Interview with Namira Rasman: Thailand Jazz Competition

A jazz vocalist and one of WLJ SG’s directors, Namira Rasman made it to the finals of this year’s Thailand Jazz Competition (TJC).

WLJ’s editorial team interviews her about the purpose of jazz competitions and why we don’t see many competitions in Singapore.

How did you feel about reaching the competition finals?

I was relieved because people were supporting me and I did not want to let them down. I was also excited that I got to sing the final songs I had prepared.

Jazz competitions can give musicians a reason to practice but it can be intimidating for an amateur. How would you encourage an amateur jazz musician to participate?

Well, any competition is nerve-wracking and scary because it will show whether you can make it or not. But it’s all about perspective. You might become disheartened if you don’t get in but it’s not about that. It’s not about getting to the top or knowing you are better than someone else.

Rather, it’s about having something to look forward to; a goal to practice towards. This is especially true if you’re not getting regular gigs. You can apply for a competition and treat it like a gig, then do your best for that gig.

So it’s a way to keep yourself up to standard?

Yes. The competition is for you, don’t compare yourself to others. There are so many talented people out there, how do you compare to them?

Have a benchmark too. Choose songs that you have to really work on for the competition.

Namira’s final performance at TJC 2019

LASALLE College of The Arts’ Jazz Department sent a team of students to compete in TJC this year. However, there are other students who want to participate in competitions but don’t receive much support from their schools. How would you encourage schools to support their students?

I think schools that already have jazz bands can provide training for students or pay for their application fee. Students are students, they may not be able to afford the fee. Give them extra jazz tuition too and work on the competition seriously.

But for schools without a jazz syllabus or CCA (Co-Curricular Activities), there’s no reason why their students would join competitions. If they don’t know jazz, why should they join jazz competitions?

SIJB (Singapore International Jazz Battle – WLJ’s own jazz competition held in 2017 and 2018) might hold outreach events to get students interested in jazz. Then we can encourage them to join competitions, but only if they are interested. Asking them to join a competition for the sake of it doesn’t really help the community.

LASALLE JAZZ BAND at the Thailand Jazz Competition

But do you feel that the community is interested in jazz competitions ?

I’ve never really heard of jazz competitions except for one some time ago. I think people just don’t know about it and since no one is organising them, nobody does it.

Pop competitions like Singapore Idol are frequently held because they are more extravagant. But for Jazz competitions, what’s in it for the participants? It’s not something on national television, it won’t make more people recognize me. Who’s going to come and watch anyway? Even if I win, so what? Do I get a recording deal?

It seems that the prize determines whether there will be a competition in the first place as well as the enthusiasm for it.

If you are simply encouraging people to practise more, you may not need a competition. There can be camps and workshops. Competitions are a medium for people to listen to more musicians and get out of their comfort zone.

But let’s say there’s a competition coming to town, what would you like the prize to be?

Well, the prize for the Herbie Hancock Institute Competition (formerly the Thelonious Monk competition) is a recording deal with Concord Recording Label. A prize like that can get you gigs in countries where Jazz is much bigger than here. So yes, I guess something like that would be attractive.

Photos and videos courtesy of Namira Rasman

Written by Kenny Khoo

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