Off Stage

Slow, gentle and stress-free

Lim Ming Yi loves nanyin music.

Lim Ming Yi , 20, will be playing the pipa and sanxian (a three-stringed plucked instrument), with the Siong Leng Musical Association this weekend.

She joined the association when she was 10 at the suggestion of her mother, who is in marketing. She is an only child and her parents are divorced. The association, which has 14 members, specialises in nanyin performances. Nanyin, which means "music from the south", is an ancient style of Chinese music from the Han dynasty (206BC-AD220) characterised by slow, gentle and melodic sounds.

This weekend, Lim will be performing in Soul Journey: Nine Songs, based on classical poems written by Qu Yuan, a prominent poet from the Warring States period (475BC-221BC).

The performance promises to combine nanyin music with movements inspired by Chinese opera.


    Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio

    When: Friday, 2 and 7.30pm

    Admission: $50. Call 6741-9293 or e-mail

What do people say when you tell them you're a nanyin performer?

Some of my friends laugh at me as they think it's ancient or old- fashioned. Thankfully, others are interested in what I do and like that I am preserving an age-old tradition.

What's your most memorable moment onstage?

I went to France in May to participate in the Singapore in France Festival, which showcased Singapore culture. I was so happy that the French audience received our music well and even asked for encores. That was the first time we have had that kind of response.

Favourite places to eat during rehearsal periods?

Before rehearsals, we love to have har cheong kai (prawn paste chicken) and stir fried vegetables at Kok Sen Restaurant in Keong Saik Road. To celebrate a performance, we usually go to a Korean restaurant in Tanjong Pagar or for claypot rice at a kopitiam in Keong Saik Road.

Any pre-performance rituals?

I don't have any. But we have hand-cleansing and tea appreciation for the audience before a performance to help them shed their stress and allow our music to calm and relax their body and heart.

What is the best thing about playing nanyin music with Siong Leng? 

I love working in Siong Leng because we're always trying new things. We have tried modernising our music by adding instruments such as the Malay kompang and singing a cappella.

If you weren't doing nanyin, what would you be doing?

I love singing and I used to jam with my secondary school friends after school in my house, so I'd probably be in a band. Alternatively, my dream is to be in the special needs sector so maybe I would be doing volunteer work in that field.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Slow, gentle and stress-free'. Print Edition | Subscribe