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Shigga Shay, Kevin Lester and the new wave of Singaporean musicians

In previous posts, we talked about the importance of art and the leading Singaporean artists today, such as www.weare.sg/jackson-tan-phunk/. Here we focus on music and the importance of songwriting to follow your creative instincts and to promote the image of the Singaporean musical scene.

We have had a great crop of musicians and bands such as the Gentle Bones, Sam Willows, Shigga Shay and Kevin Lester. Kevin Lester especially is a unique case. He started off in the corporate world as a marketing manager, but then decided to go full-time into music. His single hit, Lioncityboy, exploded into the music billboards in Singapore, ushering in a new age for Singaporean hip-hop.

Lester has grander ambitions. He wants to put Singaporean hip-hop in the global scene. Lioncityboy is just the beginning. People like Lester and Shigga Shay, who came up with his own hit Limpeh. Their optimism is derived from the fact that the hip-hop scene here is something that is entirely unique. Our language mix of Hokkien, Malay and Tamil, along with our very own entertaining Singlish, blends to form an entertaining script.

Lester and Shay have proved to be inspirations to many aspiring Singaporean musicians. Their creative approach to hip-hop, integrating the mainstream aspects with Singapore’s kampung and multi-cultural lifestyle, have yielded great success. It proves that creativity and having a unique style with music can produce dividends.

Today Lester is going places. He remains the first home-grown artist to sign up with a reputed American production agency, the same one that produced the Black Eyed Peas. That’s a huge accomplishment. He can be the face of Singaporean hip-hop to the place where it all happens – Hollywood.

We also have the Sam Willows. They managed to changed Singaporean perceptions towards local musicians. Before them, most Singaporeans preferred American, British, Korean or Chinese/Taiwanese music. When Sam Willows broke into the scene, the showed that Singaporeans can also produce great music. IT inspired other musicians to follow their footsteps.

And it is not just pop and hip-hop. There are rock / metal bands here such as Electrico and 53A that perform locally. Astreal and The Observatory compose indie music. There is variety in Singapore, provided you look for it. The presence of these bands is important as an inspirational tool for budding musicians.

Looking at these success stories, we can learn a lot of lessons. Musicians always have a tendency to complain that there is too much supply and very little demand in the market. While that is true to an extent, the fact remains that musicians don’t compose creatively anymore. Shay and Lester proved that adding their own flavor to mainstream hip-hop was the difference between failure and success.

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