Having come from the United States, one of the world’s leading sources of Western Rock, Pop, Electronic/Dance, Hip Hop and R&B music, it was certainly a colorful myriad of experiences for me in this musical hot bed. Even though I was brought up in the city of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, USA), my soul cried out to the sounds of Detroit.
In the annals of electronic dance music, there is no place more iconic than Detroit. Detroit was the heart and soul: a collision of social, economic, technological and musical ingredients that launched a new movement worldwide. Without the efforts of a small group of mostly African-American youth from Detroit and its surroundings in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, dance music would be very different today. Many people would say that Electronic music lacks the soul of live music, however in it lies the life of a new digital era – and no James Bond movie would be complete without its signature Electronic Dance Theme song like ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’.
From the birth of Chicago house, the legacy of New York disco to other scenes and sounds around the world (Japanese synth-pop, Italo disco, European EBM, UK Acid, Industrial, Techno, House, and so on), Detroit has, without a shadow of a doubt, proved its influential power over the kingdom of dance music, even till today.
Moby, an Electronic musician-producer based in New York, is also one of the great musical totems of the electronic dance music scene. A true musical genius, Moby started making music from the young age of 9. He introduced a whole new world of strange sounds, sampling, effects and different world musical cultures fused into electronic music. This was apparent in his hit song ‘Voodoo Child’, where the hypnotic sounds of Africa were blended seamlessly into the techno sounds of Electro. Electro music no longer belonged exclusively to the Western world – it became the sound of the world. Very soon, Electronic music took its dominance over the world, absorbing the sounds and cultures of the different continents and countries that it spanned across. Every year, DJs from all over the world and in the U.S would congregate in celebration of the Miami Winter Music Conference that is held in the month of March (we liken this to the annual ‘ZoukOut’ dance event in Singapore, and the famous ‘Ibiza’ dance party in Spain). It is always exciting to experience different sounds from around the world at such large-scale music parties, where sounds from Japan, Iceland, Europe, America, Brazil, Singapore (yes, even Singapore, with Zouk being ranked the Top 10 club in the world!), Korea, Africa pulsate in one heart beat.
GACKT (the beautiful man)
We now shift our focus on Asia, to the leading icon of fashion, technology and music – Japan. Japan has never failed to enthrall me with its creative and experimental sounds of eclectic music. Known to be great innovators in Electronics, it is no wonder Japanese Electronic music never fails to bear this similar nature. I am intrigued at how the Japanese come up with interesting Concept bands like ‘Visual K’, ‘Engineer’, ‘High-School’, ‘Asian-Goth-Lolita’, ‘Anime/Manga’, ‘Harajuku’, “Pretty Boy’ etc and the list goes on. Concept bands like the ‘Engineering Company’ concept band ‘MEIWA DENKI’, ‘Visual-K’ bands like ‘THE GAZETTE and ‘GLAY’, ‘Beautiful man’ artiste like ‘GACKT’ (I hear the gals screaming now at the mention of this name), ‘Pretty Boy’ band like ‘SMAP’ and its ever so popular member ‘TAKUYA KIMURA’ (*sings the ‘Gatsby’ TV commercial jingle now), anime band artistes like ‘NANASE AIKAWA’ and ‘MIKA NAKASHIMA’ etc paint such a colorful graffiti of boldness over the audio landscape.
I would like to bring to your attention the Industrial Engineering Company concept band 'MEIWA DENKI'. This band is really worth checking out. The band consists of the 'President' of the 'Engineering Company' and workers dressed in Engineering Overalls and jumpsuits. Every musical instrument played by the band members is handmade and invented by the company, and powered by 100 Voltage switches. I have included some photographs of some of the band's musical inventions below, which prove to be really amazing. Apart from that, the band also invents its own merchandize and toys like its popular 'Knock Knock' toy series (these toys are always sold out!) and it's a thrill to watch their inventions of Robot dancers and flowers dancing on stage to the music in their live shows.
This photo shows the 'wearable winged musical instrument' on the left band member, where he dances and snaps a series of castanets in percussion rhythm. The guy on the right is holding a DIY invention of a 100-voltage switch powered drum machine.
The MEIWA DENKI 'Guitar Fan' musical instrument invention. The guitars are automated and controlled by playing the keyboard (played simultaneously in harmonized chords), powered by a 100-Voltage switch.
Not to neglect my favorite Electronic Dance music genre, my favorite Electronic Dance music DJs/Producers would have to be ‘TOWA TEI’, ‘KEN ISHII’ and ‘JAZZTRONIK’. New age artiste ‘KITARO’ also creates ‘haunting and mesmerizing’ sounds that fuse traditional Japanese sounds with Western sounds. It is very interesting to hear Japanese music, as these experimental artistes are really good at combining Western and Asian sounds like Western Folk, Country, Dance, Jazz, Traditional Japanese music, Classical, Metal, Rock etc, yet achieving that sense of balance and harmony in the mixes.
Now we come to my favorite country: Singapore. Many people wonder why I would even like Singapore, a place many regard as ‘small and boring’. There are many things that I love about Singapore, and one of them is the diversity of cultures and music – all found in this tiny little sunny island! I feel that it was really apt to hold the inaugural Youth Olympics Games (YOG) in Singapore, as this is the country that truly displays such a fine example of a multicultural society that speaks of racial harmony in its finest. Another thing is, Singapore is a sunny place, and where the sun always shines, it is a happy place! I am absolutely in love with the local music scene, and bands like ‘The Great Spy Experiment’, ‘B Quartet’, ‘Aphradistra Fly’, ‘The Fire Fight’, ‘The Observatory’ and others resonate in my mind. This little island city really has many talented musicians and songwriters.
The Fire Fight
Being pretty much ‘Asianized’, I even like listening to Chinese music sometimes! It is interesting how Chinese Pop music infuses Western R&B with Chinese melodic lines. Love ballads still take predominance in the Chinese music arena, and form the staple for popular Karaoke joints like ‘K-Box’ and ‘Party World’. I do notice one major difference between the U.S and Singapore when it comes to ‘Karaoke Culture’. In the States, we have Karaoke bars where anyone could go up to the stage to sing and perform their music selection in front of an audience, whereas in Singapore, Karaoke bars usually have several private rooms with individual karaoke systems. Even when it is a bar with a shared microphone concept, the arrangement would be individual groups of tables and seats with separate TV screens, maintaining that aspect of privacy. This could be due to the fact that Asians are shier and more modest than their Western counterparts. Nevertheless, I do love a good Karaoke session anytime (even though I am not the best singer to begin with)! I also love to treat myself to music havens like the Esplanade (I certainly love the live bands at the Waterfront and during music festivals like the ‘MOSAIC’ music festival), SCAPE, ZOUK disco club, HOME club, Timbre, The Substation, The Fort Canning and other independent underground music events and concerts whenever I hear of any! However, I do wish that the Singaporean audience could loosen up a little more at the gigs and concerts and just enjoy themselves and lose themselves in the music. It would be fun to see more head-banging, morshing and body-surfing at the ‘pits’ during such dynamic gigs! And it would be cool to have house parties where friends could exchange and share music, or perform in bands together with a live DJ, immersed in beautiful music and conversations over home-concocted drinks, and food. Good music doesn’t have to be heard only at the usual places – the home can be transformed into that dream music haven too, even if it was just for a day. In conclusion, I feel that there really is so much choice of music in this world, and the selection is boundless. How could anyone find life a bore with such limitless fun? The world is never a boring place with music J