30 of Singapore's rising stars under 30

Life picks up-and-coming talents to watch

Imam Shah, 26, actor

His charming smile and chiselled physique earned him a Top 12 spot in the Manhunt pageant in 2012.

Viewers of MediaCorp television station Suria voted him their favourite male personality at the recent Pesta Perdana awards show. But Imam is adamant his looks have little to do with his rise in the local Malay television industry.

"I don't want to be branded a hunk. I don't want people to say that I won because of my looks."

Imam Shah does not want to be branded a hunk.
Imam Shah does not want to be branded a hunk. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The former fitness instructor, whose most prominent role was playing a lifeguard in the television drama S.O.S., says he has become more careful in choosing his roles.

"After the Pesta Perdana win, I felt like whatever project I choose next will be crucial because the public, those who don't know me, will always ask 'Who is this guy? How did he beat other local actors such as Syarif SleeQ and Hisyam Hamid?'"

He has set his sights on cracking the Malay movie industry and has scored a meaty role in upcoming Malaysian gangster movie JB Pailang, set to be released next year.

Imam comes from an illustrious show business family - his grandmother is Malay music and film doyenne Nona Asiah, his mother is actress and ex-beauty queen Mariana Yati, and one of his uncles was the late Cultural Medallion composer Iskandar Ismail. His father is musician and singer Abdul Mu Talib, who played with veteran rockers Tania.

He made his acting debut when he was a child in a Malaysian telemovie, but the acting bug bit him much later.

At the age of 17, he took part in Suria's acting and hosting competition Anugerah Skrin in 2006, but crashed out in the third round.

Undaunted, he auditioned for many roles and eventually landed minor roles in shows such as Projek Showcase and, soon, more prominent parts in serials such as drama Mengejar Mentari (Chasing The Sun) and thriller-drama Firasat (Foreboding).

The bachelor says that his Pesta Perdana win has made him mindful of his growing fan base.

"My main responsibility is to entertain. If people don't like you, then it's hard."

EDDINO ABDUL HADI


Carrie Wong, 21, actress

Carrie Wong attributes her success to good luck.
Carrie Wong attributes her success to good luck. ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO

Months after she played a feisty dessert hawker in the period drama The Journey: Tumultuous Times (2014), people on the streets are still calling Carrie Wong Tang Shui Mei, the name of her character in the television series.

The role earned her nominations as Best Newcomer and Best Supporting Actress at this year's Star Awards. Though she did not win, the nominations were a milestone in her life. Just a year ago, she was a wide-eyed spectator at the live recording of the event. This year, she walked down the red carpet among Singapore's top TV stars. "It's like a dream," she says of her experience.

Wong, a 1.75m-tall Nanyang Polytechnic graduate in hospitality and tourism management, was the youngest voted into the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes.

She attributes her success to good luck and her fluency in Mandarin. "Many 1990s kids don't like to speak Mandarin. I've been speaking Mandarin from young," says Wong, who got her show business break after coming in third in Hey Gorgeous (2013), a Channel U reality show that scouts good-looking students with star potential.

Although the bachelorette is now a star with an Instagram account boasting more than 70,000 followers, her family keeps her grounded.

"I go out without make-up, I accompany my parents to the kopitiam to drink coffee," says the only child of a housewife mother and retiree father.

She looks up to popular Taiwanese actress Ariel Lin, who has won two Best Actress titles at the Golden Bell Awards - Taiwan's equivalent of the Emmys. She gushes: "She's an actress with substance and I aspire to be like her. It would be a dream to work with her."

GWENDOLYN NG


Aloysius Pang, 24, actor

Aloysius Pang was a "lazy student" but works hard at acting now.
Aloysius Pang was a "lazy student" but works hard at acting now. ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

These days, wherever this actor goes, cries of "Best Newcomer" greet him. At work, he is teased with the epithet by colleagues on the set of the new Channel 8 drama Hand In Hand.

Strangers do not spare him too. During this interview and photo shoot, whispers of "Best Newcomer" followed him.

Well, he was indeed crowned Best Newcomer at MediaCorp's annual Star Awards ceremony in April, but his star was already on the ascent before that.

One of eight young male stars hand-picked by MediaCorp to form the Eight Dukes, a new generation of young hunks, he has a full plate this year. On top of his Channel 8 dramas, he is starring as a cosplay enthusiast in a local film Young And Fabulous, set to be released in November.

The bachelor wants to be more than an actor. He has penned scripts for short films and music videos and hopes to direct, produce and star in his passion project, inspired by viral videos of bullying.

His recent Best Newcomer award marks the first time he has gone onstage not to receive punishment, but an award. In school, he was publicly caned once.

Still, the rebellious kid - the youngest of three sons whose parents are contractors - graduated with a diploma in management studies from Singapore Institute of Management University.

He acted in Channel 8 dramas from age nine to 14. He returned to acting in 2012 when he played a rich kid trying to find his late grandmother's connection to an island in local film Timeless Love (2012).

He says: "I hope I can reach new heights with my acting. It's more than a passion, acting is a part of me."

GWENDOLYN NG


Nadiah M. Din, 25, actress

Nadiah M. Din crosses over from Malay to English productions easily.
Nadiah M. Din crosses over from Malay to English productions easily. PHOTO: ZULFAIZ ZAKARIA

She acts, she sings, she dances. Plus, she is effectively bilingual in Malay and English. Little wonder then that this performer is sought after by producers of English- and Malay-language productions in TV and film.

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts graduate first gained popularity as an actress on Malay TV channel Suria, wowing audiences with her portrayals of a conniving nightclub hostess in the hit show Anak Metropolitan (2012) and a goofy schoolgirl in Balik Sekolah (2012).

But it was not until she guest-starred as a maid in an episode of Channel 5's In Cold Blood (2013) that the doors opened English-language work.

"I never imagined I would be able to make that crossover from Malay to English programmes, but I guess people saw I could handle both languages after I did that one episode, which ended up being the highest-rated episode for the whole season," says the actress, who is the fifth of six children.

Her father was the late painter Mohammad Din Mohammad and her mother, Hamidah Jalil, is also an artist.

Since then, the bachelorette has been landing major English- language roles, such as a leading part of a feisty policewoman in Channel 5's period TV drama Mata Mata (2013).

The go-getter even snagged a lead role in the Italian opera film Le Badanti, which premiered in Cannes in May. "When director Marco Pollini interviewed me on Skype, I told him I could speak a little bit of Italian, when in fact I knew only short Italian greetings which I had taken from Google translate just moments before," she recalls with a chuckle.

"Doing the film in the end was really tough, since everything was in Italian, but I managed to memorise all my lines. Maybe I'm quite good with languages."

YIP WAI YEE


Ebi Shankara, 27, actor-host

Ebi Shankara says he was addicted to the applause.
Ebi Shankara says he was addicted to the applause. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Ebi Shankara is used to large crowds.

He has been a charming host at the sprawling National Day Parade and the SEA Games and was the youngest winner of the popular singing competition Vasantham Star at age 19.

He has notched up performances in several Wild Rice pantomimes and a hit stage revival of Michael Chiang's beloved Army Daze.

