Chinese flute meets Indian dance

Now a student at London's prestigious Royal College of Music, Nabillah Jalal (above) will play at a fund-raiser with the Young Musician's Foundation Orchestra on Aug 16.
Now a student at London's prestigious Royal College of Music, Nabillah Jalal (above) will play at a fund-raiser with the Young Musician's Foundation Orchestra on Aug 16.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NABILLAH JALAL
Now a student at London's prestigious Royal College of Music, Nabillah Jalal (above) will play at a fund-raiser with the Young Musician's Foundation Orchestra on Aug 16.
Now a student at London's prestigious Royal College of Music, Nabillah Jalal (above) will play at a fund-raiser with the Young Musician's Foundation Orchestra on Aug 16.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NABILLAH JALAL

Chinese flute player Tan Qing Lun teams up with Indian artists while pianist Nabillah Jalal puts on her first Mozart concerto

Two young Singaporean musicians show their mettle in concerts next month.

Dizi player Tan Qing Lun, 26, shows off his venu or Indian flute skills in a performance on Tuesday, while pianist Nabillah Jalal, 21 and a student at London's prestigious Royal College of Music, plays her first Mozart concerto on Aug 16.

Two years into her bachelor's degree in music, Nabillah is both excited and nervous about her concerto debut - Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 - at a fund-raiser with the Young Musician's Foundation Orchestra. She shares top billing with 11-year-old flute prodigy Nikolai Song.

Her appearance is at the invitation of the orchestra's founder, Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang, who set up the foundation to help needy talented students to play internationally.

Nabillah is one such student.

In 2012, she had a place at the Royal College of Music but her father, who is in shipping, and her housewife mother did not have the funds to send her overseas. It took community club fund-raisers and financial aid from sponsors including Mendaki and the Trailblazer's Foundation before she could pursue her dream.

"Initially, it was very daunting," she says of the school, adding that it took her more than a year to believe that she deserved to be there.

After all, she had not even taken A-level music at Nanyang Junior College, with her mother insisting on subjects such as geography, mathematics, economics and literature to prepare her for further studies and a regular career.

Now at ease thanks to the mentorship of her teacher at the college, Nigel Clayton, and Ang, who tells Life! she has "the potential to be a wonderful musician", Nabillah needed little persuading to try her first concerto. "It sounds like fun," she says.

Conductor Ang, 34, praises her determination and says in a separate interview that she is ready for her concerto debut.

"She has made it this far, against all odds, she continues to do well in London and her progress in the past year has been impressive and very commendable indeed.

"Nabillah can tackle any challenge that is presented to her; and even if that challenge first appears larger than she can overcome, she somehow finds a way to do it. I can already imagine how her Mozart will sound like and I cannot wait to hear it."

Also challenging himself is Chinese flute player Tan, who joins forces with mridangam (Indian drum) player Sai Akilesh, 29, and dancer Shivashni Kummar, 30, to present a mix of traditional Indian and Chinese works at the Esplanade Recital Studio next week.

The line-up for the concert titled Voices Of Tomorrow includes carnatic melody Bo Shambho, the piece that won him second prize in the flute open category of last month's National Indian Music Competition - he beat 16 other entrants and no first or third prizes were awarded.

He will also perform Meeting At The Broken Bridge, composed by his dizi (Chinese flute) teacher Zhan Yongming, as well as a fusion Indo-Chinese melody, Nataraja, written by young composer Phang Kok Jun. Tan and Phang are colleagues at Chinese music ensemble Ding Yi Music Company.

Tan has been studying the dizi since age 12 and has a master's degree from the Shanghai Conservatory. He began learning the Indian flute three years ago, from music educator Ghanavenothan Retnam.

"I started because I wanted to know about other cultures," says the flautist. "Before I started this, I had no idea what Indian music was. Now I know raagas (series of notes, used as the basis for composition) and taals (beats) - it's really a different language."

He says the concert is a showcase of what is possible in Singapore, where different cultures meet and create art that can be faithful to tradition and yet break boundaries.

His fellow artists agree. Dancer Shivashni says: "For me, this truly shows the voices of tomorrow, the next generation coming up. When you see such collaborative works, that's the face of the arts here."

akshitan@sph.com.sg

Comments