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As entertainment venues start live performances all over the country, Singaporeans are flocking back to nightlife spots. After two years of Covid, it seems like things are heating up again in the local entertainment scene.
But last Friday, the heat went up north, as Republic Polytechnic hosted its annual IGNITE! Music Festival.
Organised and hosted at RP’s The Republic Cultural Centre (TRCC) by staff and students, this year’s concert marks 15 years of celebrating local music, performed live again after two years of virtual shows.
I’m a Year 3 RP student but I never got the chance to catch the festival in person before. So last weekend was an experience I’d never forget. I even got the chance to speak to some performers off-stage (like ShiGGa Shay!).
IGNITE! is more than just a concert for polytechnic students to head bang after their classes on a Friday. It provides an opportunity for up and coming local artists (some of whom are RP alums) to announce themselves to the world and for students who like backstage work to get a taste of running a show.
The festival, held on July 29 and 30, was basically run by youths — the majority were students, from emcees to backstage crew to even crowd control ushers and bouncers.
Day 1 started from 6pm on Friday and consisted of six acts. Day 2 started at 4pm and had eight acts in total. Most of the performances were held in TRCC’s main theatre, but on Day 2, three acts performed in a more intimate setting in one of TRCC’s studios.
Each act played a 30-minute set. But most of them overran with shouts of encore from the crowd!
@rpradiate909THATS A WRAP 🔥✨ If you heard our music or our amazing hosts speak and yoh loved what you heardddd, then follow us for more content! Only here on RP Radiate909🤩🤩🤩🤩♬ Green Light (feat. André 3000) – John Legend
With a line-up of 14 artists performing over two days, a lot of planning had to be done. Festival producer and RP staff member Wong Li Wern, 33, took four to five months to plan IGNITE! — one of TRCC’s three big annual events.
“This year’s IGNITE! is very different — we are finally live after two years and it felt more like a gathering of friends than a big show,” said Li Wern.
She added that this year’s line-up was different from previous years. Instead of sticking to one genre a day, the lineup has bands with different musical styles performing after each other.
“We can build a stronger music community this way,” said the festival producer.
It was an electric experience being in a live venue. I spoke with a couple of performers after their set, and the first thing they told me was how sweaty they were!
Yet I could still sense their excitement, feeding off the crowd. You could still feel the buzz and adrenaline offstage!
Emcee Shalini Nair, 19, from RP’s Diploma in Integrated Events Management, said that being in front of the crowd was an experience she would never forget.
She said: “The crowd’s energy was electric! I tried my best to give the same energy back to the audience, which was the most amazing thing about emceeing.”
Most of the artists, like Marian Carmel and Feez or groups like Saints Amongst Sinners, were performing at IGNITE! for the first time, while others like local rapper ShiGGa Shay or bands like Bakers in Space and Tell Lie Vision are veterans of the IGNITE! stage.
@dilfhunterxhi forgot to take vid of the first performance 🥲♬ original sound – markraggio
Passion & Compassion was the theme of IGNITE!’s 15th anniversary, and many artists spoke to me about their goals and dreams for the future of Singapore. Getting together to perform onstage after so long was a first for many of them.
I managed to catch their performances and got to chat with them backstage as they came off the set.
Tell Lie Vision
Tell Lie Vision — made up of Irfan Samsuri (bass), Hairul Azman (guitar), Vikkash Suruchand (vocalist) and Lester Chua (drummer) — are ex-RP students.
Having performed at IGNITE! four times as alumni, they were back last weekend yet again.
The band members told me that the occasion was made even more special as they grew up in RP and they grew up with IGNITE!. They were the first few bands to start playing at the festival, and they will continue to perform in the future.
“Jamming with others in RP was like a stepping stone for us — so now, to head off into the real world of music, it is really a test,” said Vikkash.
Saints Amongst Sinners
Saints Amongst Sinners is a 7-man group that call themselves a shoegaze band (a subgenre of indie and alternative rock) because they don’t stick to one sound. They were performing at IGNITE! for the first time.
As a band with many differing opinions, they don’t like to pigeonhole the music they make and hint that they have a new sound to share in their upcoming releases.
“Don’t be afraid to develop yourself and see what it means you can do,” she says.
Bakers in Space
Bakers in Space is a four-man band (Eugene, Ernest, Hakim & Hafi) that has been in the local music scene for nine years.
An experimental indie post-psychedelic rock band, they started finding their own sounds outside of rock.
They too have a strong sense of giving back to the community and would want to work with organisations that can help others, especially migrant workers, whom they felt have been neglected by many in our society.
The New Modern Lights
Another of the performers that rocked was The New Modern Lights — a band which will release its debut album soon — and teased that the new album might not be the kind of sound people would expect from them, which makes it more intriguing!
Singer-songwriter Esther Lo, 26, who goes by her Chinese name LAYYI on stage, performed on Day 2.
An opinionated person, she feels strongly about an entertainer being defined to a box and isn’t afraid to write about it. She doesn’t feel the need to always identify who she really is and what she can bring.
“Take your time to find out who you are; there is no one answer,” she told me.
Coming together to celebrate Passion and Compassion
“I like it when an artist produces tracks that tell a story,” Firdaus, the frontman of eight-man band Space Walk.
But one thing that moved me, aside from the enthusiastic crowd, was how every act I saw onstage, even the solo performers, cherished the rest of their band like a family. (Feez’s DJ was actually his cousin!).
It transcends words when you see the chemistry of a band playing together — that’s the power of a live performance.
“One kampung, one family — playing with friends is the best part about a band,” said the members of Saints Amongst Sinners, chiming in one after another.
It’s a special moment to see performers having the time of their lives with their best friends. ShiGGa Shay, who was solo, even brought a whole squad of friends to IGNITE for a surprise performance with him on stage.
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They jokingly refer to themselves as Team +65: consisting of Omar Kenobi, Aisyah Aziz, DJ Nash and several others. ShiGGa insisted it wouldn’t be about passion and compassion if he didn’t have his friends there.
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Marian Carmel, also a solo performer, told the crowd how excited she was to have her friends play the other instruments during her set — even giving them a special shoutout on stage.
As LAYYI advised aspiring artists: “The only thing keeping you from moving is you. If you have the right community of people to support you, then just go.”
As IGNITE!’s emcee Shalini Nair told me at the end of the concert: “Music connects us in which words or actions cannot and creates everlasting memories.”