As entertainment venues begin live shows across the country, Singaporeans are flocking to nightlife venues. After two years of Covid, it looks like things are heating up again in the local entertainment scene.
But last Friday, the heat turned north, as Republic Polytechnic hosted its annual IGNITE! Music Festival.
Organized and hosted at RP’s Republic Cultural Center (TRCC) by staff and students, this year’s concert marks 15 years of celebrating local music, performed live again after two years of virtual performances.
I’m a 3rd year RP student but never had the chance to attend the festival in person before. So last weekend was an experience I will never forget. I even had the chance to talk to some offstage artists (like Shigga Shay!).
IGNITE! is more than just a concert for polytechnic students to blow their heads off after their classes on Fridays. It provides an opportunity for up-and-coming local artists (some of whom are RP alumni) to announce themselves to the world and for students who enjoy working behind the scenes to get a taste of running a show.
The festival, held on July 29 and 30, was largely youth-led – the majority were students, from emcees and backstage staff to ushers and crowd control bouncers.
Day 1 started from 6 p.m. on Friday and consisted of six acts. Day 2 began at 4 p.m. and had eight acts in total. Most performances took place in TRCC’s main theater, but on Day 2 three acts were performed in a more intimate setting at one of TRCC’s studios.
Each act played a 30-minute set. But most of them were overwhelmed by the cheers of the crowd!
@rpradiate909THATS A WRAP 🔥✨ If you’ve heard our music or our amazing hosts talk and you liked what you heard, then follow us for more content! Only here on RP Radiate909🤩🤩🤩🤩♬ Green Light (feat. André 3000) – John Legend
With a lineup of 14 artists performing over two days, a lot of planning had to be done. Festival producer and PR staff member Wong Li Wern, 33, took four to five months to plan IGNITE! — one of the TRCC’s three major annual events.
“This year, IGNITE! is very different – we are finally live after two years and it felt more like a friends reunion than a big show,” said Li Wern.
She added that this year’s lineup was different from previous years. Instead of sticking to one genre per day, the lineup has bands with different musical styles taking turns.
“This way we can build a stronger music community,” said the festival producer.
It was an electric experience to be in a live room. I spoke with a few artists after their set, and the first thing they told me was how sweaty they were!
Yet I could still feel their excitement, feeding off the crowd. You could still feel the buzz and adrenaline off stage!
Mistress of ceremonies Shalini Nair, 19, from the RP School of Health and Recreation, said being in front of the crowd was an experience she would never forget.
She said, “The energy from the crowd was electric! I tried my best to bring the same energy back to the audience, which was the most amazing thing about the animation.
Most of the artists, like Marian Carmel and Feez or bands like Saints Amongst Sinners, were performing at IGNITE! for the first time, while others like local rapper Shigga Shay or bands like Bakers in Space and Tell Lie Vision are IGNITE veterans! arrange.
@dilfhunterxhi forgot to take a video of the first performance 🥲♬ original sound – markraggio
Passion & Compassion was the theme for IGNITE!’s 15th anniversary, and many artists told me about their goals and dreams for Singapore’s future. Coming together to perform on stage after so long was a first for many of them.
I managed to catch their performances and was able to chat with them backstage as they walked off set.
Tell lie Vision
Tell Lie Vision – consisting of Irfan Samsuri (bass), Hairul Azman (guitar), Vikkash Suruchand (vocalist) and Lester Chua (drummer) – are former RP students.
Having played IGNITE! four times as alumni, they were back again last weekend.
The band members told me that the occasion was even more special because they grew up in RP and they grew up in IGNITE!. They were the first bands to start playing at the festival, and they will continue to perform in the future.
“Jamming with others in RP was like a stepping stone for us – so now to get into the real world of music is really a test,” Vikkash said.
Saints among sinners
Saints Amongst Sinners is a 7-man band who call themselves a shoegaze band (a subgenre of indie and alternative rock) because they don’t stick to one sound. They were playing IGNITE! for the first time.
As a band with many differing opinions, they don’t like to catalog the music they make and hint that they have a new sound to share in their upcoming releases.
The Keytar Day player and singer also shared that she and a few others started a grassroots movement called DayCares Singapore: They’ve helped 260 low-income families for a year now!
“Don’t be afraid to grow and see what it means you can do,” she says.
Bakers in space
Bakers in Space is a group of four men (Eugene, Ernest, Hakim & Hafi) present on the local music scene for nine years.
An independent experimental post-psychedelic rock band, they began to find their own sounds outside of rock.
They too have a strong sense of giving back to the community and would like to work with organizations that can help others, especially migrant workers, who they believe have been neglected by many in our society.
The new modern lights
Another of the performers who rocked was The New Modern Lights – a band soon to release their debut album – and teased that the new album might not be the kind of sound people would expect from them, which makes it more intriguing!
Singer-songwriter Esther Lo, 26, who goes by her Chinese name Layyi on stage, performed on Day 2.
An opinionated person, she is convinced that an artist is defined in a box and is not afraid to write about it. She doesn’t feel the need to always identify who she really is and what she can bring.
“Take your time to find out who you are; there is no single answer,” she told me.
Coming together to celebrate Passion and Compassion
“I love when an artist produces tracks that tell a story,” says Firdaus, the frontman of eight-man band Space Walk.
But one thing that moved me, aside from the cheering crowd, was how every act I saw on stage, even the solo performers, cherished the rest of their band like family. (Feez’s DJ was actually his cousin!).
It transcends words when you see the chemistry of a band playing together – that’s the power of a live performance.
“One kampung, one family – playing with friends is the best part of a band,” said the members of Saints Amongst Sinners, speaking one after another.
It’s a special moment to see artists having fun with their best friends. Shigga Shay, who was solo, even brought a whole crew of friends to IGNITE for a surprise performance with him on stage.
They jokingly refer to themselves as Team +65: made up of Omar Kenobi, Aisyah Aziz, DJ Nash and several others. Shigga insisted that it wouldn’t be about passion and compassion if he didn’t have his friends there.
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Marian Carmel, also a solo performer, told the crowd how excited she was to see her friends playing the other instruments during her set – even giving them a special onstage shoutout.
As Layyi advised budding artists, “The only thing holding you back is you. If you have the right community of people to support you, then go for it.
As IGNITE! host Shalini Nair told me at the end of the concert, “Music connects us where words or actions cannot and creates everlasting memories.”
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