Review: Twist on well-known local tunes in The Great Singapore Replay

Some of the participating emerging and established musicians of The Great Singapore Replay.
Some of the participating emerging and established musicians of The Great Singapore Replay.PHOTO: TEMASEK HOLDINGS, NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL​
Theodora, performing her rendition of You're The Boy by Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings (1965).
Theodora, performing her rendition of You're The Boy by Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings (1965).PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL AND TEMASEK HOLDINGS
Joie Tan, performing her rendition of Circling Square by Humpback Oak (1994).
Joie Tan, performing her rendition of Circling Square by Humpback Oak (1994).PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL AND TEMASEK HOLDINGS
Debbi Koh, performing her rendition of Come Home To Me by Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings (1965).
Debbi Koh, performing her rendition of Come Home To Me by Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings (1965).PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL AND TEMASEK HOLDINGS
Umar Sirhan, performing his rendition of Roses by Gingerbread (1985).
Umar Sirhan, performing his rendition of Roses by Gingerbread (1985). PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL AND TEMASEK HOLDINGS

REVIEW/ CONCERT

The Great Singapore Replay - Replay Hour

Various Artists

Clarke Quay Central

Saturday (Sept 9)

Here's a poser: How can one prove, to the uninitiated, that Singapore has an amazing body of popular music stretching back to the 1960s, and enough talent to carry the scene forward for at least another decade or two?

NOISE Singapore's answer: The Great Singapore Replay. Take 10 local classic tunes and give them to 10 emerging acts to rework in as many weeks.

The curation was inspired. How would ambient, moody electronic duo .gif re-imagine The Quests' 1964 instrumental chart-topper Shanty? Would Spacedays apply their psychedelic filter to Kick!'s 1994 pop smash Jane?

For one hour on Saturday night, they showcased their versions to an audience of 1,200 at Clarke Quay Central.

Some opted for deconstructions. Two lush 1960s songs by Shirley Nair and The Silver Strings - You're The Boy and Come Home To Me were given down-tempo, pensive treatments with altered melodies by Theodora and Debbi Koh respectively.

Others stuck to faithful renditions. Nineteen-year-old Umar Sirhan, the youngest performer, put his heartfelt, airy vocals to Gingerbread's ballad Roses, while Joie Tan did Humpback Oak's Circling Square with slightly heavier instrumentation. Folk singer JAWN delivered a conservative take on Dick Lee's regional breakthrough hit The Mad Chinaman.

The more exciting interpretations, however, were those that kept the source material recognisable, while putting an utterly fresh spin on it.

The Betts re-imagined Force Vomit's cheeky ska-punk Siti as an uplifting, sincere power pop anthem.

Jasmine Sokko transplanted the plaintive vocal melody of Concave Scream's alt-rock classic Driven on to a percolating electronic thumper.

Blues singer Shak'thiya drawled his way through an effortless barbershop-quartet version of Serenaide's The Girl From Katong, charming the audience by singing all of it with his hands in his pockets, bobbing nonchalantly.

With the artists taking to the stage in quick succession, and vociferous friends and fans in attendance, it was hard getting away from the feeling that this was really Singapore Idol: Local Classics Night.

But unlike the reality television show, this was not an exercise in covers. It was an exercise in pride, both in Singapore music and its latest crop of talent - a point which Tim De Cotta, co-founder of arts curation company Getai Group, was happy to emphasise throughout the night.

De Cotta, who matched the artists with the songs, also pulled triple duty as bassist, backing vocalist and emcee for several of them, playing alongside his band The Warriors.

"Go out there and support local artists," he urged the audience repeatedly between songs. "We are not an inferior good."

The show was proof enough of this.