Popular local tunes from decades past are getting a new lease of life. As part of the Pop-Up Noise initiative, The Great Singapore Replay sees 10 pairs of musicians putting their instruments together to remake 10 classic Singapore hits. The artists will perform these tunes in a Pop-Up Noise concert on September 9. In the weeks leading up to the concert, seven web episodes documenting this creative endeavor will be streamed online from Jul 13. Below, Tim De Cotta of The Getai Group, a creative arts curation agency, let us in on the curation process.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the first edition of The Great Singapore Replay. How did the idea come about?
The Great Singapore Replay (TGSR) is jointly presented by Temasek Holdings and the National Arts Council. When the idea was first floated, the organisations knew they wanted to do something involving music. They roped us (The Getai Group) in to develop the idea and curate the programme. For this edition, we decided to focus on English songs only, otherwise the scope becomes too vast. We identified prominent bands in different periods and their hits songs before arriving at this lineup of 25 songs.
Were there any guidelines you followed while shortlisting the lineup of artists? How did you go about identifying or pairing the 10 pairs of musicians?
There weren’t many guidelines apart from the fact that it should be a collaboration between two artists, one more senior than the other. Hence the pairing between emerging and established artists. What’s important is the notion of the collaboration itself, where established artists can share their experience while emerging artists bring to the table their inspirations and the latest music trends. Musically, every artist is talented in their own right. Umar Sirhan, for example, is a guy I found through another emerging artist. I saw Instagram videos of him playing the guitar and singing, and was impressed by his talent. I immediately reached out to him to come onboard for this project – his first big break in music.
The older generation will probably feel nostalgic about old hits. But how do you think these tunes will resonate with a younger audience?
That’s where the ten pairs come into play. I really think that Singapore music is present, and the whole idea is to give the tree of local music some roots. Right now, we see the crown of it with current acts, but we don’t really know the history behind the local music scene. That’s what the younger audience stands to gain, whether they’re trying to be creative or strike out on their own, to realise the struggles the original artists faced.
The Great Singapore Replay is not just about the music. It’s about nostalgia and memories. What explains the recent interest in all things retro? How does The Great Singapore Replay add to this conversation?
Popular culture moves in cycles. Now that we’re throwing back to the eighties, it’s only a matter of time before we go back to the fifties, and so on. I guess it’s bridging the gap because the things we saw growing up is so different from what kids these days – who grew up with technology – would encounter.
There’s interest in objects of the past, which were more tactile and not as transactional as things are today. People are waking up from being attached to screens. They want to talk to people, interact, and reflect. I believe the charms of yesteryear can be enhanced by technology.
Which songs do you hope will get chosen for the remake? Why are these tunes special to you?
I have a couple. Prior to this campaign, songs that left a mark on me while growing up in the ‘90s included Siti by Force Vomit and Don’t Cry by Naked. My sister and I used to sing along to the latter when it played on the radio. A couple of years back, when I performed at the Singapore Night Festival with some order artists, we had a go a playing our rendition of a few of these songs. That’s when I discovered the amazing harmony and arrangement behind Gingerbread’s Roses.
Photo credit: Henzy David