album Self Soothing on Spotify and Apple Music! Image credit: Sezairi
Ultimately, the issue lies with a relative lack of exposure. “(There) are people who are willing to give up the ‘Singaporean life’ to live on a project basis, to pay their mortgage off things they love to do. This is not something to be taken lightly,” said singer-songwriter Sezairi in a 2020 interview. “If we don’t support them, who will?”
The artiste with Sony Music Entertainment Singapore has been performing since he was 17, and has just released his new album titled Self Soothing on 8 September.
Singaporean music offers something that no other country’s music can: a taste of home. For our local music scene to gain more traction, it must first be easily accessible to the public.
Luckily, there has been more support in recent years, with more national initiatives—like ‘I Play SG Music’—to promote the arts.
In Singapore especially, it is not uncommon for music and comedy to come hand in hand. Singer Benjamin Kheng, for instance, boldly combines local humour with his music. He once recalled being called “the caifan guy” when he ran into actress Zoe Tay backstage at the President’s Star Charity show, a reference to his viral 2021 Caifan Song with Annette Lee.
“That was the apex of my career,” he joked, adding that not taking himself seriously was precisely the fun of it, especially when music is often considered to be a “serious” art form.
Invoke those feelings of local nostalgia you never knew you had with Altoduo’s tunes. Image credit: Altoduo
Singapore-based instrumental duo Altoduo sought to do the same in their 2023 EP Jiak Simi?, a Hokkien phrase which means “what shall we eat?”. Inspired by iconic childhood snacks like iced gems and muruku, they seek to evoke the joy and nostalgia in listeners, even as they dabble in the intricacies of jazz and the lesser-known genres of math-rock and chillhop.
As Singaporeans, local artists also have the advantage of being bilingual, or even multilingual, allowing them to reach larger audiences. Rapper J.M3 has produced music in both English and Mandarin, with her latest single Pick ‘Em Up for the game Buddy Arena merging the realms of gaming and music.
At the end of the day, music is a universal language that knows no geographical boundaries. The bottom line: good music is good music. And good music can be found every day and everywhere in Singapore, from bars and concert halls to train platforms and bus interchanges.Supporting local musicians can be as easy as showing them some love. If you’re at a loss as to where to start, keep your eyes peeled for our weekly Curated Itineraries for both local and international musical talents to Catch!