From time to time, we have young jazz community members share their insights about our events they have experienced. For this post, we introduce you to Nigel, who was very intrigued by our International Jazz Day Event at Kult Kafe, and is now a part of SIJB (Singapore International Jazz Competition & The Forum) squad. Enjoy the read!
International Jazz Day 2018 – A Review
Words by: Nigel Li / Edited by: Xavier Lim
International Jazz Day 2018 was celebrated with great enthusiasm and energy on the 29th of April. The event organizer, We Love Jazz Singapore (WLJ SG), aims to give prominence to Singapore’s jazz community and to create opportunities for enthusiasts and anyone interested. International Jazz Day 2018 was set up to achieve just that. There was an open call for participants (professionals and amateurs), giving them the opportunity to freely perform, speak, and express their appreciation for jazz. While jazz as a genre might not be as prominent as it was in the past, this has not deterred WLJ from their pursuit to foster a more vibrant jazz community in Singapore.
The turnout for the event did not disappoint. As the music of the performers brought life into the air at Kult Kafe, listeners cheered on with great enthusiasm. This was a testament to the strong foundations that the jazz community has in Singapore, and WLJ wants to reach out even further than that. Despite the energy of the crowd, the event still felt catered towards a niche group of people; it is this margin of people that can open up the Singaporean community into the world of jazz. Raymond Lim, a jazz pianist who performed on IJD shared that the challenge for jazz to maintain its prominence is sustainability, “jazz historically tends not to draw in much money, and venues tend to be difficult to sustain… However, I believe we should keep the faith. We should also have a mentality of abundance and believe there are people out there willing to sponsor the development of jazz, and it is only a matter of reaching out to them”.
The typical music event would have a planned schedule where professionals would perform; however, WLJ broke away from this and demonstrated their commitment to bringing out the jazz community from the ground up by welcoming those of varying musical experience to perform. It is this attitude that will overcome the challenge of the “unsustainability” that jazz may face. It is this mentality of laying the groundwork of an inclusive community of jazz enthusiasts that will ensure the sustainability and survival of the art form itself.
Dawn Ho, one of the directors of WLJ, when asked about the current position of jazz in Singapore responded, “I know so many people who don’t know jazz is claiming that it is too complicated, high-class, and boring. But like how the durian or mangosteen fruit is a stranger to many of our foreign friends, we always say ‘You don’t try, you don’t know!’”. There is room for greater expansion for jazz appreciation in Singapore. Creating art and establishing the culture of a community is a struggle.
WLJ’s mission is honorable and we ought to stand behind. In a period of unending cultural changes, the Singaporean identity is only becoming ever-more-so challenged. Jazz has the capacity to blend foreign and local cultures, breaking barriers many other genres cannot. Dawn explained this further in stating that jazz is “an art form that crosses cultures and has no age barriers. It also places equal importance to the constant pushing of boundaries to creating something new and original and paying homage to the serious study of its history. In Singapore we aim to use our jazz oriented activities and platforms to act as the tapestry that binds communities of artists, students, academics, jazz enthusiasts, hobbyists and audiences to understand jazz and its roots, to therefore create an understanding of its future and impact on our society.”
To appreciate jazz is not just to fall in love with its sounds and rhythms, but to fall for its ability to embody the human spirit and strengthen a community of diversity. It takes time and fortitude for artists of the jazz world to bring others to see its true value. The key element for WLJ to succeed in carrying out its mission to develop a flourishing jazz community from a grassroots level, as Dawn puts it, is like planting a seed which “takes time, patience, consistency, and loads of love and care!”
About the writer: Nigel Li
Singapore American School, Graduating Class of June 2017 (JC 2 equivalent)
Nigel has spent most of his life dedicated to political causes ranging from the refugee crisis in Syria, the Ukrainian crisis, to the US 2016 Election. As former president of Students for Political Activism in the Singapore American School, he has facilitated a number of events inviting foreign dignitaries and diplomats while encouraging the youth to play a role in shaping their world. Taking a step back from youth involvement in politics, he believes that the youth can play a greater role in revitalising the jazz community in Singapore. Apart from his interests in politics, he often finds himself playing the clarinet or singing bossa nova pieces; music remains to be a fundamental element in his life. As a graduate of the Singapore American School, he is currently serving his National Service obligations in the Singapore Armed Forces.
Nigel will be moderating our Youth Forum on 22nd September with Namie Rasman, one of our directors and a project manager for SIJB2018.
His blog can be found here.