What to catch at Baybeats

An eclectic line-up of 48 acts will perform across five stages at Singapore's annual alternative music festival

From a new stage to livestreaming selected shows, Singapore's annual alternative music festival Baybeats continues to reinvent itself in its 18th year.

Returning to the Esplanade from Friday to Sunday, the free festival's eclectic line-up will once again feature everything from heavy metal to indie rock.

After introducing hip-hop acts for the first time last year, there are plenty more this year with rappers from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.

A total of 48 acts will perform across five stages, including the Chillout stage at the Esplanade Concourse and the Esplanade Annexe Studio.

While the Powerhouse stage along the Esplanade's waterfront is no longer there because of ongoing construction of a new theatre, the harder rock acts it used to host will now be moved to the Arena stage at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.

There will be a new LiveWire stage for rock and hip-hop acts in the Esplanade's Forecourt Garden.

Also in the area is the return of the Open Stage, last seen in 2016, which will feature unplugged sets on all three nights.

  • VIEW IT /BAYBEATS

  • WHERE: Various venues across Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Various times from Friday to Sunday; Friday (6.30pm to 3am), Saturday (6pm to midnight), Sunday ( 6pm to 12.10am)

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: www.esplanade.com/baybeats

This year, Baybeats will also be livestreaming selected performances on the second day of the festival via the Esplanade's YouTube channel (youtube.com/EsplanadeSG) and the Baybeats festival Facebook page (facebook.com/baybeats).

Hosted by local indie music darling Inch Chua, there will be live post-show artist interviews and special backstage content.

Here are five acts to check out - from Singaporean Vedic metal pioneers Rudra and Filipino nu metal veterans Slapshock to the hottest rap acts such as Indonesia's Ramengvrl and Singapore's Mean, along with up-and-coming local math rock band, Cues.


Ramengvrl (Indonesia)

Genre: Hip-hop

Why watch her: For her on-stage antics and message of female empowerment.

See her at the LiveWire stage (Esplanade Forecourt Garden) on Sunday at 8.50pm.

Putri Soeharto, more popularly known as Ramengvrl, is part of a wave of Indonesian rappers, including Rich Brian, who are making their mark.

She commanded attention with her 2016 debut single, I’m Da Man, and remains one of the most high-profile female rappers in the game. She mixes Bahasa Indonesia and plenty of slang into her spitfire raps.

“People have been making their own moves. They’re not waiting for opportunities anymore. They’re just doing their thing,” notes the 27-year-old, who released a mixtape, No Bethany, in April.

She feels that Asian rappers in general are on the rise, especially those who add their own distinctive touches.

Citing Singaporean performers such as Yung Raja and Fariz Jabba, who both played at Baybeats last year, she says: “They’re all so fresh. We’re taking notes from what’s happening in the United States, but we also add our own flavours and slip in our own languages and slang.”

All that attention on the scene has pushed her to up her game.

“I don’t want to just rap. I want to make good s*** that anybody can relate to, and also tell a story when I’m performing,” she adds.

As for her Singapore debut, she says to “expect nothing but energy and also some dope visuals”.


Rudra (Singapore)

Genre: Vedic metal

Why watch them: For Vedic metal from pioneers still in their prime.

See them at the Arena stage (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre) on Friday at 11pm.

While home-grown pioneers of Vedic metal Rudra have played around the world and in various venues in Singapore, they say Baybeats is one of the few shows their family members can go to.

"We usually play in shoe-box studios or bigger venues that are enclosed spaces, which can be intimidating with the kind of music we play and the way metalheads tend to enjoy the music," says frontman-bassist K. Kathirasan, 46. "There's nothing wrong with it, but an open space that's a melting pot of different genres of music in the way Baybeats does it is inviting."

The band, who have been in the industry for almost 27 years, also comprise guitarists Vinod Vaskaran, 34, and Simon Mariadoss 39, and drummer Shivanand Palanisamy, 46.

