Newly-launched Sing50 fund to promote Singapore music draws flak

Yahoo! Singapore
Plain Sunset (Yahoo! photo/Alvin Ho)

A recently-launched fund to promote music among the young in Singapore has drawn criticism from some local music players and supporters for its planned purchase of 50 pianos.

The Sing50 fund, which will have an initial purse of S$348,000, was primarily raised from personal donations of three individuals – David Heng, Daniel Lim and Low Check Kian.

The fund was launched by Minister of State for Education and Communication and information Sim Ann over the weekend at Resorts World Sentosa

According to AsiaOne, “The first initiative by the fund will be to buy 50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang pianos, at $26,000 each, for use at the Sing50 concert on Aug 7, which is organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times.”

The pianos will then reportedly go to 50 primary and secondary schools for music education and choir practices.

“Okay, about the money, why can't we use it to fund new mid-sized music venues? Or give grants to bands to record albums or even tour beyond Asia?” local music news and gig website Bandwagon editor Daniel Peters wrote on Monday.

“Sadly the funds were donated by individuals who probably didn't think of all these factors and that's fine. But it clearly displays a mentality that has given up on any chance Singaporean music could even move forward,” he added.

Peters also wondered if the use fund wasn’t explained properly “since 50 x $26k pianos is a lot more than $348k”.

Syahmi Rashid, 28, musician, argued that schools do not need Steinway-designed pianos for their students. “It’s like buying a Brompton [bike] when you can get similar for something much less than that! And schools tend to not look after their pianos a lot. It’s just really going to go to waste. That money can be used for other things.”

Dan Koh, 27, producer of a music documentary on local band The Observatory, said, “It's a private fund, with the bulk of it consisting of personal donations by three folks. They're free to waste their money however they like! Just don't claim it promotes Singapore music please.”

Money for pianos but not performers?

Isa Foong, 26, musician in local band sub:shaman, said, “$348k is a lot of money. If one was so inclined it would be able to fund 73 bands at $5k each to help in the recording of music.”

“How can that kind of money be spent, yet the people who are going to play such prestigious instruments not be paid and/or fed?” he wondered.

“The donors have the right to choose how their money is spent, sure, but a piano, Steinway or not, is simply a block of wood without someone to play it. It speaks of an underlying problem that whoever these people are they have no idea what the point is,” he pointed out.

Mohamed Hanis, 28, a musician, echoed Foong’s sentiments, saying that it didn’t make sense to say the fund was meant for the promotion of local music.

“How does it help, really? What programme is in place for the fancy item to spark a new generation of homegrown music that would, in the words of the [Education] Minister (Heng Swee Keat), ‘inspire many to pursue their dreams of making music and celebrate our home’?” Hanis asked.

“What really grinds my gears is the fact that they openly call for performers, and not just to perform but audition to be able to perform, and these performers will not be paid, not even a small token sum? They're just provided meals,” he said.

The 50 pianos will be used for the Sing50 concert, which is looking for musicians and performers, specifically pianists, orchestra musicians, rappers and choir singers. The website for the celebration concert did not mention any pay for the participants.

Yahoo has reached out to MOE and The RICE Company, which is managing the Sing50 fund, for comment.

-- with reporting by Justin Ong