Earlier this year, he gave a star turn as Vinod in a revival of Haresh Sharma's classic play Off Centre at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, playing an intelligent young man struggling with severe depression, in a performance that moved audiences and critics to tears.

Shankara, who is not married, says: "I think that's the peak of what I've done so far."

He attributes all these to his co-actor, the award-winning Siti Khalijah Zainal, and to Off Centre's "exceptional" director Oliver Chong.

The only child of a businessman and a regional sales manager is an all-rounder, stepping into twin roles of magnetic entertainer and heavyweight lead actor with ease.

What first drew him to the stage was "that adrenaline rush... the applause that you get at the end of it, I was addicted to that".

What made him stay was the desire to improve his craft.

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts theatre graduate is the co-artistic director of Ravindran Drama Group, one of the most established companies in the Tamil theatre scene that also does work in English.

The company produces about four shows a year and he is working to give the group a contemporary appeal and to reach out to a more diverse audience. "I feel that a lot of Indian issues are not addressed in English. We would like to do more English plays with an Indian perspective."

It has been challenging to juggle programming, recruitment, funding, budgets and publicity, but he has found it to be completely worth it.

"The most gratifying thing is when audiences and critics come and watch the play and say, that's a good play. That pay-off is enough."

CORRIE TAN


Seong Hui Xuan, 28, actress

Seong Hui Xuan sings, dances and acts.
Seong Hui Xuan sings, dances and acts. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Seong Hui Xuan's CV reads like a checklist of some of Singapore's best musicals of the past five years. Wild Rice's La Cage Aux Folles (2012), Dream World Productions' Company (2012), Dream Academy's Into The Woods (2011), Pangdemonium's The Full Monty (2010) and Spring Awakening (2012) - she has been in them all.

And she has not stopped. This year, she will be taking on one of the lead roles in the Singapore International Festival of Arts opener next month, Nanyang: The Musical, playing a character inspired by Singapore pioneer artist Georgette Chen.

It will require her to perform entirely in Mandarin for the first time, which has meant "lots of hanyu pinyin" on her part, she says with a laugh.

Seong is one of Singapore theatre's examplars of a triple threat. She can sing, dance and act, and has put every single one of those skills to good use over the course of her career - she is just as comfortable playing the part of Olivia in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (2012) as she is being assistant choreographer in the upcoming blockbuster The LKY Musical, which will open later this month.

She hopes to do more choreography in the future.

Seong, who is not married, graduated with first class honours from Lasalle College of the Arts with a bachelor's in musical theatre. She was spotted by leading director Tracie Pang in the school production of Sweet Charity, which led to a strong working relationship with theatre company Pangdemonium. She clinched a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Life! Theatre Awards for her part as a sassy younger sister in the heart-rending production of Rabbit Hole (2013).

She was one of the youngest winners to take home the trophy in the same category the year before, for playing a ditsy flight stewardess in the Stephen Sondheim musical Company, given a Singapore spin by director Hossan Leong.

She is the only daughter of two teachers and has a younger brother.

Seong is modest about her achievements. She says: "I've been lucky to have encountered people who have been so supportive and nurturing. When I was starting out, it was scary. You don't know if people will hire you - you don't know if people will even like you... You just cross your fingers and jump in, and hope."

CORRIE TAN


Faith Ng, 28, playwright

Faith Ng's plays give insight into Singaporean life.
Faith Ng's plays give insight into Singaporean life. PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Faith Ng laughs as she recalls the "weird labels" she has been given over the past few years: Prodigy. Dark horse. Even the questioning "one-hit wonder?".

Under her bangs, her eyes widen: "That was really very stressful." But the playwright seems to have shaken off those difficult expectations with a hat-trick of strong plays.

Ng was thrust into the limelight when her intense domestic drama, wo(men), garnered rave reviews at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Arts Festival in 2010 while she was still a student. The play, about three generations of women in a family and their relationships, was later nominated at the Life! Theatre Awards for Best Original Script.

She received her next script nomination last year, for a tender but incisive portrait of a Singaporean marriage, For Better Or For Worse (2013). This was inspired by her parents' own marriage - her father is a logistics company manager and her mother, a tutor.

The associate artist with Checkpoint Theatre feels that her most challenging play to date was the recent Normal (2015), about students grappling with life in the Normal (Academic) stream in secondary school.

Normal also received positive reviews, but for Ng, who was a Normal stream student, writing it was like taking an emotional sucker punch. She cried after a particularly difficult feedback session with the actors.

"The other plays were about my family or my friends, but this was about me. I had to be vulnerable, but at the same time, I didn't want to navel-gaze."

That is a trademark of Ng's plays - they provide insight into contemporary Singaporean life, but are never indulgent or mawkish. "Write with your heart, but edit with your brain," she says with a grin.

She received her master's degree in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and is a part-time lecturer at NUS, where she teaches playwriting. Ng is married to NUS theatre researcher and academic Alvin Lim, 32, and the couple are now working on a play that will deal with religion, and fathers and sons. They have no children. She is also working with The Necessary Stage's Theatre for Seniors wing to write a short play.

She still struggles with the pressure of putting out play after play. "What people don't realise about writing is, you need to rest. You can't keep on churning out work. The quality will go down. You need time to refine it."

She adds: "I'm more invested in quality than quantity."

CORRIE TAN


Joel Tan, 28, playwright

Joel Tan wants to push himself out of his comfort zone.
Joel Tan wants to push himself out of his comfort zone. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Joel Tan says his writing process is like a "menstrual cycle". "It depends on my bio-rhythm. Sometimes, I can go at it for days, but other times, I just need to stay away from the page as much as possible," he says with a laugh.

He has emerged as one of the strongest voices in theatre and on the page here over the last few years.

He made his debut in 2011 with Wild Rice's Family Outing and, since then, has made a name with plays such as Take Off Productions' Mosaic (2015), a critique of Gen Y's obsession with preserving a rose-tinted past, and The Way We Go (2014) by Checkpoint Theatre, about stumbling upon love later in life.

His works have not just been popular with audiences - The Way We Go was a hit with critics as well.

Life's freelance theatre reviewer Ng Yi-Sheng said Mosaic "is evidence that young Singaporeans can make great theatre".

The associate artist with Checkpoint Theatre will script Wild Rice's annual pantomime, The Emperor's New Clothes, this year. He also mentors younger practitioners. He has worked with groups such as Take Off Productions, a network of young theatre practitioners, and Creative Edge, a theatre training ensemble for actors aged 17 to 27.

Tan hopes to expand his repertoire and push himself out of his comfort zone. "I want to start writing plays that will surprise myself and that I didn't know I could write, or write about things I didn't know I was interested in."

His mother is a nurse and his father is a manager at a maritime company. He has two brothers, aged 38 and 26. The older one is a freelance writer and the younger sibling works in marketing.

Regardless of what happens in the future, he knows he will keep on writing. "I wouldn't know what else to do... I suppose it's a way of clarifying the mess in my head and processing my own complications," he says.

Writing, he adds, also lets him express his frustrations with the world. "Through the act of writing, you can agitate the texture of the world around you."

