From singer-songwriters to DJs, classical musicians, playwrights, dancers and beyond, the brief from Vogue Singapore to each artist was the same: to create a piece inspired by the global September theme of 'New Beginnings'. The only caveat? To keep it to 30 seconds or under. Scroll down to watch and listen to the results: a rich and diverse medley of songs, spoken word and performances—each pulsating with an undeniable local heartbeat—that speak of hope in this country we call home.
“Bird of Paradise takes its shape based on two poems my wildlife conservationist father, Bernard Harrison, wrote in 1979: ‘Cataclysm, Part I—The End’ and ‘Part II—A New Beginning’. I used a mixture of Kalaripayattu martial arts movements as well as Muay Thai-inspired stances and rhythms.
“As we tackle both a pandemic and a landscape fuelled by global warming, Bird of Paradise reflects the symbol of freedom, that amidst the chaos, we must now look into ourselves and return to our inner world.”
Working with Singapore Dance Theatre’s artistic director, Janek Schergen, Kwok performed a piece with the ballet barre integrated into the choreography, a first for the dancer.
“Typically, the barre exists as a tool within our daily technique classes that acts as a supportand foundation for dancers. In that sense, to have the barre as an element that is also fully integrated into the choreography has become a great opportunity for me to try out something new.
“I believe that new beginnings can happen at any time—it can happen now, the next day, or at a specific point in time determined by you.”
“[The track] is called ‘Spice Boy’, it is obviously inspired by the Spice Girls. When people say ‘spice up your life’, that word has such a powerful meaning to it. I am an Indian boy, born and raised in Singapore, so for me, spice has never been too far from my culture. My artistry is packed with my culture and the flavours of what makes me, me. That’s very much the picture I’ve been trying to paint.”
For this quartet, this collaboration was a new beginning in and of itself. Not only is it the first time Shin’s composition, ‘lunarabesque’, is being heard in Singapore, it is also, as Chan puts it, “a celebration of musicians of different backgrounds coming together to enjoy music-making after a long hiatus”.
Lien sums it up best: “Being an artist can be a lonely journey, but to collaborate with like-minded friends as in this project is a real blessing indeed.”
For Amin Farid, aka Soultari, shooting his piece at Changi Beach was only natural. “I am most at home in nature, particularly the interstices between land and water. I find the shoreline to be a safe place for someone like me who tries to embody the indigenous philosophy of tanahair, which combines tanah (land) and air (water).
Reset: An Ode to Nature positions the symbolic Malay dance gestures that represent natural elements such as the flowers, wind and waves in their most organic environment to remind us of their origins.”
“Both Simon and myself come from a progressive rock background where music almost has no boundaries. We love the idea of dual lines and harmonies,” shares Lim. The couple created “a progressive-electro synth-ethnic fusion piece driven by lead guitars and the saxophone”.
Adds Yong: “The track demonstrates two very different segments: with two different keys, melodic or rhythmic content, and styles within itself. We hope the world, regardless of race, culture and status, can live together as one, in this new beginning, just like this track.”
Most Singaporeans would be familiar with Munah as a host and actress. But you might be surprised to know that this is one of her first times creating a piece. “With other works I’ve done, even though I’m part of the process; I’m just performing it. But I got to build this piece myself from scratch [with help] and it feels so surreal.”
The process of working with Irfan, she shares, was like conversing with a friend. “We talked about our lives, new beginnings and fears. From there, we [set] a direction and he put it into beautiful words.
“We both imagined a big body of water where the possibilities are endless and whatever decision you make, you have to commit to it.”
While Amin is known for waacking, Cumming is a ballet dancer. But as the saying goes, opposites attract. For their choreography, the pair reveals: “We were inspired by each other's way of moving. Very contrasting, borderline clashing; but there's always something poetic about anything that juxtaposes.”
“‘Nu Beginning’ is a declaration of the start of me finding out who Syakirah Noble the artist really is. I usually lean towards R’n’B or pop music but this is a blend of hip- hop, pop and trap, which is something I’ve never done before. From a visual perspective, the piece embodies sensuality and aura of charisma, which is something I’m coming into as an artist and as a woman. This piece in a way shows my personal transition from being a girl to a young woman which, for me, is a new beginning.”
