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Preview: The TENG Ensemble Presents Heirlooms 《传承》 – Reimagining the Sounds of our Chinese Forefathers


If you know next to nothing about the music traditions of Chinese dialect groups, you’re not alone. But that’s precisely why local arts company TENG is here to educate you about them, with their brand new documentary-concert Heirlooms, that reimagines the sounds of Singapore’s Chinese forefathers on 11th October 2019.

Playing at the Esplanade Concert Hall, in support of the Singapore Bicentennial, the one-night-only showcase will premiere a repertoire of eight new commissioned works inspired by local Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka music traditions, performed with instruments found only in these folk ensembles. Unlike other concerts, Heirlooms will also utilise multimedia projections documenting interviews with first-generation masters, luthiers, instrument dealers and music protégés to give a visual element to the concert.

The concert also marks a highlight of The Forefathers Project, a four-year research journey by TENG and supported by Mapletree to uncover the origins of Singapore’s Chinese music. Featuring instruments such as the Gaohu (Cantonese), Nanpa (Hokkien), and Teochew Guzheng, TENG will integrate the folk traditions with contemporary styles and influences in their commissions to inspire greater appreciation of our rich heritage.

Says Co-Founder and Creative Director of TENG, Dr Samuel Wong: “Many of us may not be aware that Singapore’s early Chinese music was in fact migrant folk music from the south of China. To trace the lineage and evolution of the craft, we embarked on The Forefathers Project to learn the ebbs and flows of dialect music from these pioneers and share their legacy. Just like our forefathers who adapted and localised traditional music to make it our their own, we will also put a fresh spin to these folk tunes, which we hope can resonate with a wider audience at the Heirlooms concert.”

Some of the first-generation maestros featured in the documentaries include the late Mr Yeo How Jiang who started Singapore’s first Chinese orchestra, third-generation Chinese instrumental retailer Eng Tiang Huat, and protégés from the Siong Leng Musical Association. In the lead-up to the concert in October, TENG will also be adapting these anecdotes into a five-episode series on its Facebook (@theTENGensemble) and YouTube (@theTENGcompany) platforms to detail the uphill task and significance of preserving the folk music legacy in Singapore. Music videos of the new commissions will also be produced and hosted online after.

Heirlooms will be held at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 11th October 2019. Tickets available from SISTIC

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