LISABEL TING


Wang Weiliang, 27, actor-host

Wang Weiliang has been hosting getai shows for six years.
Wang Weiliang has been hosting getai shows for six years. PHOTO: JOEL LOW PHOTOGRAPHY

More Beng than babe, Wang Weiling shot to fame playing the wisecracking Lobang in the popular Ah Boys To Men (2012, 2013) films. He is the most distinctive face among that cohort of young hunks and the most versatile and quick-witted - which is why he has developed an active hosting career in addition to his acting.

Like Lobang in the Jack Neo films, he is unpretentious, hungry and decidedly unbookish. He dropped out of Montfort Secondary School at the age of 14 and took on odd jobs from selling cars to sugar cane juice. Fluent in Hokkien, he has been hosting getai shows since he was 22.

Now, he has branched out into hosting on TV, helming variety programmes such as Mission S-Change (2015), where he and fellow Ah Boys star Tosh Zhang travel across China for 50 days with only 50 products to barter for food and shelter.

His official Twitter account has more than 35,800 followers, while his fan club Weiliangsation has more than 7,700 followers on Twitter. Never mind that the actor is hardly hunk material. Ask him what he thinks his edge is, he says: "Not being good-looking."

He enjoys all aspects of his show business career, but what he still finds bewildering is how he managed to become a star.

"I never knew I could act until director Neo gave me the chance.

"Before that, all I wanted to focus on was doing my best in getai and doing whatever I could to help my mother with household expenses."

The younger of two brothers is raised by a 51-year-old administration assistant mother, who is a single parent. Adding that he dreams of emulating the career of Hong Kong actor Nick Cheung, the bachelor says: "Even though I've been in the industry for a few years, I have not found it easier. I take on every new project as a new challenge. I will put in 100 per cent of my effort to do well."

YIP WAI YEE


Irfan Kasban, 27, playwright and director

Irfan Kasban writes, directs, manages the stage and does lighting design.
Irfan Kasban writes, directs, manages the stage and does lighting design. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

From sensitive allegories about race and religion to site-specific, non-verbal productions, Irfan Kasban has tackled an entire range of styles and genres when it comes to creating for the stage. He is an all-rounder when it comes to the theatre. He writes, directs, does stage management and lighting design. "I think my challenge right now would be to act," he says.

For the moment, he is concentrating on writing and directing.

He directed last year's winner of the 24-hour Playwriting Competition (Open Category), Three Inches Of Alive by Clarilyn Khoo, which just completed its run in several heartland theatres.

Later this month, he will be directing nine dramatised readings for a TheatreWorks programme that develops writing for the stage. He will also be on the theatre company's roster of associate artists next year, where he is looking to work on a piece based on Sun Tzu's classic The Art Of War.

The Temasek Polytechnic graduate in applied food science and nutrition, who is not married, is the second of six children. His mother works in primary school education, while his father is an IT specialist and consultant.

Once you've written a play, it's not yours. It becomes part of the universe, part of a larger conversation.

IRFAN KASBAN

He enrolled in Ekamatra's Playwright Mentorship Programme under the tutelage of former The Substation artistic director Noor Effendy Ibrahim in 2006and was appointed associate artistic director last year. He has since left to become a freelancer.

Irfan's work gained wider attention when a triple-bill of his plays, collectively titled Hantaran Buat Mangsa Lupa (Memories For The Victims Of Amnesia), was presented at the 2012 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival organised by The Necessary Stage. Genap 40 was a poetic debate between an expectant mother and an angel who visits her; W.C. involved a man and a boy trapped, metaphorically, in a toilet cubicle; and monologue 94:05 followed a man with a congenital heart defect who had been stripped of almost everything he loved and was facing the unknown. The trilogy received warm reviews.

A play Irfan wrote two years ago, Tahan (2013), drawn from his own experiences in the police force, was selected to be part of the Esplanade's Singapore theatre retrospective, The Studios: fifty, earlier this year, showcasing him as one of the voices to watch from his generation.

He says: "Once you've written a play, it's not yours. It becomes part of the universe, part of a larger conversation."

CORRIE TAN


Priscilla Ang Geck Geck, 27, film-maker

Priscilla Ang wants to give people who cannot express themselves a voice in her film.
Priscilla Ang wants to give people who cannot express themselves a voice in her film. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Too many student films, like student creative writing, are painful to consume because they are too often outlets for adolescent narcissism.

So when Ang made her final-year project short film for her course at the Nanyang Technological University, one might have expected the usual tale of post-teen angst, a pretentious piece of abstract mush or a sentimental portrait of an ageing relative.

Instead, she delivered Broken Crayon, a delicate, disturbing study of a girl who is sexually abused by her cousin. It was submitted to the Singapore Short Film Festival in 2013 and won the top prize of Best Fiction Film.

Two more shorts telling the story of an introspective kindergarten-age girl, neglected at home and misunderstood in school, followed.

"I make films about childhood because I've been through difficult times as a child," says Ang who, after the divorce of her parents, lived with her grandparents. She has held part-time jobs since her early teens and helped pay her way at the School of Art, Design and Media at NTU by blogging, modelling, acting and styling photo shoots.

She prefers Ang Geck Geck as her professional name to honour the grandmother who gave it to her.

Never a film buff growing up, she had picked the course only after eliminating the others she had no interest in.

Being female and lacking a polytechnic-trained background in film-making like some of her coursemates, she had been relegated to support roles in wardrobe and make-up in team projects, dulling her interest even further.

It was only after she was given sole control of her projects that her empathetic story-telling style was given a chance to shine.

She will direct The Red Butterfly, a thriller written by Kristen Ong and produced by Kenneth Hu and Juan Foo. The film is one of five supported by a grant of up to $250,000 under the Media Development Authority's New Talent Feature Grant this year, with Ang being the youngest director in the group.

Part cyber-thriller and part coming-of-age story, the film revolves around a woman hacker who discovers disturbing secrets about a powerful corporation.

Foo, 40, a veteran producer, says he brought Ang into the project not only because he was impressed by the craft and art of Broken Crayon, but also by her ambition."She kept asking me how to develop her film-making career and wanted to know more than what was taught in film school," he says.

Her personal work is also driven by a desire to give a voice to the weak, he notes.

She says: "It's a way to help people who can't express themselves, to give them a way to speak."

JOHN LUI


Ruben Pang, 24, painter


Ruben Pang has sold out five shows. PHOTO: ST FILE

In four years, Ruben Pang has gone from being a fine arts student at the Lasalle College of the Arts to a commercially successful artist with sell-out shows.

His massive abstract paintings, as big as 4.5 by 1.5m, have a signature style, often featuring intricate, vibrant swirls of colour that at times take shape as ghostly apparitions, which he executes with his hands on aluminium surfaces.

In January last year, all nine of his works sold at Art Stage within hours of the fair's opening. Earlier this year, all 12 of his works, priced between $5,000 and $18,000, sold out on the opening night of his solo exhibition in January at Chan Hampe Galleries, which represents him. It was his fifth sell-out exhibition here so far.

I would not dream of doing anything else, maybe other than race car driving in vintage cars.

RUBEN PANG

In another indication that he is a rising art star: he was short- listed for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize, a regional competition, in 2010 and 2011.

The bachelor is doing a three-month artist residency in Tel Aviv in Israel.

