Over the course of the circuit breaker, one thing we’ve been doing almost constantly is gluing ourselves to the TV. But this November, you could be watching television for a good cause.
Produced and directed by Rose Sivam, the Embrace Variety Show premieres this Sunday afternoon on MediaCorp Channel 5, featuring prominent local artists like Inch Chua, Sharda Harrison, Melissa Sidek, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, Masia One, Eileen Chai and Shawn De Mello. But it’s not just a show that’s set to showcase the stars; these artists have actually collaborated with migrant workers and domestic helpers to create new works and showcase these often unheard voices.
From a poem interpreted as a movement work, to a dance to dramatize a song, a violin accompaniment to a poignant Indonesian poem to an ode to mother earth rapped and performed in Bengali, heavy-metal style, switch on your television and enjoy these 10 original creations that span the gamut of music genres, languages and talent pay tribute to what it means to be living in Singapore at this moment, a chance to embrace art, people and stories.
“Embrace was inspired during the circuit breaker, a time to reflect and slow things down,” says Rose. “I work within the arts space as a producer, writer and director in film and video; and event curator. I design experiential dining events with different themes where food and entertainment – song, dance, a variety of the arts is featured – I am clued in to the underground and mainstream music and theatre scenes in Singapore and artists perform at my curated events.”
“With everyone at home continuing to work on individual projects and being aware of how the pandemic has affected each of us in different and same ways, I invited a number of artists I often collaborate with on my projects, to be a part of Embrace. The challenge was to create new and individual works inspired by works created by a migrant worker or domestic helper.”
“Each collaboration involved zoom meetings, and rehearsals, getting-to-know-you sessions as each local artist formed a relationship with their collaborating artist to understand the language and emotion the work of art was expressed in,” she adds. “For instance, in a poem written by Artika, a domestic helper who shares about her longing and missing of her loved ones while in Singapore, yet recognizing her chance to still connect across oceans because of her passion for poetry and being able to share her feelings this way. The poem Dipeluk Rindu sees her looking at the waves at West Coast beach and being under the stars on a dusky night in Singapore. Eileen Chai, well-known classical violinist and former national gymnast and swimmer, collaborates with a beautiful tune and melody and the result is touching, raw and true.”
Because of the restrictions on production, the process of getting the Embrace Variety Show completed hasn’t been an easy one, but Rose and her team got creative, and forged ahead in spite of the challenges. “Music production was done across various homes, with the singers recording their vocals individually in their own home studios,” says Rose. “These were then sent digitally to a professional music studio, with the music producer and arranger working over Zoom, text messages, emails, and sending samples before finally producing very different and unique songs, each on the theme of ‘Embrace’.”
On the impact she hopes the show achieves, Rose is confident that Embrace will be a powerful source of hope and inspiration for all viewers. “Everything is possible with a desire and focus and inspiration to drive the wish to collaborate and create, that’s exactly what art is about,” she says. “Despite the pandemic, art prevails and artists rise. Digital means, technology, a willingness to experiment, being pushed to get out of one’s comfort zones has shown us how beauty is persistent, and has a life of its own. Artists bring beauty to the fore.”
The Embrace Variety Show airs on 29th November 2020, 1.30pm, on MediaCorp Channel 5, and will also be available to watch on MeWatch.