In celebration of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay’s 20th anniversary, the centre presents PopLore – A Year of Singapore Popular Music, a year-long exploration of Singapore’s epic, storied and vibrant popular music from the 1960s to the present and beyond. Produced in consultation with music industry veteran Lim Sek and emerging from the seismic disruption to the scene that is COVID-19, PopLore celebrates the power of music across generations, language and geography, and seeks to spur conversations and reflection on the way forward.
Said Melissa Poon, Programmer, The Esplanade Co Ltd: “As Singapore’s national performing arts centre, we have always been clear that what we do through the arts at Esplanade should uplift spirits, offer hope, and celebrate the stories that tie us together. As we mark our milestone 20th anniversary during these unprecedented times, we want to do something to galvanise the music scene which has been badly hit by the pandemic and to renew a sense of community after a prolonged period of being physically apart for many of us. With PopLore, we come together to celebrate and raise appreciation for Singapore popular music and its history, and document popular Singapore music across generations and cultures, sharing insights that will allow us to build up the music scene of the future.”
Says Esplanade Head of Music Amy Ho: “When we conceived the series, we identified a spectrum of genres and wanted to celebrate Singapore Pop with concerts, both in terms of music veterans who have shaped the scene, and young musicians. The aim was to showcase the histories and stories that haven’t been told, and we wanted to feature them throughout our 20th anniversary season to showcase these popular music forms, where we document the larger story looking back and looking forward, especially coming out of this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.”
In its first iteration, PopLore presents a series of live concerts from January to December 2022 across the four major languages, and featuring a roster of luminaries in the Singapore music scene such as Dick Lee, Jeremy Monteiro, Marcus Chin and Najip Ali, as well as younger artists including Charlie Lim, Fauzie Laily, Izzathy Halil, Nathan Hartono, Olivia Ong, Shabir and The Freshman.
PopLore kicked off on 1st Jan 2022 as Malay pop icons past and present rang in the new year in Gemilang, a celebratory yet intimate showcase in the Esplanade Concert Hall hosted by Najip Ali and Nurul Aini, with performances by well-loved Singapore artists including Fauzie Laily, Hyrul Anuar, Izzathy Halil, Huda Raman and more.
On 12th February, XingPop 2.0, presented as part of Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts, celebrates the growth of Singapore’s Mandarin pop music scene by tracing the creative journeys and innovations of musical trailblazers in the past two decades. This is a sequel to the first XingPop concert held as part of Esplanade’s Opening Festival in 2002 and will feature performances by homegrown talents including Olivia Ong, Nathan Hartono, The Freshman, Hong Junyang and many more.
In March 2022, as part of A Date With Friends, three concerts—performed in English, Mandarin and Malay—celebrate Singapore’s rich music legacy. Blast from the Past will be hosted by esteemed Rediffusion DJ and local television personality, Larry Lai, and brings together members of three extraordinary groups: John and Raymond of The Crescendos, brothers Mel and Joe Ferdinands and Peter Diaz, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the rock and roll quartet The October Cherries (also known as Singapore’s very own Beatles).
Getai in Retrospect celebrates the unique legacy of getai through music, storytelling and multimedia presentations. Hosted by household names Marcus Chin and Lee Pei Fen, the concert will feature 10 getai artists across generations including veterans Huang Qing Yuan, Lin Ru Ping and Li Jin Cai, alongside established artists Yuan Jin, Josephine Lam and Jason Chung, as well as new generation artists 2Z Sisters and Anddi Goh.
In Malam Pop Yeh Yeh, veteran comedian Husin Saaban will host a groovy concert featuring favourite pop yeh yeh tunes performed by local icons Asmuri, June Abdullah and Asmah Atan, alongside new generation pop yeh yeh singer Rudi Salim, backed by band The Wismas II.