"It's a magical place. I grew up Catholic so seeing the church commissions stirred something in me, in the aesthetic sense. I've also re-discovered some biblical stories and they're influencing my work here," says Pang, who has recently completed a series of oil, acrylic and alkyd on aluminium paintings for a show in Israel.

His inspirations include the Austrian expressionist artist Oscar Kokoschka and French surrealist Marcelle Loubchansky.

On his success so far, the St Joseph's Institution alumnus, who is the eldest son of three (his brothers Ranen, 18, and Ruel, 16, are students) to a sculptor and polytechnic lecturer, says: "It's surreal. Sometimes, I find myself detached from reality, losing touch with people and living in my head. But the act of painting and working can be a very grounding experience.

"I would not dream of doing anything else, maybe other than race car driving in vintage cars."

LEE JIAN XUAN


Sarah Choo, 24, artist


Sarah Choo says she was one of the worst painters in class when she was young. PHOTO: SARAH CHOO

Artists are not generally planners, but this young artist is obsessive: she draws up one-, five- and 10-year career plans.

Focused and driven, she has dealt with a range of topics in her work. In 2013, she photographed a series about teens with eating disorders. Last year, her multimedia installation Waiting For The Elevator was a composite of scenes from a HDB void deck.

Her work has been nominated for several international awards, such as the Sovereign Art Prize, a regional photography competition, and the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards.

Her greatest coup so far has been to win the Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu photography award in 2013 at the age of 22, besting veterans such as established independent photographer Darren Soh, 37, and Beijing-based photojournalist Sim Chi Yin, 34.

At that time, she had just graduated from Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design and Media. Her win ignited a debate about the judging process and what is considered a photograph.

Her age may mark her out as a rookie, but she says she does not feel like one. "When most people look at my work, especially at the shows I attend, they can't believe I'm the artist," she tells Life in a Skype interview from London, where she was pursuing a master's degree in Fine Art Media at the Slade School of Art at the University College London.

She is on a teaching scholarship with the Ministry of Education.

Since the age of 15, she has known she wanted to be an artist. Choo, who enrolled in the art elective programme at Nanyang Junior College, says she was one of the worst painters in class when she was young.

"I wasn't born an artist, but I worked hard at it. I spent all my time in junior college and university on art. I'm a workaholic," says Choo, whose father works in the freight industry and mother is an administrative manager. Her younger brother, Mathias, is doing his national service.

She is now back in Singapore. She hopes to nurture a new generation of students who love and appreciate art. "We need people who love art and want to buy it, so there's an economy for artists."

Pausing for a while, she adds: "But I will always see myself as a practising artist, even if I teach. I'll never give up art."

LEE JIAN XUAN


Elaine Heng, 26, ballet dancer

Elaine Heng started taking ballet lessons at age six.
Elaine Heng started taking ballet lessons at age six. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

You might have seen this graceful, 1.64m-tall dancer in recent Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) productions, dancing Dewdrop in The Nutcracker (2011), Fate in Romeo And Juliet (2014) and Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty (2015).

Taking these solo roles in the company's repertoire is Elaine Heng, who is the only Singaporean "first artist" - one rank below the highest position of principal artist - at the company.

Distinguishing herself with her poise and technical mastery on stage, she was promoted to the post earlier this year, four years after she joined the company in 2011.

However, Heng says she still has a lot more room to grow.

"I think that when you start to look beyond the technical side of things and become comfortable on stage, that is when you feel like you are progressing," she says.

Her hope is to develop a distinctive style "so that when people walk away from a performance, they will remember you and you won't be just another person who went past".

Heng, who is single, began taking ballet lessons at the age of six at the Singapore Ballet Academy here. As a student, she took on small roles in productions such as The Nutcracker and The Red Shoes.

I think that when you start to look beyond the technical side of things and become comfortable on stage, that is when you feel like you are progressing.

ELAINE HENG

Her father is a businessman and her mother a housewife. She has two sisters, aged 21 and 25. The youngest sister dances recreationally and the other is studying for a master's in dance choreography at the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

After graduating from the Central School of Ballet in London, she joined the SDT full time.

Heng says she plans to stay with the company.

"I feel that there is quite a lot going for me, so it's not wise to leave. I have just been promoted and there are still a lot of roles that I want to do. If I get the chance to do them here, why not?"

LISABEL TING


Amanda Lee Koe, 28, writer

Amanda Lee Koe made up stories for her siblings when she was young.
Amanda Lee Koe made up stories for her siblings when she was young. ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Fresh, furious and funny, Amanda Lee Koe's debut collection of short stories, Ministry Of Moral Panic, made headlines last year when it pipped established literary stalwarts to win the Singapore Literature Prize for English fiction.

The other contenders were a collection of stories by Young Artist Award recipient O Thiam Chin, titled Love, Or Something Like Love; award-winning short-story writer Claire Tham's first novel, The Inlet; and As The Heart Bones Break by novelist Audrey Chin who was on the Singapore Literature Prize shortlist for the second time.

The book has sold 2,200 copies since it was published in late 2013 and is now in its third print run.

The 28-year-old author has a year to go of her master's degree in fiction writing at Columbia University under a National Arts Council scholarship.

In an e-mail interview from New York, where her partner is a film-maker, Koe traces her love of storytelling back to childhood, when her mother read her fairy tales at bedtime.

The oldest of three children born to a pilot and a housewife, Koe would make up tales to entertain her younger brother and sister, and acted these out with Power Ranger action figures and Barbie dolls against stages made of styrofoam boxes.

"For as long as I can remember, I have always had the impulse for make-believe. Imagination and subjectivity to me were more compelling than dictums and objectivity," she writes.

A graduate of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication at Nanyang Technological University, Koe has been contributing short stories to online literary journal QLRS since 2012 and also made a name with her editorial work.

She is fiction editor of Esquire Singapore magazine, co-edits issues of the literary journal Ceriph and, with Singaporean writer Ng Yi-Sheng, curated the Eastern Heathens anthology of retold Asian folklore published by Ethos Books in 2013.

One of her short stories, Flamingo Valley, is among the list of Singaporean writing that has been adapted for stage in the Wild Rice production Another Country, currently showing.

Her family is supportive of her writing. Her mother read Ministry Of Moral Panic and said Koe "had a fully-fledged imagination" while her Hokkien- speaking grandfather demanded an autographed copy.

"Despite - or, obviously, because of - the fact that we both know he can't read it properly, I found it really touching," she says.

AKSHITA NANDA


Emily Koh, 29, composer


Emily Koh is pushing the boundaries of classical music. PHOTO: IVAN KOH

Boston-based Singaporean composer and double-bass player Emily Koh is stretching traditional expectations of classical music and its instruments with audacious, experimental melodies.

Her work Jia[K], which the Singapore Symphony Orchestra premiered at the Victoria Concert Hall in April, evoked the buzzing chaos of a hawker centre, complete with the snapping of chopsticks and an entire section written just for the often over-looked double-bass section.

Her violin solo kilo was a set piece for the inaugural Singapore International Violin Competition in January this year and a new work, cis-[FLUX] for sinfonietta, will be heard at the Mizzou International Composers Festival in Missouri.

When I was writing Jia[K], I was so worried people would find it too Western and think I'm a banana.

