Singapore Writers Festival hopes to draw those who love speech and song too

The festival will feature a double-bill by In Each Hand A Cutlass (left) and I Am David Sparkle (above).
The festival will feature a double-bill by In Each Hand A Cutlass (above) and I Am David Sparkle. PHOTOS: IN EACH HAND A CUTLASS, I AM DAVID SPARKLE
The festival will feature a double-bill by In Each Hand A Cutlass (left) and I Am David Sparkle (above).
The festival will feature a double-bill by In Each Hand A Cutlass and I Am David Sparkle (above).

The festival hopes to draw not just those who love the written word, but those who love speech and song too

The Paper, The Pen And A World Began is the pithy title of this year's Singapore Writers Festival theme song - the first time that the festival has had one since it began its run in 1986.

Its debut captures the festival's evolution into a more diverse and performance-oriented one seeking to reel in not just lovers of the written word, but also speech and song.

In total, there are 14 music- related events at the festival, which opens next Friday and runs till Nov 8. These cut across genres, from a solo showcase by New Zealand singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook, who fronts the Kiwi indie-folk band Tiny Ruins, to a session by local dub and reggae music group Wobology.

There are also talks on topics such as why music invokes rich emotions, as well as a panel on the local music scene by home-grown singers Sezairi, Jaime Wong and Joel "Gentle Bones" Tan.


  • WHERE: Victoria Theatre

    WHEN: Oct 30, 8 to 10pm

    ADMISSION: $20 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to


  • WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio

    WHEN: Nov 5,8 to9.30pm

    ADMISSION: $25 from Sistic

    INFO: Go to www.singapore

Noting how the festival's demographics and diversity of programming has grown, festival director Yeow Kai Chai tells Life in an e-mail: "We want to reach out to those who find picking up a book intimidating or feel they aren't 'literate' enough to enjoy literature.

"I wanted to take it a notch further, by introducing writing from films, music and theatre," says Yeow, who is also a poet and music reviewer for The Straits Times.

A key highlight is Island Of Dreams, a double-bill by Singapore instrumental rock bands In Each Hand A Cutlass and I Am David Sparkle.

The theme song, which clocks in at about four minutes, was composed by In Each Hand A Cutlass, which will perform it at the festival.

The band's guitarist Daniel Sassoon, 40, says of the song: "We tried to catch that feeling of inspiration, from the time an idea takes flight to the stage where you're writing, perfecting it and translating it onto paper. Then the song plateaus off and evokes a sense of conclusion and reflection."

I Am David Sparkle's guitarist Amran Khamis, 38, says the band will play about six songs, some of which are from their upcoming album, Art Is Blood. "Literary arts is an extension and expression of language, and so is music. It's just in notes and a different form."

Another highlight is Dimensions And Demons, a collaboration with the Esplanade which will pair home- grown musicians and authors to create original performances.

These include writer Daren Shiau, 44, who will work with indie band Riot In Magenta on a 15-minute piece titled Lucid Dreams. The other two pairings are writer Stephanie Ye with Ferry, a solo project by singer Jean Low; and author Dave Chua, who will partner indie singer weish.

Shiau, who wrote the dialogue and suggested words to use as loops in the performance, says: "We wanted to deal with that moment when you're asleep and you can't ascertain if you're awake. You have control but, at the same time, there are dream-like experiences,"

Riot's drummer Ritz Ng, 24, says: "The challenging part is to make sure the piece makes sense. Our music cannot deviate from the story and we've to make sure our audience understands it, even though it is abstract. We want them to leave with a heavy heart, but not in a bad way. We want them to feel a lot of things."

• The Straits Times is the official media partner of the Singapore Writers Festival. For more stories on the festival, go to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'Words, song and music'. Print Edition | Subscribe