After Six go on the record

(From far left) Ooi Zhe Xi, Zhan Zhirui, Chris Khoo, Chong Wai Lun, Takuma Tanaka and Cheong Chee Jun are members of After Six. The seventh singer, Chan Ern Theng, is not in the photo.
(From far left) Ooi Zhe Xi, Zhan Zhirui, Chris Khoo, Chong Wai Lun, Takuma Tanaka and Cheong Chee Jun are members of After Six. The seventh singer, Chan Ern Theng, is not in the photo.PHOTO: ESPLANADE

Singapore seven-man a cappella hobby group are launching an EP titled It's About Time

Local a cappella group After Six are so named because they can get together to practise their music only after 6pm, when they are done with their day jobs.

After seven years of gigging in the a cappella scene, they are finally ready to do a little more than just treat their music as a mere "hobby".

The seven-man group will launch their debut recording, an EP titled It's About Time, at a show at the Esplanade Recital Studio tomorrow. All tickets are sold out.

While one of the members, Chong Wai Lun, 33, tells The Straits Times that they are still "largely a hobby group", they are getting more serious about it. "We're getting old, so we're trying to cross things off our bucket list," the choir instructor says of their decision to record It's About Time.

Fellow singer Chris Khoo, 35, who works in the logistics industry, adds: "We've been thinking to ourselves, it's been seven years, maybe it's time to have something tangible that we can look back to and go, 'Hey, we did this.' Everything we've done so far is just gigs. An EP is something more lasting."

The five-song EP, available only on CD, will be sold at the show for $12. The group decline to reveal how much they spent on the self-funded release, which was produced by Peter Huang from established home-grown a cappella outfit MICappella.

Like the songs in their live repertoire, the tunes in the EP are cover songs sung in various languages. These include a song sung in Japanese, Wasurenai Hibi by pop singer Misia from the late 1990s; a Malay song, Belaian Jiwa, first made popular by Malaysian pop group Carefree in the late 1970s; and the Portuguese number Agua De Beber, Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova jazz standard from the early 1960s.

Their live gigs also feature covers of soul numbers in English and Mandarin by acts such as Stevie Wonder and Khalil Fong.

After Six have their roots in the National University of Singapore, where they joined Resonance, an a cappella co-curricular activity under the university's Cultural Activities Club. Unlike many a cappella groups here that have a mixed line-up, After Six members are all males.

Explains Khoo: "We just wanted to have a different sound. With a guy group, I guess there's more bite to the sound - it's fuller, a different level of sound quality."

They comprise Singaporeans, Malaysians and a Japanese. Besides Chong and Khoo, the other members are Takuma Tanaka, 28, who works in the finance industry; Zhan Zhirui, 27, a mathematics tutor; Cheong Chee Jun, 28, a media planner; and Ooi Zhe Xi, 27, who works in the engineering industry.

The seventh singer, Chan Ern Theng, 29, is studying music therapy in Melbourne and will not be part of the launch concert, although he was involved in the recordings.

The rising popularity of a cappella music in Singapore over the last few years has been heartening for the group, who sold out the 200-plus tickets at their first ticketed gig in 2010.

Chong says: "It's nice to see how a cappella has progressed over the past 10 to 15 years, from being a novelty to a mainstream thing now.

"A couple of us used to dabble in choirs and such, and a cappella used to always be a side-show or add-on to the choir itself. Nowadays, it has its own legitimacy, its own following."

Khoo says there is something about hearing multiple voices singing in harmony. "I think it's the attraction of hearing chords from voices. It's a unique sound, the human voice has a lot more emotion to it, as opposed to instruments."

Working on their EP in the past year has inspired the band to take their music to the next level. They are considering taking their music to the international stage and writing original tunes.

Chong says: "This entire year was a good learning process - it helped us to sharpen our ideas and skills. We have a clearer direction of where we are headed next."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'After Six go on the record'. Print Edition | Subscribe