EMILY KOH. Banana is a derogatory term to describe an Asian who is too Westernised

She was also invited by San Francisco's Left Coast Chamber Ensemble to create a new work based on an exhibit at the Young Museum, Cornelia Parker's sculpture, Anti-Mass, which is made of the charred remains of a church.

Koh's work implodex!!, premiered last month to a mixed reception, but Koh, in a Skype interview, laughs it off. "You can't expect everyone to listen to things the same way you do."

She is, however, concerned about how her music is perceived in Singapore.

"When I was writing Jia[K], I was so worried people would find it too Western and think I'm a banana," she says, referencing the derogatory term to describe an Asian who is too Westernised.

Married to a fellow musician, Koh is the oldest of four children of a businessman and administrative officer. She graduated with honours and as class valedictorian from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music's bachelor of music degree programme and won a full scholarship to do her master's at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.

She is doing her doctorate at Brandeis University, performs on the double bass with the New England Philharmonic and is writing a new commission for the Singapore Wind Symphony, due at year-end.

"It's been a good year for composition," she says. "In the past, people would go expecting something to sound one way and be disappointed, but people are now willing to put themselves in a situation where they don't know what to expect."

AKSHITA NANDA


Phang Kok Jun, 26, composer

Phang Kok Jun started composing music at the age of 10.
Phang Kok Jun started composing music at the age of 10. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Phang Kok Jun barely has time to compose all the commissions that are flooding in.

In April, the Singapore Wind Symphony premiered his piece Strangely Unfamiliar, written for band and dizhi, while in May, his new work Waves was played by pianist and fellow conservatory alumnus Clarence Lee in a well-received recital at Victoria Concert Hall.

Phang, who is composer-in-residence of Ding Yi Music Company, has also just dotted the last clef on a hour-long musical on the legend of Sang Nila Utama. The Legend Begins will be performed by Ding Yi next week at the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.

This is for the Feed Your Imagination (F.Y.I) series, part of the National Arts Council Arts Education Programme for schools.

"I've almost no time to write, there are so many things to do this year," he says. He hopes to write his first composition for re:Dance Theatre this year and will fly off in two months to Baltimore to do his master's in composition at the Peabody Conservatory on a full scholarship.

While he is looking forward to the experience, he hopes to eventually make Singapore his home base. "There's e-mail, so as long as I establish the right contacts, I can work from anywhere," he says.

The younger of two sons of an electrical engineer and housewife, Phang took keyboard lessons as a child and was composing scraps of melody for the instrument when he was as young as 10.

In Dunman High School, he picked up the erhu and while doing national service, began rearranging music for the SAF Music & Drama Company.

In 2009, he began studying with composer Eric Watson and later entered the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

He has already had his work played by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, including Sounds Of The Bamboo Grove in 2013, and Power Singapura! last year, when the orchestra broke a Guinness World Record for largest Chinese drum ensemble.

The orchestra will also perform a new, still-untitled arrangement by Phang for its SG50 concert next month.

"I've been really lucky to get these opportunities," says Phang.

For Phang, who is single, the mark of success is a long-term relationship with an ensemble.

"For a composer to get a commission is not that hard, but when people want to play your works again, that means you're doing something right."

AKSHITA NANDA


Terrence Wong Fei Yang, 26, composer

Terrence Wong wants to let young talents showcase their works.
Terrence Wong wants to let young talents showcase their works. PHOTO: DAVID PANG

Even before completing his bachelor's degree in music last year, Terrence Wong Fei Yang was premiering well-received works for wind ensembles.

His colourful 20-minute trombone concerto Empire debuted in February last year, played by world renowned trombonist Joseph Alessi and the Singapore Wind Symphony.

The Wind Symphony also performed his euphonium duet Till Death Do Us Part with musicians Steven and Misa Mead in December, while the Singapore Symphony Orchestra commissioned a new work which was performed in April this year.

He has just been named composer-in-residence of the Singapore Wind Symphony and is writing new compositions both for that ensemble and The Philharmonic Winds' upcoming concert in October, part of its 15th anniversary concert celebrations.

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) has commissioned him to write a work for wind ensemble, due later this year, while bass trombonist Adrian Hirst of famed British group the Black Dyke Band recently played Wong's Pentasy for bass trombone and piano at the Low Brass festival of music in Singapore last week.

"This year I will be exhausted by the happy writing and premiering of all the new works," Wong says. He is single.

The only child of a housewife and a taxi driver, he was the only boy in his choir at Xishan Primary School and continued his musical studies at the Yamaha School of Music while in Catholic High School. He completed his bachelor's in music last year under the Nafa's partnership with London's Royal College of Music.

As part of the Quinnuance group of composers who hire professional musicians to perform their work, Wong is dedicated to making new music more accessible to audiences used to old-school styles.

In the next five years, he hopes to start a new music label to publish Singaporean compositions - currently composers like him self-publish.

With the Singapore Wind Symphony, he is also organising a Young Composers Challenge, inviting musicians aged 24 and below to compose a march and work with local mentors.

"Many others in more senior positions have given me many opportunities to showcase what I have and I hope to do so for the younger generation as well," he says.

AKSHITA NANDA


Loh Jun Hong, 25, violinist

Loh Jun Hong had sold-out concerts in Malaysia.
Loh Jun Hong had sold-out concerts in Malaysia. PHOTO: MIKE LEE FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Loh Jun Hong, whose parents have a construction business, picked up the violin to accompany his older sister, who was learning the piano.

He progressed so fast that he entered the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory on a full scholarship at age 15 - a youthful record broken only by his friend, violinist Abigail Sin at age 14.

He did his master's at the Juilliard School of Music and was the only Singaporean to make it to the semi-finals of the hotly contested Singapore International Violin Competition this January.

The contest was won by Taiwan's Tseng Yu-chien and Loh, though initially disappointed, is moving on.

Last month, he was a featured player at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's SG50 concert at Victoria Concert Hall, played Vivaldi's Four Seasons with NUS Alumni and had sold out concerts in Malaysia.

Next, he returns to the Verbier Festival as concertmaster for the third time - the event in Switzerland is a career-making gathering of musicians under 30. "It's so busy I need a holiday," he says.

His technical skill and virtuosity on the violin have won him awards at music competitions from the United States to Turkey and scored him appearances with noted ensembles from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra to the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong.

But he really just wants audiences to enjoy themselves at classical music concerts.

To that end, he and fellow Yong Siew Toh Conservatory alumnus Sin organise concerts under the label More Than Music, which rethinks traditional concert formats and attempt to engage listeners on different levels.

A concert in September at the Esplanade Recital Studio will have the musicians act as a "live jukebox". Instead of the typical concert programme, the audiences will be offered a "menu" of melody choices described by the emotions or textures they evoke - Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto might appear only with a number and the words "bright and sparkly", for example. The actual programme for the evening will be chosen by lottery.

As Loh puts it: "In general, when you go to a classical music concert, it's with a very critical mindset, you go to see whether this person plays the piece well. But you should go to have a good time."

AKSHITA NANDA


Tan Qing Lun, 27, dizi player

Besides the dizi, Tan Qing Lun also plays the Indian, Japanese and cucurbit flutes.
Besides the dizi, Tan Qing Lun also plays the Indian, Japanese and cucurbit flutes. PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Musician Tan Qing Lun's versatility when it comes to bamboo flutes is immense.

