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While the stage is set for budding musicians, the artistes must also play a part in promoting themselves, says Mathews (left), seen here with Adia Tay at Original Sing

Talent spotting through music series

It has taken decades but support for local music is at an all-time high, judging from the full houses at Esplande's annual Baybeats festival and the Sing50 mega-concert last weekend. It looks set for further growth as passionate music lovers step up to organise their own festivals and music series to showcase homegrown bands.
Aug 14, 2015 5:50 AM

YOU could say Kevin Mathews is paying it forward by curating two music series - Original Sing and StageFright - for budding singer-songwriters to be heard over the past two-and-a-half years.

The veteran musician-producer- rock critic certainly didn't have it this good when he was starting out with his own band, the now-defunct Watchmen, back in 1989. Then, the homegrown music scene was largely an underground movement and there was little support for it.

But with the Internet and social media, things started to change in the new millennium and the 54-year-old noticed that the local "live" music scene in the last three years in particular has begun to flourish as artistes found more opportunities to play and people started to sit up and listen.

He attributes the mindset change to a few factors. "I think a new generation of music lovers has emerged from mid-teens upwards that has accepted local music at face value," explains Mathews. "Also, the presence of music schools in Lasalle, Temasek Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic et al has improved the level of musicianship exponentially."

Several grants which the National Arts Council has introduced for artistes to record and release their music has also added buzz to the overall scene, he adds. "More new music, more launches and happily, more fans of the music!" says Mathews.

The well-received Original Sing and StageFright showcases - the former is for slightly more established acts and the latter for newcomers - he has been curating at Artistry Cafe and Art Gallery in Kampong Glam are testaments to the growth. "(I have) no problem finding performers," says Mathews, "I am proud to state that thus far for StageFright, we have never repeated featured artists. And the quality is there as well."

Having both showcases running for two-and-a-half years "is a bit of an achievement" but equally satisfying is "the fact that new talent songwriters and performers spring up on a consistent basis".

Original Sing alumnus include Noise Singapore Award winner Jaime Wong and The Little Giant. "For me personally, these showcases also introduce me to young singer-songwriters I can work with to hopefully develop and mature further," states Mathews.

While the stage is set for budding musicians, the artistes must also play a part in promoting themselves if they are serious about being heard, he stresses.

"Artistes must also take responsibility for getting friends, families and fans to come to the gig," says Mathews. "A prime example is a few years back, I organised Sing a New Song at the Library @ Esplanade with one of the featured artists being a very fresh Sam Willows playing their first show. When I saw that the band had brought around 60 people to watch them, I knew that they were going to be big!"