Singapore has a burgeoning, yet non-existent urban musical scene, and is a center for rock, punk and other popular genres in the region. Rock was popular in Singapore by the 1960s, and that decade produced bands like The Quests, who had hits like Shanty, Don’t Play That Song, Jesamine and Mr Rainbow; as well as other pop-rock bands including The
Thunderbirds, The Trailers, and October Cherries. Folk music includes the ethnic Chinese, Malay and Tamil sounds.
The launch of the nation’s premier arts centre, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, has served to focus the island’s classical music making. It is now the venue for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s subscription and gala concerts. In addition, the arts centre has ensured a good representation of classical music from the four primary cultures in the land. In particular, the regular festivals of Hua Yi, Pesta Raya and Kalaa Utsavam ensure that world-class interpreters of these different repertories are heard on a regular basis.
Folk music – ‘Peranakan’ folk music is noted for its fusion of English in Malay-inspired tunes, largely because the Peranakans themselves are often highly conversant in both languages. Contemporary tunes continue to be composed based on the Peranakan culture, such as Bunga Sayang, a theme song from Dick Lee’s musical Kampung Amber. The song became an often-sung staple of the National Day Parade, and gained international exposure when it was performed for the opening ceremony of the 117th IOC Session at the Esplanade.