Lets face it. Singaporeans are not exactly a self loving lot. In fact a lot of time is spent complaining about how much we hate ourselves. The only things we seem very keen on putting the " local" stamp proudly on is anything that makes it overseas. This has been said so many times for so many years that I feel dirty just reiterating it as a claim for present times. Still, that in itself is not a bad thing. But music as a medium is not all about musicality, showmanship and going international. There are, and dare I say it, musicians who produce with their Singaporean experience in mind. And no, that does not mean making "Singlish music", what the frack does that even mean? Being Singaporean cannot possibly be just about our slant on the English language. Or is our sense of identity really that barren? Also, need I remind you all, dear readers, that one of our biggest and earliest exports was Dick Lee who used Singlish left, right and center in Mad Chinaman? Why you so liddat?
Since when did merely uttering "support local" mean " desperation"? I've heard bands and musicians say it, both good and bad ones but never have I thought they were desperate. They are just trying to get the public to pay attention, not just to their music perhaps but what the local scene has to offer. Besides, there are many manners of desperation in this long and winding road. Why pick on this?
"My dread lies in the degradation –through said expression- of the community of Singaporean musicians and artists that, to me, is already on par with international standards. Just because someone in Toa Payoh disregard your brand of rock & roll or Rembrandt, doesn’t make you any lesser of an artistic mortal." Now, I get it that Mr Zul Andra here is in his own way trying to empower local musicians to think beyond local support. And yes, that is on its own, good advice. But... degradation, what a strong word to use on someone who says " support local". Is this why so many of my musician friends tell me " local music sucks" whenever the topic of "support local" comes up? That has always confounded me. There they are, local musicians, saying the music Singapore produces SUCKS.
Can there be more self hate?
The solution to "unsuckifying" local music is to make good music and take ownership of the word "local". Add on to the list of good music as you deem fit, not try and amputate the word from our vocabulary like an infected limb. This offence taken on mere semantics reflects upon the very rejection of ourselves in order to succeed. Why is being Singaporean a liability? Why can't we aim for international acclaim while retaining our place in the local scene? Or is the local scene a mysterious realm where all the bad musicians you have ever encountered convene, screaming for the audience to "support local" while twanging on a badly tuned guitar? So that just asking people to support local music, thereby identifying oneself as part of the scene, is either an admittance to your music being so bad you have to beg or a "degradation" of your true worth?
It doesn't have to be like that boo.
One thing does not have to give way for the other to flourish. If we think like that, we will forever be stuck in a stalemate of shame versus aggressive pride. Which is what got us into this mess in the first place. You think that just asking people to use another set of terms will alleviate this issue? That success will come easier if we ditch this half baked attempt at getting Singaporeans to support Singaporean produced music and instead aim for the international arena? Ask any struggling musician ANYWHERE and I can assure you the answer will be the same. It's hard as hell.
A struggle is a struggle. People become musicians for so many different reasons. Some for fame, others for the sheer love of it. "Support local" is not a dirty term, especially in the face of a majority which make up their minds so readily on the dearth of talent here or are so easily distracted by big budget exports. It's not for people who are already in the know, it is for the folks who are not even aware of its existence. For them, discovering a locally produced album that they love can be a precious thing.
Most of all, saying that anyone who calls for local support is not thinking big enough is a generalization that we don't need. What? A person can't aim for the stars while still hoping that local music is better received from home? The answer to nationalistic myopia is not to develop a blindspot. That in itself is a form of shame. Skill and inspirations are two separate things.
Seriously, maybe we should all just stop kicking ourselves in the crotch at every sign of a Singaporean sentiment taking root with the boot of internationalism. Singapore small, world big. I get it. But still, support local, not because "we are sucks" and desperate, but because there are some really good musicians here, dammit. Go find out yourself, not wait for the rest of the world to endorse them before you do.