Sembawang Music Festival


Gashaus ponders on the meaning of originality and whether Singapore’s really ready for new things.


I?was at the movies on Friday (one good thing about my job, I can keep weird hours) and these bunch of girls were chattering about the Backside, pardon, Backstreet Boys on their comeback tour. Not as in Come Back, Shane, but come back, Cher. Well, I have to admit, for a group of twenty-somethings that have had as many spoofs of their songs (I have all of them) as they have had hits (I have none of them), they are doing well.

Of course, marketing to young teenagers who have no sense of the concept of music is simple. Put a pretty face on the cover and sell. Well, the crux of the conversation was on how great the tickets were priced. Apparently, kids today are really affluent. $100 a piece to watch four people prance around on stage and lip-sync to recorded songs is a good price. But strangely, buying a ticket at $75 for two days of entertainment isn’t.

sujin thomas sucksI’m referring, of course, to the Sembawang Music Festival at Sembawang Park, which began from Friday evening till Saturday night. The event that was sadly under-attended.

Sad not because the organizers did a bad job, or because it sucked, but because it demonstrated that most Singaporeans remain just as narrow-minded and conventional as they have, and sadder because not enough people were there to cheer the performers on. Who, incidentally, rocked.

I’m not a personal friend of Malcolm. This is not special publicity for him to lament the poor publicity he had, or the loss he made on the event. That’s for himself to lament.?No, this is publicity to lament the possibility that Sembawang, and other festivals may never find a ground to grow on in this island, because we remain too mainstream.

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I invited all the friends I could to attend Sembawang Music Festival. They weren’t music freaks like I was. They were normal people who listened to Backstreet Boys and this-or-that pop group, and they LOVED Sembawang.

There were really great bands that stood on stage and played awesome sets, and it was fantastic. All except the crowd, who roared and cheered them on as best they could. About half a dozen rows or so worth of a crowd, incidentally, comprised mostly of expatriates, with the occasional local hopping up and down like mad.

It made me wonder why Singaporeans are so resistant to change, to new experiences, to try out new things. How often do you take a chance on things? Perhaps I get a chance to step out of my boundaries more often, because of the kind of work I do, but even so, not as often as I like.

A friend of mine about two months back decided to take a chance on things and just up and left U.S.A to migrate to Bangkok. No job, just a knapsack on his back. That took guts. Ask the average Singaporean if he or she would do that. You might get a yes about once every hundred people or so.

Our obsession with certainties in life has become our bondage. It has become the ultimate tie-down of our life, without a doubt our biggest weakness. The saddest thing is, we did it to ourselves. We’ve become more “Westernized” than the Westerners are.

Our brains are full of mainstream culture, that isn’t necessarily good, just popular. But perhaps, just like any boy who has dipped his hand into the candy shop, we’ll get sated and sick of it, and move on to try out new stuff. And someday, I’ll be able to watch Oz on Channel 5, and not have to go to town to catch an independent or foreign film, and have the chance to catch indie bands at music festivals more often.