Pen Pineapple Apple Pen and the Lifecycle of Internet Virality

This is the Pen Pineapple Apple Pen (PPAP) song that started amassing virality around 25 September 2016, despite being published on YouTube a month earlier on 25 August 2016. This is the tutorial from its original artist, published on 26 September 2016 in response to volumes of covers, remixes, and parodies being produced as the song approaches the climax of viral fame.

The ‘official’ backstory, according to the wisdom of throngs of popular media articles churned out this week, is that the artist in the video is Piko-Taro, a fictional character played by entertainer DJ Kosaka Daimaou, whose is actually a 51-year-old Mr Kazuhiko Kosaka. His character Piko-Taro first began life as a stand-up comedian at live shows. (For those of you who are in-tune with YouTube or Influencer culture, think Miranda Sings as the fictional character played by microcelebrity Colleen Ballinger who goes by the handle ‘PsychoSoprano’ on the internet. See also here.)

Piko-Taro started his YouTube channel on 23 August 2016, posting short songs while dressed in his now-signature gaudy fashion and wig, with flamboyance in tow. The virality of his debut PPAP video was facilitated by digital user-generated humour platform 9GAG on its Facebook page. In the wake of his recent virality, Piko-Taro has been retweeting and responding to some followers in a smattering of English on his Twitter, which was created just months prior in June 2016. He is on Facebook here.

In this post, I discuss the circulation of PPAP, the value judgments made about it, its characteristics and predecessors, and the potential future of Piko-Taro.

Continue reading Pen Pineapple Apple Pen and the Lifecycle of Internet Virality

Growing Up With Jerry Murad of ‘The Dukes’.

Crystal Abidin is an anthropologist, ethnographer, and percussionist who grew up in Singapore and now lives in Perth. She used to play classical percussion in orchestras and now sings harmony in church. Reach her at

This young lady is completing her PhD studies and we ‘met’ on her website. I wrote to ask if she could write an article about Singapore music in the 60’s. She agreed and I must thank her for the kindness to do so. Find out what she reveals and who she really is:

A labour of love: Growing up with Jerry Murad of The Dukes
By Crystal Abidin

My father has five brothers and two sisters, which makes for a whole lot of cousins for my sister and I to play with when we were growing up (and every Raya is a mini logistical nightmare, but that’s another story for another time).

Uncle Murad is secretly my favourite one.

Many veteran musicians in Singapore know Jerry Murad as the front man and lead guitarist of the 1960’s band, The Dukes. My father, Zainal Abidin, was the bassist – he has several magazine covers and vinyl covers from his treasure trove to prove that they were once young, fine, eligible men.

While many great musicians of his cohort have gone on to fulltime jobs in other sectors, Jerry Murad is one of the few musicians who has managed to maintain a career (and raise a family of five) as a professional musician for over five decades.

Bottom right: Jerry Murad

Here is a snapshot of his life.

I know Jerry Murad intimately.

He is the uncle who showered me with the most gifts when I was growing up.

As a child, I remember weekly visits to Nenek’s house where Uncle Murad and his family live. There was a glass cabinet by the window in the living room, in which my uncle kept all his musical scores, meticulously filed and labeled.

I soon learnt that if I lurked around for long enough while intently peering through the glass door, Uncle Murad would come over, ask what I was “interested in”, and offer to hand on another one of his precious scores to me.

I never really asked for anything out rightly, because I was a polite child. But seeing as how a good third of my current collection of scores were gifts from my uncle, I guess being sneaky and patient pays off.

When my sister later started recording herself on YouTube and playing at gigs, she inherited a couple of guitars from Uncle Murad. It would have been nice if he had a few spare marimbas or vibraphones laying around for me (FYI Uncle Murad, my birthday is in March).

Uncle Murad is also the resident one-man band at every one of my cousins’ weddings.

It is almost a family ritual for Uncle Murad to rock up with his mics, e-guit, portable amps, and miscellaneous electronica at every family function, big or small. He has his signature batik shirts, a badass ponytail, and a library of song dedications for everyone. It only gets embarrassing when at weddings he makes song dedications to all the “single nieces and nephews”, wishing we would “find love and happiness… maybe at the wedding”.

Extreme right: Jerry Murad 

I also know Jerry Murad professionally.

