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Jaime Wong: Singapore’s soul sister

SINGAPORE — There is no doubt that there is quite a buzz about the Singapore English pop music scene now, an excitement not seen since perhaps in the 1960s or even the 1990s. One reason for the current revival, apart from the sheer number of musicians and bands showcasing their material, is that many of them have had a leg-up thanks to initiatives such as The Music Mentorship (TMM) under the Noise Mentorship Programme, created by the National Arts Council to develop young music artistes. Musicians who previously benefited from the programme include rapper Shigga Shay, Stopgap, wyd:syd and singer-songwriter Jaime Wong, who released her eponymous EP this week.

Jaime Wong: Singapore’s soul sister

Singapore singer-songwriter Jaime Wong says there's still more to go on her musical journey.

SINGAPORE — There is no doubt that there is quite a buzz about the Singapore English pop music scene now, an excitement not seen since perhaps in the 1960s or even the 1990s. One reason for the current revival, apart from the sheer number of musicians and bands showcasing their material, is that many of them have had a leg-up thanks to initiatives such as The Music Mentorship (TMM) under the Noise Mentorship Programme, created by the National Arts Council to develop young music artistes. Musicians who previously benefited from the programme include rapper Shigga Shay, Stopgap, wyd:syd and singer-songwriter Jaime Wong, who released her eponymous EP this week.

“The Noise Singapore audition was the first time I performed my original songs for a panel of professional judges,” Wong recalled. “I was really nervous as my songs had not been under much scrutiny prior to that. It gave me a lot of confidence and encouragement that the judges gave me a chance and put me in the programme so that I could share my songs on a public platform.”

Through the programme, Wong was provided with platforms normally unavailable to aspiring music artists, including opportunities to go on radio and television programmes, as well as grant money (when she won the Noise Singapore Award in 2012) that she has used to record her EP.

“To be honest, I kind of forgot that there was this S$5,000 grant component in the mentorship programme so it was a really pleasant surprise,” Wong explained. “The EP is funded mostly from the prize grant and it’s great to finally have it out as a representation of what Noise had so generously given me.”

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Wong. “The songs in the EP were actually written over a span of five years, from the time I went to Canberra to study till last year when I came back to Singapore after graduating,” she recounted, adding that she had to revise her songs until they were okay. “It was easy to dupe yourself into thinking that the songs were of an acceptable standard because they took up so much time and money, but I was lucky to have an honest producer (Leonard Soosay) to tell me that those initial two songs weren’t cutting it for the EP and to make the changes in order to put out a better product.”

Due to her lack of technical training in music, getting the song arrangements right proved to be challenging for Wong. She had to explain to Soosay and her band members — Mark John Hariman on electric guitars, Josh Wei on violin, Lisa Haryono on cello and piano, Mah Chen Zhong on bass and Lee Liang Hong on drums — what the song was supposed to sound like in abstract terms.

“It can get frustrating, especially when I just don’t know how to put what I feel and what I wish to invoke in my music in words,” she said. “Thankfully, my band members are very seasoned and professional; and through jamming sessions and communication we were able to come up with arrangements that we were all satisfied with.”

Judging from the final result, it all worked out very well. The four-track offering, which will be launched in a showcase in May at Lepark (on the rooftop of People’s Park Complex) hearkens back to earthy ’70s folk-pop, laced with melancholy musings on lost love and an intense sincerity that will win over the most hardened of sceptics. Tracks such as Skin and To Lost Love (a duet with fellow singer-songwriter Nicholas Chim) pull heart strings effortlessly, with Wong’s mellifluous vocals the proverbial icing on the cake. But Wong is self-effacing enough to recognise that she is still on a journey.

“I guess for me, it will just be about writing and learning and writing and learning. I’d also love to try out new mediums and experiment with new sounds to put them in a new record.”

 

Jaime Wong launches her EP on May 15, 7.30pm at Lepark, People’s Park Complex rooftop. Tickets from http://jaimewongep.peatix.com. You can buy the EP on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/album/jaime-wong-ep/id979791050)

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