August 31, 2023
SINGAPORE – Prepare to be transported in more ways than one at MRT and LRT stations and bus interchanges.
On Wednesday, the National Arts Council (NAC) and Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) and launched national music movement Hear65’s I Play SG Music campaign. It is one of several that aim to enliven commuting spaces through music, poetry and busking, and thus widen avenues of exposure to Singapore’s art in public spaces.
From Wednesday, local artistes will have their music broadcast daily to more than three million commuters across 122 SMRT-operated MRT and LRT stations – on the platforms of the North-South, East-West, Circle and Thomson-East Coast lines – as well as the Choa Chu Kang, Woodlands and Bukit Panjang bus interchanges, from 7 to 10am, noon to 2pm, and 4.30 to 8.30pm.
The Bukit Panjang LRT stations will play the tracks from 7 to 10am, 11.30am to 2.30pm, and 5 to 8pm.
The year-long campaign boasts three different playlists featuring at least 50 unique songs from 53 Singaporean artistes. The playlists will be updated every quarter.
Some of the artistes come from renowned music labels like Universal Music Singapore, Warner Music Singapore and Sony Music Singapore. To highlight undiscovered gems, artistes signed to indie music labels such as Where Are The Fruits and Ocean Butterflies have been included as well.
Expect a wide range of genres, from the pop-rock of singer Rene to the synth-pop stylings of Sun Cell to the dream-pop rock of Saints Amongst Sinners.
In commemoration of the landmark collaboration, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling said: “This campaign will transform the SMRT public transport system into a very dynamic stage to showcase our home-grown talent and enable them to reach new audiences.”
She added: “No matter how good the music, you still need the platform. And SMRT has many platforms, right?”
Singaporean musicians Ng Zheng Yao and Marian Carmel Saturno, both 26, were invited to perform their songs For No Reason and Pause + Reset respectively at the launch event at Bras Basah MRT station.
Ng, who goes by the stage name YAØ, said: “I never thought this day would come. It feels like the next step forward for local music to be played all around Singapore. There is a belief that the Government doesn’t think local music is good enough, but this campaign proves otherwise.”
Saturno, who moved here from the Philippines when she was five, said starting out in the Singapore music industry is difficult. She freelances as a musician and teaches English enrichment classes for primary school pupils to make ends meet.
The Lasalle College of the Arts alumna said NAC’s presentation and participation grant helped finance her 2021 debut album To You, To Me, adding: “It really helps to have some form of support from the Government.
“People may not know of local music because the mindset of supporting local artistes isn’t present. Local artistes receive discouraging comments from Singaporeans such as, ‘Hidden talent? Keep it hidden.’ Such a large-scale project will help to shift the perspective of Singaporeans.”
Even though the I Play SG Music campaign is a step in the right direction, Saturno and Ng feel that more affordable performance venues for independent artistes and arts grants would be galvanising changes for Singapore’s music industry.
She said: “This initiative will help us get more streams, but streaming is not our main source of income. Our main income is through working gigs. Community and audience building sustains the longevity of our careers rather than a brief spike of listeners for one song.”
Following this campaign, NAC will introduce two other initiatives under the MOU – a literary arts initiative where commuters can encounter local poems and prose in SMRT trains, and a busking pilot in collaboration with Art:Dis to provide buskers with disabilities accessible platforms to showcase their musical talents at train stations across the island.