The venu, an Indian bamboo flute with eight finger holes; the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute; the hulusi or cucurbit flute, three bamboo pipes passing through a gourd wind chest; and the Chinese dizi and xiao bamboo flutes. He wields all with ease.

"Learning to play a flute is easy - it is just like learning how to pronounce words," says Tan, 27. "But it is learning the language that is difficult, the phrasing and the expression."

Tan graduated with a master's in dizi from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music last year and is co-founder and full-time musician with Chinese chamber ensemble Ding Yi Music Company. He is also a council member of the Singapore Chinese Music Federation and is secretary of the Singapore Dizi Society and will help the two groups organise the inaugural three-day Singapore Dizi Festival, slated for later this month.

Tan, who is single, may have made music his career, but playing an instrument was the last thing on his mind when he was a student at Red Swastika School.

I didn't like music. My mum forced me to join the Chinese Orchestra because I was rather mischievous. She thought learning a music instrument might make me more obedient.

TAN QING LUN

"I didn't like music. My mum forced me to join the Chinese Orchestra because I was rather mischievous and she thought that learning a music instrument might make me more stable and more obedient," he recalls.

Tan's mother is a housewife and his father works in the family wholesale business dealing with souvenirs. He has two sisters, aged 22 and 29, and the younger one plays the erhu.

Picking up the dizi was a practical decision. "It was a relatively cheap instrument. I don't come from a very rich family," he says. "The cheapest instrument to play was percussion because you only needed to buy the sticks, but the second cheapest was a flute."

He fell in love with music only when he joined the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts' School of Young Talents in 2000.

It was also there that he met his mentor, dizi maestro Zhan Yong Ming, who was then a professor in the music department of the school. The Singaporean academic has since joined the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Tan studied under him for his master's degree there.

Tan's hope is to help find a voice that represents Singapore.

"I don't think it will happen so soon and it may not happen in my generation, but we are slowly working towards this new style."

LISABEL TING


Clara Yee, 26, designer


Clara Yee created scarf designs for Alexander McQueen. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Designer and illustrator Clara Yee, 26, has a resume that many of her peers would envy.

The Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design graduate has done work for some of the biggest names in the industry, including designer T-shirt company Savage London, Bombay Sapphire gin and record label Warner Music Singapore.

While still at college in London, in 2010, she interned for six months at famed fashion house Alexander McQueen as a print designer - creating scarf designs for the spring/summer 2011 collection, which were sold in Selfridges and Liberty department stores there.

Yee, who is a DesignSingapore Council scholar, says of her gruelling internship with the fashion label: "It was intense, but fun and there was a sense of camaraderie among the interns."

The youngest of four children born to a retired engineer and a housewife, Yee got her start in design early, working as an illustrator for a magazine advertisement for Johnson & Johnson in 2006. She was just 16 then and studying at Cedar Girls Secondary School. She later studied study visual communication at Temasek Polytechnic's School of Design and graduated top of her cohort in 2009.

After returning to Singapore in 2012, she worked as a creative designer at multi-disciplinary architecture studio Zarch Collaboratives before starting her own studio at the end of 2013.

She was the artistic director of art-and-culture event Pasar Singapura: The Bazaar, part of Spotlight Singapore's showcase in Mexico City, an entrepreneurship event organised by Global Cultural Alliance, which took place in the Mexican capital in March this year.

She is also the art director for Singapore: Inside Out, a travelling showcase of Singaporean talents in the fields of design, food, music, literature, performing and visual arts. Helmed by the Singapore Tourism Board, the showcase will be in Singapore from Nov 27 to Dec 6.

"I often think about the future of the design scene in Singapore," says Yee, who is single. "The last few years have been pivotal and the scene has grown so much.

"I'm tied to Singapore no matter what and I've got to be here now. It'll be a huge disappointment if I miss this moment."

NATASHA ANN ZACHARIAH


Tiffany Loy, 28, designer


Industrial designer Tiffany Loy has shown her work at Milan Design Week. PHOTO: TIFFANY LOY

You could say Tiffany Loy is a material girl - not the kind who looks for branded things, but one with a love of crafting things out of substances.

The 28-year-old industrial designer's textile projects and techniques have gained her recognition on the local and international stages this year.

In March, she was one of four artists selected for Project X at the SingaPlural event during Singapore Design Week. Working with laminates brand Lamitak, she came up with Hundreds and Thousands, a table and wallcladding design which mixed different laminate textures to create a pattern.

A month later, she exhibited her other textile works at the internationally watched Milan Design Week, as part of a 15-strong Singapore designer collective called The Alchemists.

Titled Textile Transmutations, the wearable experiment involved using a heat-setting technique on acrylic moulds to create textures on polyester fabric. The resulting material was then made into a futuristic-looking dress and a jacket in blue and red.

Loy, whose mother is a housewife and father and older brother are engineers in a shipyard company, sums up her design journey: "I'm very interested in the way things are made and how they can be made differently.

"I believe that when you make something yourself - or figure out how to do it - you learn so much about the material that it changes the way you design, for the better."

Her work has always drawn praise for being out of the box.

After leaving the Design Incubation Centre - where she worked for two years after graduating with a degree in industrial design from the National University of Singapore, in 2010 - she started her eponymous studio.

Loy, who is not married, also has a bag line Parasolbag, which she started in July 2013. The project uses scraps from parasol factories and turns the material into stylish totes.

She is working on a tapestry project in Kyoto and will start looking for a venue to show her work when she returns.

"I want to understand how things are made and use these skills to develop new ways of creating things and to find new applications for traditional methods of fabrication."

NATASHA ANN ZACHARIAH


Candice Chua, 27, fashion entrepreneur

Candice Chua's nail wraps have made inroads into Hollywood.
Candice Chua's nail wraps have made inroads into Hollywood. ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO

Her nail wrap business is only a year old, but it has attracted the kind of international publicity that other new brands can only dream of.

Candice Chua's infatuation with nail art spurred her to launch Inni (www.inni.com) with Lauri Koutaniemi and Katja Koutaniemi, a married couple based in Finland.

Inni allows users to design vinyl stickers that can be pasted on nails through a programme on the website. Users can select from more than 10,000 designs created by others.

The wraps are manufactured in Finland and it costs $12.90 to print a set of 26 vinyl wraps in various sizes.

With her business, the former management assistant at water treatment company Hyflux has provided an alternative to expensive nail services and pre-designed nail wraps.

Keep your eyes peeled on the brand that has started making inroads into Hollywood.

Last August, the brand was selected to be part of the glitzy Kari Feinstein's Emmys Style Lounge in Los Angeles, an event for celebrities to get freebies. The booth cost about US$5,000 (S$6,750).

Actresses Vanessa Hudgens and Jaime Pressly were among those who had their nails decorated on the sidelines of the Emmy Awards.

At New York Fashion Week last year, fashion designer Ann Yee used the brand's programme to create a cobalt blue and white design with graphic lines that complemented her pieces. In May this year, The New York Times Style Magazine highlighted Inni in a round-up of new products.