“This choreographed-spontaneous piece is all about finding new beginnings in the current situation that the world is in. It is about 2 people who are ‘out of place’ and trying to [make] sense of each other and the space, mentally and physically,” says Lee about the husband-and-wife duo’s work.
She adds, “As dark as it may seem, the beacon of hope is never extinguished. We believe that through these trials and tribulations, we learn to adapt, be resilient and emerge as stronger individuals; and in turn a stronger society.”
Location: ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands
To Teng, Irish poet Thomas Moore’s ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ symbolises “a wistful goodbye” and “hope for the new friendships that will be formed”. She says, “The pandemic, as a period of enforced pause, has been a time of stillness and searching for me.
“During this time, I decided to move back to Singapore from Switzerland, where I was previously based, to continue my work as a singer. I’m excited to find my rhythm here and to contribute to this country, which has given me so much growing up.”
On Incursion Trio’s choice of presenting an excerpt from Claude Debussy's La Mer for their performance, Siew shares: “This short excerpt is a reflection of our present times; a huge orchestral work that we used to hear so often and is commonly played by a full-sized orchestra now down-sized to a piano trio. Though a large part of our lives may have shrunk in many ways, we humans will never stop finding other means to make up for that lost spirit.”
And while there might be less opportunities to perform these days, Siew elaborates: “I have never felt more strongly my role as an artiste and musician in communicating and the importance of reaching out and feeling that connection with people, especially in a live-audience setting. Art and music is for everyone. It isn’t a luxury but a necessity.”
While discussing the theme of ‘New Beginnings’, NyaLi and Intriguant swiftly agreed on the idea of metamorphosis. NyaLi shares: “Too often, we dread the idea of ‘ending’ and fear change. But becoming a butterfly means letting go of what you know or don't know, and leaning into the next thing, which can be exciting and good.”
Iman created a special remix of her hit single ‘Timeframe’ for Vogue Singapore. She shared, “To me, ‘new beginnings’ means taking a risk. It means taking a leap of faith to try new things and living life to the fullest in order not to have regrets.
“Sometimes we have internal battles with ourselves about whether we should listen to our heart or mind. I hope that people can learn to let go of the things we cannot control, and to take things step by step and day by day. We just have to let loose, go with the flow, and take the leap. In the end, everything will turn out alright.”
Oon prepared “a short monologue on what I’ve managed to process of the rage that I found myself feeling in the past year and a half.”
She elaborates, “The question that kept circling in my head was, ‘When it comes to systemic issues that require change on a larger scale, who does it benefit when we, as individuals, are immobilised by guilt?’
“This was a big reframing for me in the way that I viewed systemic issues and my place in them, and is a new way of channelling my energy.”
Location: The Fragment Room
During the pandemic, Foo—better known by his stage name—Jaye Funk, started an Instagram account with his wife, Pang. The bio for @mistermissusfunk reads, “Best known for our matching couple wear”. Naturally, the pair donned matching outfits for their shoot while performing their piece.
“We wanted to create a positive outlook towards the pandemic,” says Foo, with the hope that the audience takes away the following message: “When we unbox our minds, the possibilities are limitless.”
Location: W Singapore - Sentosa Cove
“The pandemic has made us recalibrate how we make and maintain connections. The screen or digital fourth wall poses this challenge to us to discover what it means to transcend this distance,” says Wong.
“The item is our interpretation of the movement-technology hybrid, focusing on the fourth wall that is becoming increasingly prevalent as we shift towards a more technology-driven medium in the arts,” Lek adds. “For me, the most pivotal moment [in the process of creating this piece] was physicalising the fourth wall, and making it a visual highlight to the audiences who will be watching this from their devices too! When performing our phrase at the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, I really enjoyed the way our bodies listened to each other to give ourselves a safe space to move at our best.”
