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Singapura Musica: Popular Music in Singapore

This is a compilation of all my favourite things about music in Singapore. Inspired by an awkward 8-minute conversation I held with a senior Singaporean lady five mornings ago. (It turns out she is the mother of a prominent orchestral conductor in South East Asia. I did not hyperventilate and die because impression management…) Note: Video heavy + Good internet procrastination to come

01 Remix culture

Singaporeans on YouTube are so much fun. Full-time YouTubers (who are some of the most creative younglings I know) deserve a separate post some time in the future. For now, here are three remixes birthed within hours of the release of an officious state address, a news interview, and the SOP announcements of the parliamentary elections.

Singapore National Day Rally 2006, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (Original quote)

“I give you an example: you put out a fun podcast, you talk about ‘bak chor mee’; I will say ‘mee siam mai hum’, then we compete.”

Mee Siam Mai Hum (Mr Brown remix)

Singapore Women Hail Reaction (Original interview)

This Raining Got Ice Cube (Fallen Superhero SG remix)

Singapore GE 2011 Returning Officer, Yam Ah Mee (Original announcement)

Yam Ah Mee Singapore GE 2011 (GLaDOS Mix)

02 Legitimate state-sponsored MTVs

The Singaporean state is all about world class reputation management and professional publicity. Some of these are less… successful than others, although they make for great chuckles if you have some context of the local syntax. Here are three examples from the Media Development Authority publicity arm, and the Land Transport Authority campaigns. The first one is awkwardly cringe-worthy the whole way.

MDA Senior Management Rap (2007)

A Happy Journey Starts Like That, LTA Campaign (2009)

Love Your Ride, LTA Campaign (2010)

03 Audio patriotism/nationalism

First-year undergraduate me once argued rather simplistically (and now, embarrassingly) in an undergraduate essay that the most successful genre of local music is the high profile patriotic tunes commissioned annually by the state, accompanied by nationalist lyrics, of course. ‘Home’ by Kit Chan is a long-time favourite that was recently rearranged to incorporate some of the most influential local artists spanning several generations.

Home, Kit Chan (1998 original)

Home, Kit Chan and Friends (2011 arrangement)

See also 16 years of National Day Parade theme songs (curated by Straits Times)

04 Locally grown/watered/fertilized audiomeisters 

My personal list of local audio spasms was originally really long. I decided to list the earliest favourite I could remember and two recent earworms.

Why U So Like Dat, Siva Choy (1991)

LimPeh, ShiGGa Shay feat. Tosh Rock (2014)

Lion City Kia, ShiGGa Shay feat. LINEATH, Akeem (2014)

See also Singapore 60s Music (curated by Andy Young), Dick Lee, Jeremy Monteiro, and the late Mr Iskandar Ismail.


A track from my father’s band, The Dukes, who (I am told) were all the rage/jazz/hip/cool stuff of the Singapore sixties. Brownie points if you can spot him in these old school photos. Most recent press here and here. National Archives here.

Once the thesis is done, I would love to work on a genealogy of popular music in Singapore, beginning with a smaller scale study on this decade’s YouTube younglings (i.e. Grizzle Grind Crew). Habouring early ponderings on their DIY creativity as critical humour and counter-hegemonic home-making. Would any one like to co-write or intersperse brainfarts with me? Also, what are your local favourites?

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