Some time in 2009, I sat down with Uncle Murad and interviewed him about his life as a professional musician for a school project. Today, I revisit these fieldnotes to share some snippets of our conversation.

Crystal: So! How did it all begin?

JM: My scouts days were the best of my life… James Cook Petrol Boy Scouts. We were so famous in school! During camping, hiking, canoeing, we always sang our own songs, so during one campfire, we formed The Dukes, our own band. Then we got famous and signed a record with a record company, and played for many years. But then we grew up, some migrated, some had to work

Crystal: You’ve done this for over fifty years. Is it tough being a professional musician in Singapore?

JM: I already know from the start that it’s gonna be tough in the music industry, you know? I was prepared for it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I just have to face the difficulties. After all, I’m earning money for my passion you know? How many people can say they love their jobs? For me, my passion became my job.

Crystal: Do you think musicians are sometimes under-valued or underpaid?

JM: Well… Sometimes I play past the allocated time, or play even though they cannot afford to pay me my rates. I’m quite flexible, but only because to me the music business is not all about money. If you play solely to earn a living, you will be miserable. I always go all the way, I give everything I’ve got. I’m really just playing because I love music.

Crystal: How do you maintain relations with your clients?

JM: Sometimes my clients are Chinese… so I will secretly prepare a Chinese song to sing without telling them. If it’s for old people, I memorize some Hokkien songs that they all like. When they see a Malay putting in effort to make their event memorable, they will remember me.

Crystal: Has age affected your business?

JM: Asia is very different, they think old people are useless. In the US, you see all these old men, they walk on stage with their walking sticks…these black people…but once they take out their instruments…magic! They are so skilled you know! But in Asia, people just see your appearance first…

Crystal: Any gig that was particularly eventful?

JM: I played for the Hong Kong-China handover… But I played for two bands! My big band and combo band… I was the only one, what a good experience. Before midnight when we played, we were playing for the British… then after midnight, I was still playing, but now for China… who else can say they have played for two countries in one night?

I watched the royal queens yacht passing… cruising to England… hearing the bells ringing at midnight, like the last bastion of the British empire… then I saw the red flags marching in, choreographed so beautifully… really blessed with the experience.

Crystal: Do you have plans for retirement?

JM: I don’t want to stop playing. I want to die with a guitar in my hand, and maybe ‘go down’ to jam with MJ (Michael Jackson) and Elvis!

This was first published at Singapore60’sMusic on 9 January 2016. Many thanks to Andy Young for the opportunity. See also Singapura Musica: Popular Music in Singapore.

I am a YouTube binger.


Beep: This post is video heavy. If you’d like to skip to the GOOD part, watch all the Game of Thrones covers at the end. End beep.

There has been a recurrent theme in my last two days.

1) Yesterday, before binge writing a new article, I gallivanted around YouTube for two hours in search of new sounds. I’m the sort of person who absolutely needs music while I write. I discovered Duran Duran’s Ordinary World and listened to every single cover I could find on YouTube. In this process, I found this bizarre cover by Le Bon x Pavarotti, and this pretty interesting one by contestants on The Voice Kids 2014.

2) In the evening, I read Katrin Tiidenberg’s blogpost in which she mused over a budding “digitally mediated self care project”. Kat (I get to call her Kat because we are friends, right?) made a connection between procrastinating on social media/social media bingeing and self-care, and writes:

“I have a niggling thought that people might have rather elaborate strategies and practices for when to apply cat videos, weird sub-reddits, fan fiction, or photo galleries of tattoos.”

3) This morning, I met with a new friend/scholar/colleague/collaborator, Liew Kai Khiun, and fell into an exciting blackhole brainstorming about heritage and music in Singapore.

For me, binge YouTubing is the primary way through which I get my music. I own only a limited number of CDs (and still use a functioning discman from Sony circa 1999, how cool am I?), and I don’t have accounts on Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, MySpace, iTunes and the like.

I usually have music from YouTube playing in the background when I write. But whenever I write or am rushing out a deadline and need some headspace to cleanse my pallet before re-reading/re-writing/editing my work, I binge on YouTube music with utmost concentration.

I know this sounds unhealthy, but I’ve trained myself into taking ‘forced’ breaks in which I binge YouTube to reset my brain, change gears, wind down from/gear up for the next bit of strenuous writing. If I could have it my way, I wound binge read any time, but alas, time does not always permit this luxury.

