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Fashionista, musician for The Sam Willows, theatrical performer, motivational speaker (TEDxYouth) and an artist at FLY Entertainment - everyone wants a piece of Benjamin Kheng. He is no stranger to the entertainment industry and epitomizes the definition of an ideal boyfriend material.
His modesty, charisma and aptitude resulted to his gamut of followers both locally and internationally. Attributing his inclination towards music, Ben recalled when his mother played the sweeping melodies of Yanni and Richard Clayderman on the stereo as he danced, and she whispered “stick to music”.
A familiar face in the local music scene, Ben makes up the Folk-Pop quartet The Sam Willows. Having performed at an array of places such as Los Angeles, Toronto, Austin, Seoul, Gangnam, Perth, and Marina Bay - Ben recollected on the knowledge earned.
“It has taught me that you can and will screw up all the time. And you shouldn’t run from those moments, because that’s how you measure yourself eventually. As an artist now I’m also much more aware of the commercial potential in any work of art.”
Ben elicits his inspirations from Marcus Mumford who weaves complex lyrical ideas of Shakespeare and the Bible (the darker areas) into commercial music while Jason Robert Brown is able to put a spin to the Musical Theatre world such a rebirth with Folk / Rock inclinations, and some of the best modern storytelling.
These influences generated can be seen through his originals Father Father and State of Origin. Steering away from his usual vocal melodies, Ben strived for a newer sound as he felt that he was given a platform for a reason, and if people were listening to him, he had better have something good and important to say.
Personally I am an ardent fan of Father Father Ft Gentle Bones, it comes across as a genuine and relatable track about a father’s undying love for his children.
The lyrics explores the abject darkness of growing up as a child himself “Disease that took your wife, Momma’s gone but that’s just life/ Running from bullies of the day/ Toils the earth brings home the bread like nobody else can.”
Initially Ben had to overcome the fear of putting something so personal into a public space. “If my dad could’ve overcome all of life’s curveballs and still remain the awesome man he is, I could do most anything, including writing a little slam poetry.”
Taking a dip into the world of theatre, Ben was greatful to be a part of the musical Ah Boys To Men, as he took on the role as recruit Ken Chow. It was by far the craziest and biggest stage work that he has ever done. Despite being a new kid on the block (in the muscial), Ben admitted that the ABTM family was so welcoming, and their fans were absolutely crazy (in a good way) that they packed up Resort World Sentosa almost every single day.
Amidst the glory, it involved a surplus of hard work - quick changes, choreography, fight scenes, singing, and shouting. In addition, he had to juggle his gigs with The Sam Willows. “I pretty much drowned my throat in honey lemon tea that month. Still, I would do it all over again.”
Sharing with us on his most memorable experience as a performer, in 2013, he was doing a musical and in one scene, the co-actor and Ben took a couple of swigs from the beer bottles and launched into a 4-minute song.
The bottles were filled with water initially. However on the last show, the stage managers pranked the cast and swapped it with fresh beer. The BEST part - Ben didn’t inform them that he was allergic to beer. “By mid-song, my throat was closing up, I was getting beetroot red, and I sounded like s**t. And my co-actor had to pretend he was drunk and “douchebaggy” while mouthing “are you okay?” now and again. It was hilarious, on hindsight. Aspirin saved my life.”
Photo Credits: Benjamin Kheng, FLY Entertainment, Joel Photography
The local music scene has been sky rocketing over the past couple of years with emerging local bands from divergent backgrounds. Indie Pop quintet Take Two and Contemporary Ethnic trio SA will be performing in Beijing from 22nd-26th of April 2015 - SGMUSO Live Showcase. This is a collective effort between The Music Society, Singapore (SGMUSO) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
The two acts have been streamlined from a total of 70 hopeful bands that responded to SGMUSO’s first of three Open Calls. They were being judged upon by four local music industry players and China/ Hong Kong based industry players Justin Sweeting (Artist Voice Asia, Clockenflap Festival) & Ed Peto (Outdustry).
