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“What started out as a hobby is slowly becoming a career choice. I'm putting all of myself into music and the pursuit of making music all around the world is really quite consuming.”
How many musicians in Singapore are given the chance to perform on numerous platforms especially grandeur ones? Well, you’ve to be at top form for that to happen, and the boy next door is a perfect embodiment. Despite his prime age, actor cum artist Nathan Hartono has helmed various achievements under his belt including releasing three albums and remains modest to date.
Aside from emerging as the winner of 2005 Teenage Icon singing completion (which Nathan cites as the craziest thing that he’s ever done), Nathan’s been gaining exposure across countries such as America, Finland, Slovakia and London. He’s also performed at Mosaic Music Festival, Java Jazz Festival and Asian Youth Games.
Regardless of the shuffling between Jakarta and Singapore, Nathan still relishes the journey. “The interesting thing about it (I feel) is that because the music scenes in Singapore and Jakarta are so separated from each other, it's almost like I'm leading two lives. I'm the real life Hannah Montana (but not).”
Although Nathan has had his taste on big stages, he admits that his most memorable gig was at a bookstore- which is rather surprising! “Honestly, the most memorable gig I've done in recent memory was this tiny thing I did in a local bookstore (BooksActually). Very small space, probably 30-40 people there, max. I did a full set of original music, and there was just something about telling stories to an audience, surrounded by the stories of hundreds of thousands of brilliant minds. It was magical from where I stood. I loved that little show.”
Berklee College is known to be a prestigious music school in Boston and many musicians are clamouring for a place. If that doesn’t impress you, artists such as Gavin DeGraw, John Mayer and Corrine May are alumni from Berklee.
Nathan is one of the talented chaps who secured his position to hone his craft for music further. “It's broadened my horizons infinitely. It's shown me such a big world of amazing music, heart, talent, dedication and everything. It's made me realize just how small I am and how much more I have left on my journey in music. It terrified me, it inspired me, and it changed me. I love it!”
Recalling on his most memorable YouTube collaboration, Nathan added: “When I wrote a song with Inch Chua YEARS ago (Birthday). It was probably one of my first collaborations with another musician, pretty much ever. I was so nervous and hesitant, because that process was something that was so alien to me. But I loved it so much, also we had tons of fun writing and recording it."
Also a couple of years ago, he was looking for that song they wrote together on YouTube just to reminisce. Nathan stumbled upon a video of a Japanese duo singing his song at a random bar in Tokyo - which made him flabbergasted!
Nathan doesn’t need to corral across a continuum of styles as he remains true to his form instead of mimicking his idols which roots from Ben Folds to Michael Jackson. Admiring their musicianship, writing and adventurous spirit which have led them to be successful musicians across a wavelength.
“I think what was life changing for me was when I started doing original music at live shows, posting it up on the internet etc. and then getting feedback for it. That was a game changer because all of a sudden people were not just enjoying my voice or whatever. They were connecting with me on a different level, past the music and into my heart and mind. When I fully grasped that concept, that people were actually digging the stuff I wrote, I got pretty hooked to it. That changed a lot of things.”
He’s captured the hearts of many females with his endearing and sweet disposition. Well one may think that he is made for the cameras however he simply hates them! Nathan possesses the voice and flow that fit the nooks and crannies of productions across the musical spectrum. His prolific energy and multitude of emotions are infectious in most of his videos and volatility of falsetto coos.
A remarkable success indeed, do keep up with him through his social media channels as he’s been busy filming for an upcoming production and also materials for his next EP! On behalf of the fans Nathan - WE SIMPLY CAN'T WAIT!
Making Singapore proud at Asia’s Got Talent against other rivals, Fathin Amira received a standing ovation with her rendition of Mamma Knows Best.
Straddling with swag akin to Beyoncé Knowles and possessing a power house falsetto like Christina Aguilera during her audition, Amira had control over her unbridled voice without losing a smidge of spontaneity. The dextrous vocalist also made it to the semi finals and is flying our country’s flag high. Showing us that mama knows best indeed, Fathin credits her mum for the artist she is today.
This is by far the biggest opportunity that she has ever experienced.“Asia's Got Talent is a great platform for extraordinary talents, it’s okay to be a little bit ambitious right? My dream is to be an international singer, who inspires & aspires. If your dreams don't scare/thrill you, means they're not big enough. This is big, and this is real. This could be it, for me.”
Despite contesting against strong contenders from the Philippines which has boasted a wealth of international signers like Charice Pempengco and Christian Bautista, Fathin is brimming with perseverance in order to achieve her dream.
“I’m truly blessed to be part of this big production and I’m hoping to get the support again. The production team is so accommodating, professional and open to new ideas. All the tears, hard work and patience, everything paid off! I can't wait to show the world what I've been working on for exactly 7 years (ever since Singapore Idol in 2009).”
Yes the thought of SG Idol may feel like eons ago, however Fathin has also amassed her experiences from other platforms such as the The Final 1, Youth Olympic Games, ITE College East, charity shows and her Dad’s solo concert.
It is indeed a dream come true, from listening to her granny’s oldies/ pop keroncong songs from her karaoke set- she is soaring high across Singapore’s border. Her granny taught her the art of singing and this led to her liking for evergreen hits.
Recalling about her first musical experience in 1997, Fathin performed for the Knowledge Base Economy Convention, where she sang alongside Najib Ali, Zubir Abdullah and Abdul Ghani. This was attended by the then Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong.
In addition, her Malay debut single "Sebenarnya" was also nominated in APM for Most Popular Song. Obtaining her song writing inspirations from Tori Kelly, Fathin feels that Tori is an artist who is able to relate her feelings both lyrically and musically to reality.
“It’s been about 7 years odd in this industry ever since Singapore Idol (2009). I was rather reserved and shy when I first started in Singapore Idol. After SG Idol, I joined my Dad's wedding band, and ITE Showchoir. That's where the real thing started, singing in front of the guests, and new sets of audiences every weekend. I learned a lot of new repertoires from both of these platforms.”
With a little more refining, I’m certain that her contributions to the music society will not only be recognized in Singapore but also internationally. Who knows Fathin might be inducted into a Hall Of Fame - maybe the next Yuna?!
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