Communicating through language of jazz

Singapore jazz singer Rani Singam had instant chemistry with Japanese jazz pianist Akira Ishii.
Singapore jazz singer Rani Singam had instant chemistry with Japanese jazz pianist Akira Ishii.PHOTO: COURTESY OF RANI SINGAM

Singapore jazz singer Rani Singam and veteran Japanese jazz pianist Akira Ishii do not speak a common language, but that has not stopped them from making music together.

After performing in Japan, they are bringing their show here and will play as a duo at the Esplanade Recital Studio on Oct 24 and 25.

The concert title, Chowa - In Harmony, is apt, she says.

"Chowa is a Japanese concept of harmonious partnerships. In the context of this collaboration, it's quite compelling because we are able to build a harmonious connection in spite of our language differences through jazz, our common language."

Singam, 48, first performed with Ishii, 56, in Tokyo last year and they are planning more shows in other Japanese cities next year.

"There was instant chemistry and connection and our performances were well received by the Japanese audiences," she says of her debut Tokyo show with Ishii and bass player Takashi Sugawa.

She got to know the two Japanese musicians through Tokyo-based drummer Darren Moore, whom she used to perform with regularly when he was based in Singapore.

  • BOOK IT /CHOWA - IN HARMONY

  • WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Oct 24 and 25, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $35 (go to esplanade.com). Concession tickets are available

The Esplanade shows will feature jazz standards and pop tunes such as My Way and Someone To Watch Over Me. They will also perform Japanese classic Soshu Yakyoku, or Suzhou Serenade, which she sang in the Tokyo shows.

Performing as a duo is challenging, she says, as they have only each other to engage the audience.

"It is, however, one of the most liberating settings for me as there's so much freedom and space to paint the story.

"I am looking forward to performing again with Ishii-san, who plays with depth, sensitivity and an adventurous spirit," adds Singam, who is currently working on a live album of her solo concert, My Muse, at Victoria Concert Hall in April. The concert was also held in the same month in Hong Kong.

In an e-mail interview translated from Japanese, Ishii, who has performed and released albums as a bandleader and with Japanese jazz groups such as Terumasa Hino Quintet and Chamber Music Trio, says he is looking forward to the concerts in Singapore with Singam, his first performances here.

"I think Singapore and Japan should have more cultural exchanges. I also want to know more about Singaporean ethnicity and culture and have a deeper connection through music."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2019, with the headline 'Communicating through language of jazz'. Print Edition | Subscribe