A Cappella in the Red Dot
The Singapore Sound?

Posted by Derrick ( The leader and tenor of Acappuccino, a Singapore-based A Cappella group. He spends time teaching, reading, writing, and singing. He occasionally wishes he could still sing a decent Alto range like he used to. )

Unlike many other Asian countries with their aboriginal tribes and also cultures that go deep into history, Singapore is relatively a young nation at 49 years of independence – so what is this “Singapore” sound that we as part of the Singapore A Cappella try to incorporate to bring to the world stage?

I’m a huge fan of folk pop, folk ballads – the more fluid the lyrics and the melody to me, the better. I love it when arrangers like Christine (Voco Novo, Taipei) a traditional text and breathed new life into it (do a YouTube search on 驀然回首, also found on their European Tour album) – the result is a beautiful mash of text and music.

My first few exposures to a sound that really paints the picture of a landscape or culture would be Dobbin’s Flowery Vale by Rajaton, and Gøta by The Real Group. Especially in Gøta, one can really the voice painting the soaring limits of the Scandinavian landscape.

So in Singapore’s 49-year-old landscape, that is also a cultural melting pot of sorts what do we have that is unique?

Besides Malay folk songs, children songs and national songs, we have the ubiquitous Xinyao (新谣) music that is locally written, produced and performed by prominent song-writers (of that era), with lyrics that reflect the landscape, ideals of Singaporeans in the mid-80s to early-90s.

The youths of that era (they could really be our parents, because I know my dad was part of the movement) were musical activists, singing about patriotism, how they hope that the country will progress, and also about how fleeting youth can be.

Of course, as the years go by, national songs starting gearing towards mainstream styles – of which Home (家), performed by Kit Chan (陈洁仪) is the most perennial of favourites. Remakes of popular Xinyao songs have also made it into the list of national songs – whether it is a mistake or not, I won’t refute that these songs should be classified otherwise, as they are a national musical icon.

In 2001, local A Cappella groups were asked to come together, with various arrangers and record a CD that covers favourite national songs, as well as songs that reflected the melting pot that is Singapore – produced also locally, the album “Urban InFusion” featured a line up of prolific A Cappella groups of that time, including Es’Choir, Impromptu, NANU, and many others, all covering songs in the four main languages in Singapore – I’d recommend giving a listen to that album if you have the chance – hit me up if you’d like a preview of the album as well, as this album is only available at our local libraries.

The most recent live performance of NANU of a track from the album can be found at:

Also, the “updated” Singapore sound can also be found in existing groups – Vocaluptuous has had the honour of working with local songwriting legend Dick Lee, and recording original songs on their 2008 album, “Notes from an Island”, which can be purchased from the group itself at their website!

In 2013, Singapore’s A Cappella sound also has been featured with two tracks on the Vocal Asia compilation – “Voices of Asia” – one being a contemporary original by MICappella – Here We Go, and the other is a fresh remake of a popular Singapore-Malay folk song, Rasa Sayang, as part of The A Cappella Society’s Archival Project to retain, remake and introduce these golden oldies for a younger generation, and also imparting the wow factor by keeping it a cappella! Voices of Asia can be purchased through major A Cappella organizations around Asia.

On this note, I’d like to wish all Singaporeans who’re on this portal a happy National Day weekend to spend!



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