Music affects me in an emotional way that defies logic. Like the magical *organ sound* ACband produced at the end of Nessun Dorma during the grand finals of the 17th Australian Music Festival in 2006. We were in the Sydney Opera House where the structural reverberation was tricky to maneuver, but we pulled it off. And Dr Lee shed tears on stage.

Another time, a friend I met two summers ago introduced me to Anna Ternheim and sent me this D&G reading because I was always humming to myself (sorry). I blasted Anna on replay, went through the whole text, and couldn’t stop weeping. Why so dramatic?

I generally enjoy acapellas, orchestral music, percussion ensembles, soul and jazz, and first auditions of reality TV singing contests.

I know the last one sounds very specific, but I absolutely live for the money shots, especially when it’s children or young people being 500% amazeballs.

For instance, Britain’s Got Talent contestant Asanda Jezile. Seemingly quiet and shy until she explodes into some pretty crazy confident dance moves:

And X Factor contestant Rachel Crow when she begins to display maximum adorbs to tell us “My family has like no money…”

My all-time favourite mallet ensembles?

This one man show, Lord of The Rings OST mallet cover:

This Japanese orchestra covering Jupiter from Holst’s The Planets:

And all these adorable children from the Marimba Ponies who make my ovaries explode:

Best acapellas in the history of forever?

MO5AIC’s cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. The amazing harmony, you guys:

The Gay Men’s Chorus of LA, pulling together an impromptu performance of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours. 3:21 is just audio fantasia:

And this. This is truly my all time favourite. I regularly search YouTube for acapella covers of the Lion King OST. Despite the meh quality, this impromptu cover from the cast on a plane ride is still my favourite. Look at all the joy and enthusiasm and chemistry. It makes me want to cry. I also want to cry because when I was a child I always thought I’d play in an orchestra professionally as a full-time job, or travel the world with a theatre troupe to play percussion. At least I get to live vicariously via YouTube:

One song I religiously sieve through YouTube to seek out new covers for is John Legend’s Ordinary People. I do this at least once a month.

The original music video (2004):

Live on Letterman (2013). IMHO, version with the best support band:

Live at the Kennedy Center (2014). IMHO version with the best full orchestra:

John Legend’s surprise duet with Alicia Keys. I always scream internally when she stops after a few keys and says “Actually I’ve got somebody who can play this much better than I do”:

YouTuber Tim Milgram’s super wicked piano rendition:

Six Appeal’s rendition. 3:12 is all the magic:

Yale Whiffenpoofs’ acapella rendition:

Jazz Ellington’s The Voice audition:

Lastly, Game of Thrones OST covers. Every body please appreciate. So much gold.

This metal cover. Just listen to the super sick double pedal at 0:45:

This classy cello cover:

These hardcore e-guit lines:

Sungha Jung on guitar with monster finger work:

Classic comedy acapella from The Warp Zone:

Indian tabla and flute rendition:


Are you a YouTube binger too? Maybe we could form a support group. Or burst our monthly data caps together. (Oops. Sorry.)

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?

Musical ambience and intellectual writing.

I am physically unable to write without being plugged in to some form of music. And I also listen to my favourite tracks to death. I feel like my yet-to-be-written thesis acknowledgements should pay homage to all the wonderful earworms these talented musicians have produced in some form eventually.

A quick catalogue of which words have been written to which music:

– Switching ‘On’: Parachutes, Coldplay

– Privacy for Profit: YouTube Mix, The Corrs

– Quiet is the New Loud, Kings of Convenience

– #sexbait: YouTube Mix, The Whitest Boy Alive

– #In$tagLam: Riot on an Empty Street, Kings of Convenience

– (En)gendering Cute: Takk, Sigur Ros

– Entrepreneurial Selves: Ghost Stories, Coldplay

– ‘Perceived Interconnectedness’: Declaration of Dependence, Kings of Convenience

– Transference of Intimacy: Our Endless Numbered DaysIron and Wine

– Paradoxes of Intimacy: Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends, Coldplay 

– #lifeisgood: Stars, The best of 1992-2002, The Cranberries

– Shamelebrity: YouTube Mix, Anna Ternheim 

Will keep updating this list as I go along. 

Also, thank God for YouTube.

(okay please don’t Soundcloud, MySpace, Bandcamp, Spotify etc me because I am noob).