Dick Lee to pass the baton

Dick Lee (left, above) thinks performers (right from top) Shigga Shay and Joel Tan are noteworthy acts. Sing50 initiative Singapore Rhapsodies Concert offers performing opportunities to new musicians such as Rebecca Tan Yi Xuan.
Dick Lee (left, above) thinks performers (right from top) Shigga Shay and Joel Tan are noteworthy acts. Sing50 initiative Singapore Rhapsodies Concert offers performing opportunities to new musicians such as Rebecca Tan Yi Xuan.PHOTOS: JOEL LOW, THE NEW PAPER FILE, ST FILE, RED ROOF RECORDS

The Singapore singer-songwriter wants to support up-and-coming musicians as he turns 60

Local music icon Dick Lee turns 60 this year and it also marks his 42nd year in show business.

As he continues to make his own music, the singer-songwriter, who will celebrate his birthday with a concert on Aug 19, also wants to nurture the next generation.

"I've seen so many musicians here come and go," he tells The Straits Times. "They need to find an identity in their music, something unique, build a fanbase and stay relevant. At different phases of my life, I've found different ways (to do that), but it's been a struggle."

When asked if there were any up-and-coming musicians who stand out for him, Lee says Shigga Shay, 23, is one. "He's passionate, he's driven. I think he has the best potential to be promoted overseas and I would do anything I can to help him."

Other noteworthy acts for him include Benjamin Kheng, 25, from The Sam Willows and Joel Tan, 22, better known by his stage name Gentle Bones, whom Lee says "has a great sensitivity for someone so young".

He also hopes to reach out to students and youth. His Singapop! 60th Birthday Concert is the first of Sing50 Fund's Icon Series.

  • BOOK IT / THE ICON SERIES: DICK LEE SINGAPOP! 60TH BIRTHDAY CONCERT

  • WHERE: The Star Theatre, The Star Performing Arts Centre, 1 Vista Exchange Green

    WHEN: Aug 19 , 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $48 to $168 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

Sing50 Fund, a private sector initiative supported by The Straits Times and The Business Times, aims to keep the local musical heritage alive by developing a wider knowledge and appreciation of Singapore's music and songs. It was set up after the Sing50 concert in August last year.

Mr Tan Tee Tong, chief operating officer of The Rice Company, which manages the fund, says: "The Icon Series aims to share with Singaporeans, especially the younger generation, the key personalities in our music industry who have influenced Singapore's music culture."

The concerts will take place annually. Performers for subsequent concerts have yet to be confirmed.

Explaining why Lee was chosen for the inaugural concert, Mr Lim Sek, a member of the Sing50 organising committee and chief executive of entertainment company Music and Movement, says: "Dick has an illustrious music career - he not only established his brand of Singapore music locally, but also brought prominence to Singapore music regionally."

He adds that when the Sing50 committee visited more than 60 schools for the Adopt-a-Piano programme, teachers told them that many of their students liked Lee's uniquely Singaporean songs, particularly the National Day ones.

Lee has held talks at schools and will do so again in the third quarter of the year for selected secondary schools, as part of a Sing50 initiative.

He says: "It's important because I want to encourage them to think out of the box. I want them to know passing (exams) isn't everything."

At his concert, he will share with the audience the different phases of his life, including his musical theatre experience and venture into the Asian market.

Sing50 also hopes to partner corporate sponsors to fund tickets for students to watch the concert.

Another initiative that Sing50 plans to roll out this year is the Singapore Rhapsodies Concert, which features young local musicians. The committee is looking to feature singer-songwriter Rebecca Tan Yi Xuan, or Becka, who is new to the local music scene.

The 24-year-old discovered her passion for songwriting while studying music at Lasalle College of the Arts. She started writing her own songs at age 19 and released her first single, Be Alright, under Red Roof Records last month.

She says: "I would be really honoured (to perform). To be part of something of this scale, celebrating the country's identity, is amazing. Local music is our own product and we should be proud of it."

Besides these concerts, students have also been performing self- composed songs and local tunes at the National Gallery as part of the Singapore Rhapsodies Concert series since Jan 29 this year.

One of them is Jonah Ryan Kwek Lim Jin, 17, who is pursuing music at a higher level as part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

For his performance on Jan 29, he put together a xinyao (Singapore songs) medley, arranging it by ear, because he remembered learning about it in school and his parents were familiar with the genre.

"I wanted to perform something uniquely Singaporean that would resonate with Singaporean listeners."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'Dick Lee to pass the baton'. Print Edition | Subscribe