The showcase will run in parallel with Singapore: Inside Out (SG:IO), a travelling showcase to commemorate Singapore’s contemporary creative talents across various disciplines. Led by STB as part of the SG50 celebrations, SG:IO seeks to broaden the international community’s perception of Singapore through a diverse presentation of creative works in Beijing, London, New York and Singapore from April to December 2015.
Take Two has certainly made a name for itself in Singapore with their anticipated EP PAIRS set to launch on 18th April at Aliwal Arts Centre. Established in 2012, the quintet stems their music directions from genres such as Brit-rock, Jazz and Indie-Pop. Amassing positive feedback from renowned publications such as NYLON and Radsound UK, the band also won the 2014 NOISE Music Mentorship and has locked their music tours in Thailand and Spain.
Debuting in 2001, SA trio adapted their name from the Northern Chinese dialect, 仨, which means three, as a tribute to their traditional Chinese roots. The trio incorporates modern techniques such as live looping, and has also performed at Shenzhen Fringe Festival in China. “This will be a chance to showcase how Chinese traditional music in Singapore has had a chance to transform into something uniquely Singaporean. We appreciate the greater exposure to the genre that we are trying to promote.”
The good news does not STOP here so listen up! The second Open Call, specific to London will run from 20th to 26th April 2015, while the third Open Call for New York will run from 13th to 19th July 2015. Find out more through SGMUSO's website !
Could he be Singapore’s 50 Cent dope swagger rapper? Picking up the art of rapping at a tender age of 10, Mark Bonafide has sealed a range of performances with A-lister international acts by opening for The Black Eye Peas and Craig David. In addition, this bonafide rapper has also won the COMPASS award for the best local song for So Bonafide with Don Richmond.
Stemming his influences from artists such as Prince and Pharrell Williams, he states that the duo has inspired him to be true to his craft and the image that he hopes to portray. As they are able to sail across boundaries to create sounds and be trend setters.
Aside from performing across countries such as Russia, India, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, Mark puts his flair for rapping to the test as he anticipates the release of his upcoming album LV/RBL’ (Love Rebel) in May. Mastered by acclaimed Grammy winner Reuben Cohen, the album strives to bring together a wealth of real life and musical experiences to address the idea of loving rebelliously, on one’s own terms.
Teasing us before the album launch, Mark recently released his single You Thought FT Taufik Batisah. The song encapsulates how a girl can cause a guy to feel so special but in actual fact she treats any other guy the same way which leads to a bittersweet feeling.
The bass guitar riffs rain down like a hypnotic bomb, the track musters pure energy and expression with the motor-mouthed mojo rap by Mark and mellifluous vocals by Taufik. The track is a lucid and communicative, pushing the tunes beyond its surrounding texture.
Mark recalls the experience while recording the track with Taufik. “He is another brother right here. We started out making music when we were in NS, my original musical partner in crime when we formed the duo "Bonafide". So to me, there is a sense of familiarity and a homely feeling when we get together to do something creative.”
Well aside from being a rapper, I guess many of you will not have expected this but Mark does have a sweet tooth and started his dessert line called “BonafiDesserts”. He raps, sings and bakes - I guess he encapsulates everything of Mr Perfect!
Photo Credits: Mark Bonafide
A marketer by day, musician and blogger by night Emily Haw thrives in the local music industry to be a Chinese Indie artist. There were various cumbersome circumstances which she had to overcome, this included her song 勇敢的泪 (Yong Gan De Lei ) which would never be published for a mainstream commercial artist. Many of us are strongly attuned with the English music scene, however what compelled me to Emily’s craft is her writing abilities to relatable life experiences.
Rooting her influences from bands such as Imogen Heap, Mayday and JS who have shaped her as an artist- Emily was fortunate to work on the opening and closing song for Gacha Gacha (がちゃ、がちゃ) a Japan-Singapore animation series, titled 未來Mirai (The Future) and 友達Tomodachi (Friend). “It was a really fun and interesting experience, to think that although I have been mainly writing Chinese songs, the first two songs that I’ve sold as a writer were actually in Japanese” (I didn’t write the lyrics, of course, I worked with a Japanese lyricist).
