Friday, March 30, 2012

The Weekend Rockstar

By Daryl Goh

Musicians Jon Chan and Brian Lim share about the effects of arts events like Mosaic and Baybeats on local music. Jon Chan gives a live acoustic performance of Plainsunset's 'The River Song'.

Audio Interview with Jon Chan & Brian Lim

Stepping onto the train on the weekend, one cannot help but notice the number of kids shouldering guitar bags, heading to practices or performances. It seems that they are not just carrying musical instruments but fantasies of fame as well.

Audiences in Singapore have been enjoying more big-name music acts over the last few years. The most recent being the Mosaic Music Festival, a ten-day event held earlier this month. One wonders if exposure to these musical influences could be causing these dreams to take root.

Jon Chan, lead singer of local punk band, Plainsunset, attributes it to the birth of the Esplanade and the multitude of arts festivals that are held throughout the year. Jon can be considered a veteran in the local music industry. He has been entertaining local and international audiences with his band and as a solo act for 17 years.

“Who wouldn’t want to be on a stage like that?” Jon asks rhetorically. He numbers off the various gigs, competitions and platforms that bands now have to showcase their talent.

“You’ve got the crowd, you’ve got the right equipment and one of the best stages you can possibly get outdoors.” Jon is of course referring to Baybeats, an annual, alternative music festival organised by the Esplanade. This event has been on going since 2002 and is now recognised as one of the top alternative music platforms in Asia. It will be held on 29 June – 1 July 2012.  Jon now sits on its panel of judges, auditioning fresh young bands that want a taste of rock stardom.

Brian Lim, a semi-professional jazz singer, agrees that there are more opportunities now, but adds another perspective, “Those that can make it are those that can stand out from the crowd. It is almost impossible to make a living being a musician.”

Brian is not alone in his sentiment. It is a well-known fact that many performing musicians have day jobs or supplement their income by giving music lessons. Jon exemplifies this lifestyle; he is also a fine arts lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts.

Becoming a professional musician in Singapore remains an impractical notion due to several factors: Singaporeans still have the mentality that foreign music is better and do not bother with local music. Local bands are perceived to only be imitating and sounding like their western counterparts.

Our multiracial and multilingual culture also works against the local musician. Jon explains that in United States of America, English is the dominant language whereas Singapore’s population is divided in to four main languages and musicians are unable to obtain a critical mass of supporters.

Jon speculates that it will be at least another five years before musicians are able to garner enough support to be self-sustaining. Till then, they will just have to find other ways to keep their dreams alive.

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