The next in the PopLore series takes place in June, and features Dick Lee, one of Singapore’s most prolific and cherished singer composers. Dick Lee with Omnitones ft.Third Degree sees Lee working with Omnitones and featuring vocal trio Third Degree. Through the project, Lee hopes to inspire and guide these young musicians through a novel music adventure in a brand-new era of music making. The concert will showcase new music that was specially created with the group, as well as the wonderful songs that Lee has given us through the decades.
In 45 RPM – Jeremy’s Jazz Journal, Singapore’s “King of Swing”, Jeremy Monteiro, takes to the stage with friends and music collaborators to celebrate 45 years of music-making. This musical journey charts the stories behind memorable career peaks and shares precious lessons gained from the unexpected twists and turns towards international accolades.
In the later part of 2022, Charlie Lim & featured guest artists sees one of Singapore’s most promising young artists helm a concert that will be focused on original music and that puts the spotlight on the creative process of songwriting. Lim and his band The Mothership will be performing alongside a to-be-revealed collective of artists.
In November, as part of Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts, popular singers Shabir and Murali Krishnan will be part of a concert that chronicles the journey of Singapore Indian music and bands, featuring well-loved Tamil and Hindi tunes. Finally, to round up Esplanade’s 20th anniversary celebrations at PopLore, a New Year’s Eve performance at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre will showcase the next wave of Singapore’s best and brightest acts, whom we can expect to make an impact in the music scene from 2023.
Beyond concerts, PopLore will also launch several documentary projects that will serve as a rich repository of content on Singapore pop music, providing a reference that will be archived on the PopLore microsite for fans, the curious and future generations. PopLore: Stories of Singapore Pop is a seven-episode podcast series about the myriad influences and the highs and lows of Singapore popular music across cultures, subcultures and time periods, as well as looks ahead to the music ecosystem of the future.
The series features insights from over 25 industry figures including veteran broadcaster Brian Richmond, singer Rahimah Rahim, singer-songwriter Mohamed Raffee, composer Li Si Song, singersongwriter Dick Lee and musician-producer Joe Ng of The Padres. The first episode of the series, hosted by veteran music producer Lim Sek, will be released on 20 Jan 2022, and the series will be available on Esplanade Offstage (www.esplanade.com/offstage), Spotify, Apple Podcasts and on Mediacorp’s meLISTEN platform. The concluding episode of the series will be hosted by singer-songwriter weish and co-presented with Mediacorp’s online audio stream, indiego.
PopLore will also feature Home Grooves, a year-long exhibition at the Esplanade Concourse from August 2022 to July 2023, that will explore the history and evolution of music venues in Singapore through the decades, from the 1960s to the present. Esplanade will launch a public call in March 2022 to crowdsource for memorabilia and memories relating to popular live music venues of yesteryear that can be showcased in the exhibition.
Come August, Esplanade will also be launching a video series that demystifies Singapore pop for new audiences, as well as a separate package of educator resources on Singapore pop for Upper Primary and Lower Secondary level. Look out for all the documentary and educational content on Esplanade Offstage.
Said Lim Sek, creative consultant for PopLore: “Through concerts, podcasts and an exhibition, PopLore hopes to connect the past, present and future of Singapore popular music. Hopefully this common platform will let the different generations of music talents appreciate each other more and move together towards a future where our music talents can gain strong collective support, not only from Singaporeans, but also the international community
“For 20 years, through its creative programming, Esplanade has played an important part in the promotion and growth of Singapore popular music in all languages and genres. This is admirable and inspiring, and makes it a suitable central source for anyone who wants to know more about Singapore popular music,” he adds. “Hopefully, with the many events associated with Poplore, we can generate a renewed interest in Singapore pop music. It’s good for our talents of tomorrow to know about the kinds of challenges earlier music practitioners had to face to build this foundation for pop music in Singapore, and PopLore connects the dots through exhibitions, concerts, podcasts and having these different generations of talent sharing their experiences, working together and moving forward to present interesting pop music to the world, and a reminder that we have excellent talents in our own backyard.”
PopLore runs throughout the year at Esplanade. More information available here