Rudra's genre of black metal-influenced death metal draws on traditional Carnatic music, with lyrics inspired by the Hindu sacred texts called the Vedas.

The band are no strangers to Baybeats, having played at the festival in 2010 and 2012.

As headliners again this year, frontman Kathirasan says the "real dilemma is having to pick which songs to play because we have nine albums to choose from".

On Tuesday, they released their 10th album, Invoking The Gods, which features covers of songs by metal music legends who were key to their formative years, such as Black Sabbath and Sepultura.

They have already completed three songs for their next album, which they say is centred on "eight to nine women from Indian epics who challenged philosophical thoughts and norms".


 Slapshock (The Philippines) 

Genre: Nu metal

Why watch them: Nu-metal veterans perform in Tagalog and English, but transcend language barriers.

See them at the Arena stage (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre Stage) on Sunday at 10.50pm.

Filipino rockers Slapshock are one of the oldest active metal bands in the scene, with 22 years under their belt.

Their world tour adventures and high-energy live shows have been captured on videos on the band's YouTube page, showing the extent of their reach.

The five-man band are on their Bandera world tour to promote their ninth studio album, Atake.

Frontman Jamir Garcia says they "still have the same passion just like when we started in 1997 and we are still hungry and loving every minute of it".

Unlike other bands who have members who take on solo or side projects and change members, their line-up has remained unchanged from the start.

"Having the same guys since day one is amazing and to be able to share it with the same people who went through the tough parts of being in the band is beyond our imagination," he says.

They have previously played in Singapore at smaller gigs.

Garcia adds: "Singapore always shows us love and we have a pretty good crowd every time we come. It is also amazing to have the backing of the Filipino community."

It has taken them a while to get to the Esplanade, but he promises they "are going to make the most of it".


Cues (Singapore)

Genre: Math rock

Why watch them: For their joyous take on post and math rock.

See them at the LiveWire stage (Esplanade Forecourt Garden) on Sunday at 6.30pm.

Playing at this year's Baybeats is a milestone for local four-piece math rock group Cues, whose intricate instrumental music does not conform to the usual confines of post or math rock.

Comprising twin sisters Gina and Germaine Phoo on guitar, as well as Rex Chin on drums and Tang Hui Jun on bass, the group, who are part of this year's Baybeats Budding Bands programme, are all in their 20s.

Tang says: "The twins have this uncanny synergy about their guitar writing.

"Some people see it as interweaving melody lines. Others see us as having no distinct lead or rhythm guitar parts. It's almost like there is only one guitar instead of two sometimes."

They feel that is what makes them stand out from the pack in terms of writing as they "incorporate more interesting or unexpected rhythm changes".

Just before their Baybeats debut, they are releasing a single called Buttxt on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp.

They plan to release their debut album next year.


Mean (Singapore) 

Genre: Hip-hop

Why watch him: Potential preview of new music from one of Singapore's top rappers.

See him at Esplanade Annexe Studio on Saturday at 11.30pm.

For his next album, titled 44, home-grown rapper Mean went into the studio for the first time with producer Gema from local audio-visual collective Syndicate.

Their chemistry was so explosive that they came up with five tracks within the day.

The album, named after their shared European shoe sizes, is still a work in progress.

"It's as if we've both walked a mile in each other's shoes. That's the whole idea of the project," says the 30-year-old rapper.

Those who show up at his Baybeats debut this weekend could get to hear some of it.

He used to attend the festival every year when he was in polytechnic and playing there is a dream come true.

Known as much for his slick designer togs as his slick flows, Mean, or "the dapper rapper" as he is also known as, will be backed by a band comprising a bassist, a drummer and a turntablist.

He also hints at the possibility of a performance with Malaysian rapper Airliftz, who takes the stage just before him.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2019, with the headline 'What to catch at Baybeats'. Print Edition | Subscribe