Chua, who is single, says the company has broken even, but declines to give sales figures. Her mother works for a leading technology company and her father is retired. She has a younger brother.

She says that a significant part of the business comes from manufacturing for retail brands, which then sell or gift these nail wraps. Inni has produced nail wraps for Rovio Entertainment based on its hit game Angry Birds and for haircare brand Schwarzkopf.

Things can only get better for the Singapore Management University (SMU) graduate. She recently received funding as part of SMU Business Innovation Generator (BIG), which is a programme involving Spring Singapore and IE Singapore, to grow the business internationally.

"The company has grown at such a surprising speed. I think it's because we've enabled people who thought they weren't creative to be creative and design their own wraps."

STACEY CHIA


Nixon Low, 29, head chef of Portico

Chef Nixon Low wants to showcase modern Singapore food.
Chef Nixon Low wants to showcase modern Singapore food. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Stepping into the shoes of an accomplished predecessor may be a daunting task for a young chef, but not for Portico's head chef Nixon Low.

He took over the reins of the kitchen of Portico in Alexandra Road after Leandros Stagogiannis, who had worked at three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck in the United Kingdom, left in August last year.

Owned by venture capitalist Chia Tek Yew, the casual modern European restaurant has been drawing a steady stream of diners despite being tucked away in a business park. It is a stone's throw from Labrador Park MRT station and the Alexandra Retail Centre.

After taking over the restaurant, Low introduced dishes with local flavours such as Pulau Ubin golden snapper with crispy scales and a kaffir lime scented bouillabaisse. Bar tasting menus are also available.

He says: "We've already changed the menu thrice as we need to keep it balanced and figure out how to cater to the different diners at lunch and dinner time."

Low, who has a girlfriend, is the son of hawker parents and the oldest of three children. His 26-year-old brother runs a tailoring business in Bangkok and his 23-year-old sister owns a clothing blogshop.

When he was 16, he trained as a bartender before studying hospitality management at Temasek Polytechnic. He chose the culinary path after enjoying the cooking part of the diploma course and has not looked back.

He spent three years at the Shangri-La Hotel before working at restaurants such as Restaurant Andre, Saint Pierre and Petite Menu at Aqueen Hotel before joining Portico.

Eventually, he wants to open a restaurant overseas to showcase modern Singapore food on a global stage.

This dream came from his passion for taking part in culinary competitions, where he battles on an international level with other chefs.

He was the team captain for the national team in the Dubai World Hospitality Championship 2013, as well as team assistant for the Luxembourg Expogast 2014. The teams took home the gold medal at both competitions.

Next year, he is likely to be involved in the biennial Food & Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge.

He says of his competitive streak: "It's very simple - I'm Singaporean. I also want more Singaporeans to know that our culinary team is very strong and that we are among the best overseas."

EUNICE QUEK


Johnston Teo, 25, executive chef of Sorrel

Chef Johnston Teo likes to use South-east Asian produce.
Chef Johnston Teo likes to use South-east Asian produce. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

At 25, while most of his peers are just making inroads in their culinary careers, Johnston Teo is already leading a team of eight chefs at Sorrel, a casual-style fine dining restaurant in Boon Tat Street.

He had been handpicked by business-savvy hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng of the Unlisted Collection group to head Sorrel - one of the hottest, mid-range restaurants in town with an imaginative menu.

Teo, a Malaysian who has been living here since he was seven, is a name to watch in the regional scene due to his use of South-east Asian produce in the artistically plated dishes.

"I want to lead the movement of using freshly available local and regional ingredients in the fine dining scene here, just like what Noma did for Scandinavian produce," he says, referring to the renowned Copenhagen restaurant.

Last month, he introduced creations such as langoustine with spring onions, sea urchin with tamarind and basil leaves, and roasted chestnuts and beetroot. He hopes to expand the use of local ingredients from mere accents and condiments to being the star on the plates.

Besides importing French naked neck chickens bred on a Malaysian farm, he also hopes to source meats and seafood, such as barramundi, closer to home.

Going local has helped Teo realise a budget-friendly form of fine-dining he calls "bistronomy". He has made prices of the contemporary cuisine more accessible, as well as doing away with the stuffy white-table cloth setting. A three-course lunch costs $45, for example.

Teo, who is single, is the youngest of three children of a businessman father and retired teacher mother.

After dropping out of a digital media design course in Nanyang Polytechnic, he enrolled at Shatec Institute, which led to stints in European restaurants, such as Jann in Swissotel The Stamford and Tippling Club in Tanjong Pagar Road. Sorrel opened in January this year.

Teo says: "Having regular customers is better than receiving awards as it is rewarding to realise that people enjoy the dining experience here, but we still have a long way to go."

KENNETH GOH


Frederick Yap, 28, restaurateur

Pince & Pints' Frederick Yap wants to open more eateries.
Pince & Pints' Frederick Yap wants to open more eateries. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Within just a year of its opening, lobster-centric restaurant Pince & Pints in Duxton Road has become synonymous with dishes featuring the crustacean. Testament to its popularity are daily queues that last for up to 1 1/2 hours.

The 50-seat restaurant serves lobsters cooked in four ways, including chilli lobster served with fried mantou and lobster rolls - buns plump with 150g of lobster meat.

These dishes are such a hit that even a price hike from $48 to $58 a dish in April this year did not dampen their popularity. It still sells up to 150 lobsters daily.

The man behind it all is Frederick Yap, who is on a mission to make Boston lobsters more wallet-friendly.

To keep prices low, he imports directly up to 1,000kg of live American lobsters from Boston and Maine in the United States and Canada weekly via The Vince & Branches Group, his lobster import business. It supplies lobsters to more than 20 restaurants and hotels.

It is little surprise that the Restaurant Association of Singapore awarded Pince & Pints Best New Restaurant in its Epicurean Star Awards last November. Not too bad for someone who started in the food and beverage industry as a part-time cook in Fish & Co in November 2013.

By March last year, Yap was already setting up the self- designed lobster-holding facility for Pince & Pints.

Yap, who also owns a China-based manufacturing business and invests in local technology start-ups, honed his business acumen with home- grown online fashion retailer, Love, Bonito.

He dropped out of a business and economics course at University of Oregon to start the company with his wife and fashion entrepreneur Velda Tan, 28, and two other partners in 2010. The couple left the company two years ago to focus on other interests.

His father is a retired financial director and his mother is a retired auditor. He has an older sister, 35, who lives in Australia.

Because of rising costs of doing business in Singapore, he is setting his sights abroad.

Kuala Lumpur is his first stop. A Pince & Pints restaurant will open in a "food and lifestyle" precinct in Kuala Lumpur by this December. His lobster import business will also have an outpost in the city, occupying a 3,000 sq ft warehouse space, which is three times the size of his warehouse here.

He also hopes to open up to three more outlets in Kuala Lumpur by next year and is looking to expand the business to Jakarta and Bangkok.

KENNETH GOH


Peter Chua, 26, bartender

Creativity and showmanship have helped barman Peter Chua make his mark.
Creativity and showmanship have helped barman Peter Chua make his mark. PHOTO: ENSOF PHOTOGRAPHY

Last year, local barman Peter Chua broke into the global cocktail scene when he emerged among the top six out of 47 bartenders at the prestigious Diageo Reserve World Class finals, held in Edinburgh and London. He was the first Singaporean and South-east Asian to have made it that far in the annual competition.