Location: SkyPark Observation Deck, Marina Bay Sands
Dong and Ho met doing theatre in Singapore, but have never created a piece together until now. According to Ho, their resulting piece is “about time and the tempo and the repetition of life; especially how the rhythm of life has changed for us under COVID circumstances, and how small shifts seem even more dramatic sometimes”.
When they were first notified of the theme, the singer-songwriters got on a call and talked about what it meant. Bitty shares, “We’ve been making a lot of retro soul music, and I’ve also been doing modern R&B and funk, but ’90s in particular was a new vibe that we’d yet to recreate specifically in any of our original songs.”
The end result, ‘New Me, Hu Dis?’ is “a soundbite of a song Bitty and myself worked on with the intention of tapping into the old and dressing it up for today; all while trying to spread a good feeling or vibe if I may,” says Shak’thiya aka Shak.
With the intention of describing “a fresh and new morning”, Keyana contributed an acapella track. “One thing I've always admired about music and the creation of it is bringing the image you imagine to life sonically. I really wanted to describe and create the feeling of mornings.
“It's the morning, the beginning of the day! The day always has so much potential when it just starts, it's all up to you to create purpose and meaning.” On what she hopes listeners take away from the track, the singer-songwriter says, “You create the next chapter in your life. Anything and anytime can be your ‘New Beginning’. Choose wisely!”
Q: What do you get when a DJ and Chinese traditional instruments come together? A: Click the video below to hear the results for yourself. KoFlow tells us: “I love working with musicians instead of just DJs because [for the latter] it’s two people staring at a laptop. I love being in a band and playing with jazz musicians or avant-garde musicians—that’s the fun part of creating music.”
Sophy chimes in: “All our performances in the past wanted us to [focus on] Chinese music and there wasn’t room to explore other genres. We live in a multicultural country and we grew up hearing a lot of different songs. Sometimes people ask us if something is Chinese and we just say there’s no classification.”
“For me, a new beginning can be to form a new connection with people, or the discovery of a new outlook or state of mind. It can also be to approach a new work with both care and abandon, as in this project,” Chan tells us of the piece she choreographed for Vogue Singapore.
“I hope the piece encourages people to build different types of relationships outside of what is usual for themselves,” adds Koh.
Lee-Khoo, Tung and Wheelsmith came together by putting a new twist on ‘Be a River’ and ‘This Body… That Body – Everybody…’, from Kaite O’Reily's And Suddenly I Disappear, which was produced by Access Path Productions in 2018. The reinterpreted version sees a spoken word performance by Lee-Khoo, a rap by Wheelsmith and a dance by Tung.
“The work’s most pressing call for action is to reflect on current charity-based practices and strive to embody best practices. There is also urgency in our call to smash stereotypes and go beyond mainstream representations of disability.”
Location: Hybrid Broadcast Studio at Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands
“This song was a result of the past 1.5 years,” Miss Lou says about what she has learnt over the course of the pandemic. “Artists have a huge role to play and though we are not essential for survival, we are essential for a good and complete life. That’s something I’ve had to own and to apply.
“So when I say in my lyrics, ‘What have we done? What can I tell my children?’, I can tell them I have fully embraced my identity as a person and as an artist, and I have used that to lead people to hope in something greater than us.”
De Cotta’s involvement in The Rhythm of Singapore is proof of a new beginning in and of itself. “Everything has its time,” he says. “The Circuit Breaker in 2020 allowed me to find my stride in producing music again, on top of writing and performing, which is where I started my career.
“I was initially approached to be a part of this [project] as a musician, but I was out of the country for most of the shoot dates. I offered the support of my team at Warrior Productions to work on audio post-production and, fortunately, I was still able to be part of this beautiful process.
“Hearing everyone’s creative take on a very limited 30 seconds of work based on the theme was very inspiring. Of course, my team and I then had the great responsibility of making every piece shine, while also making the whole set of work fit with each other sonically.”
Darren Gabriel Leow, Sayher Heffernan, Shawn Paul Tan
Shawn Paul Tan, Terence Lee
Tim De Cotta / Warrior Productions
Bobbie Ng, Kelly Lau / The Make Up Room
Annabelle Fernandez, Amanda McDougall, Kyla Zhao