The release of her Mandarin EP 勇敢的泪 this April is highly anticipated and consists of Waiting 等(Deng) and four new tracks. This release will consist of songs close to her heart which revolves around love, family, friendship and strength. 勇敢的泪, the title track, depicts the story of a little girl who is torn between her parent’s divorce as they fight over her for custodial rights. The song was mooted to encourage the girl to be strong, and in time to come she will eventually comprehend the situation.
Forming a strong connection with the track, the main drive which spurred Emily during the production of this song was hope that the special person would be able to listen to it and relate to the message behind it. She feels that other children may be going through the same situation as this child too and thus hopes that this song would encourage them to stay strong.
Showing her gratitude to her mother’s zealous effort while raising her, Mother is a Chinese rendition of the original song written by Japanese singer-songwriter Yumemi Ikeda. Both collaborators wrote it with the intention to express the surplus of love and gratitude to all mothers’ for their painstaking efforts.
To commemorate Mother’s Day, Emily will be putting out an open call to the public and fans to submit photos of themselves together with their mothers on Instagram with the hashtag #ilovemom2015. Selected photos will be included in the making of the music video which will be released on 10 May 2015, Mother’s Day! The digital album will be available on all major platforms including iTunes and Spotify. The Chinese version of MOTHER has also been released on Sony Japan’s music site, Mora.jp.
Kicking off promptly at 7pm, a shy and petite female vocalist clad in a black dress greeted the calm crowd. I’m certain that many of us were deceived by Linying’s reserved nature, when she started her opening for stillsunrise’s EP launch - We were enchanted by her demure and fragile vocals.
Her set reminded me of the band How To Dress Well as she managed her transition from her chest to head voice phenomenally well. I love how she used the backing track, loops from her laptop which synced effortlessly with her vocals and keyboard.
Welcoming Jon Chan on stage for the remaining duet, the duo took the crowd on a magical journey for her original Miles as Linying’s sultry vocals rode over the acoustic tapestry of chords strummed by Jon. The verses were taut and punchy; the two worked in tandem and proved to be an unexpected triumph.
Coupled with a range of originals such as Horizon, Sticky Leafs and Speak Up Sailor, the audience received occasional jolts from the contrast between its sound and lyrical themes. The harmonies complemented each other perfectly and both artists are capable of making you cringe, albeit for wholly different reasons. However, it was a pity that the technical glitch caused Jon's guitar volume to drown out his vocal.
The Esplanade Theatre Studio suited the acoustics set up of stillsunrise and the intimate setting enabled the crowd to form a closer bond with the band. Decked in shirts and jeans, the four bashful guys acknowledged and expressed their gratitude to the crowd for making it a sold out launch for “Colours In Black”. Aside from playing their singles from the EP, they gave us a sneak peek to songs such as Something New and Stars.
The quartet took an artistic and mature approach to most of their singles, they possess the ability to take sombre subjects and turn them into exhilarating anthems which are stimulating. Glen’s vaporous falsetto together with Yuresh’s baritone and gritty midrange voice soared gloriously on songs such as Doctor, For Now and Permission To Dream.
I felt like I was in a mythical doll house seeking to unravel some hidden treasure due to the flourished and lustrous string arrangements by Johnson’s violin. The alluring, loopy and sweet psychedelic vocals and instrumental arrangements worked wonders. Interchanging between his bass guitar and keyboard, Winston’s showmanship was impeccable. This brought about a sense of dramatic dynamics and gritty groove.
Ending the launch on a high note with Stars, it exuded an Imagine Dragon feel. With Glen banging on the Toms, swift layered grooves and bassline, all of these boasted a great swagger and enhanced the overall appeal.
Despite the technical glitches, the band was unfazed by them and it was an astounding performance!
Photo Credits: stillsunrise and GM Mell