This shone the spotlight not just on him, but also on the bar he works for, 28 Hong Kong Street.

In Singapore, the cocktail scene is booming, with at least a new bar popping up every few months specialising in bespoke cocktails. In this competitive landscape, Chua, who is single, differentiates himself by his creativity, showmanship, youth and awards.

Active in the competition circuit, he competed against 35 other finalists from around the world in the revered annual Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail competition in May.

He wowed the judges when he sang Sugar Man by folk musician Sixto Rodriguez while mixing his rum-based cocktail, Sugar Man, and would have played the guitar too if the sound system was working. He made it to the top eight in the global finals.

Last month, his bar also made it to the top 10 for Best International Bar Team at the Tales Of The Cocktail 9th Annual Spirited Awards in New Orleans, considered the Oscars of the international bartending industry.

The oldest child of a musician father and a teacher mother, Chua started bartending six years ago, working at several clubs and bars before joining 28 Hong Kong Street in 2011.

He wants to take a break from competitive bartending to teach his younger colleagues and to work as a bar consultant on upcoming projects.

His ambition? "To keep pushing until Singapore becomes among the top bar capitals in the world, up there with London, San Francisco, New York and Tokyo."

MELISSA KOK


Gentle Bones, 21, singer-songwriter


PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Singer-songwriter Joel Tan, who goes by the stage name of Gentle Bones, has a burgeoning following online.

His YouTube music videos have hit 1.7 million views - impressive when one considers that, unlike many amateur YouTube musicians who perform covers, Tan is making his name through mostly original material.

His eponymous debut EP, released in August last year, went straight to No. 1 on the local iTunes album charts. Two songs from the release, Until We Die and Save Me, topped its singles charts.

Tan represents the new breed of artists who places as much emphasis on the visual as on the aural when it comes to crafting his songs.

"I've always been quite sure of what I wanted and how I would like to package my music and the visuals," says the 21-year-old folk/pop singer.

In the past year, he has played at major events such as the SG50 countdown at The Float @ Marina Bay, in front of a 25,000-strong audience, as well as opened for American acts Christina Perri and Us The Duo at their gigs here.

I'll still be doing shows and working on my songs even when I'm back in school. The music is not going to stop.

GENTLE BONES, who will be studying for a degree in business studies at Nanyang Technological University next month

He recently marked another milestone when he became the first Singapore act to sign up with major label Universal Music Singapore.

While his previous music videos were low-budget affairs done with a skeletal crew, the label has provided him with a team of film professionals for his upcoming music video, Sixty Five. The song is from the soundtrack for the upcoming film 1965 on Singapore's turbulent history with Lim Kay Tong playing founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Over the past week, Tan, who is single, was one of the home-grown indie acts in London to perform in a series of shows organised by The Music Society, Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board.

He has written a new batch of songs for a future EP. But before that, he will enrol in a business studies degree programme at Nanyang Technological University next month.

"I'll still be doing shows and working on my songs even when I'm back in school," says the son of a lawyer father and housewife mother. "The music is not going to stop."

EDDINO ABDUL HADI


Kenny Khoo, 26, singer

Kenny Khoo has branched into acting.
Kenny Khoo has branched into acting. PHOTO: QIU STUDIO

His debut album Ten Storeys climbed to the top of Taiwan's authoritative G-Music album chart last May.

In the process, he denied Hong Kong superstar Eason Chan's 43rd album Rice & Shine the pole position.

It was an opening salvo that firmly established the young singer-songwriter as someone to watch - and listen to.

The disc was an unabashedly commercial mix of easy- on-the-ear ballads such as Wounded and more upbeat tracks such as Phoenix and Against All Odds.

While there will be pressure for his next record to do well, Kenny Khoo shrugs it off. "If I feel the songs are authentic and I've done my best, that's all that matters."

He is at the early stages of a follow-up album where the songs have been chosen, but have yet to be produced.

"The second album is more geared towards rock, with a little bit of punk rock elements and it'll be pretty fun to do live," he adds.

Khoo is in Taipei looking for musical collaborators to realise his vision.

He left his previous label, home-grown outfit Funkie Monkies, to set up his own company, Qiu Studio, in January.

"I want to get to know more about the business and how the industry works. Regardless of whether I can sustain a career as a singer, I still hope to do something music-related, say music production."

The pragmatic artist is also diversifying his career by acting in an idol drama which is tentatively slated to air in Taiwan by early next month. He plays a loyal and cheeky friend in Huang En Hao Dang (literally, Infinite Royal Graciousness), a fantasy series involving a parallel universe.

He says: "The more I act, the more I like it and I feel that acting is another platform for me to showcase myself."

The bachelor had acted in xinyao drama That Girl In Pinafore (2013) as a student who is into music.

But Khoo, the older of two sons of retiree parents, adds: "Of course, the focus is still on music."

He has a simple goal for his next record: "Have more people know who I am."

BOON CHAN


Charlie Lim, 26, singer-songwriter

Perfectionist Charlie Lim's song can have up to 150 layers of tracks in his song.
Perfectionist Charlie Lim's song can have up to 150 layers of tracks in his song. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

He writes poignant songs of heartbreak, but neo-soul troubadour Charlie Lim insists he does not milk misery for melodies.

"I don't want people to confuse melancholy with depression - that's very different," says the 26-year-old. "Melancholy is a state of mind where you can ask yourself questions and reflect on them. I can never write in a state of sadness or depression. I would be too anxious."

Lim's recent release, a double EP titled Time/Space, is a profound collection of original compositions that run the gamut of folk, R&B, jazz, electronica and blues. A man of many talents, he not only played many of the music instruments himself, but also served as his own producer, overseeing all work in the studio.

"I do everything myself when it comes to the music," says the Bachelor of Music graduate from Australia's Monash University. "I play piano and guitar, which is what singer-songwriters do, but I'm not happy with that alone, so I take on the producer's role too."

A song, for the perfectionist, can comprise up to 150 layers of instruments or vocal tracks.

Since his debut 2011 release, EP, Lim's meticulous attention to detail and velvety voice have won him a growing fan base.

The son of a doctor and a teacher, he started playing piano at four. The bachelor, who has a younger brother and sister, has been playing more prominent shows recently, including the closing ceremony for the 28th SEA Games at the National Stadium and a set at the Singapore International Jazz Festival this year.

Last year, he became the first home-grown act to sell out two shows at the Esplanade's now-defunct Mosaic Music Festival.

He is starting to build his presence outside Singapore, having played gigs in countries such as Australia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea.

He is collaborating with singer-songwriter Corrinne May, whom he calls his idol, and classical music's T'ang Quartet on a song for SG50-themed album Sing, Love, which was released last month. Lim and May will perform at the Sing, Love concert at The Coliseum this Friday. True to form, the song, Kite, is an introspective tune. "The song is reflective and probably the most pensive sort of local, National Day sort of song." he says.

EDDINO ABDUL HADI

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline '30 RISING STARS UNDER 30'. Print Edition | Subscribe