We all have difficult days. For some of us, we turn to isolation to disconnect. Maybe watch a sappy movie to cry it out. For Jean Tan, she finds strength through penning her experiences on paper, finding the right melody and turning them into songs. So natural is this process for her that when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer some years ago, all she could do was place her faith and hurt into writing. Alas came the birth of a beautiful EP, Hideaway.
The local singer-songwriter doesn’t shy away from speaking about her struggles. In fact, she’s performed and shared her story in schools, teenage homes, and events such as Architect of Life, Halogen Foundation and World Vision. But this burgeoning talent isn’t just any singer who makes appearances at mini gigs — you’d remember her from the 2015 SEA Games (where she took the stage with an original song titled ‘Colours’), Zandari Festa 2017 in Seoul, and most recently at the Singapore Night Festival.
A large part folk with a little bit of pop stylings, Tan’s music is what you’d listen to for days — especially on the taxing ones. Amidst her busy schedule of performances and wedding prep (congrats!), we managed to catch up with Tan over a phone call, where she shares with us her connection with nature, relationship with faith, and plans for the future.
Congrats on the release of your latest EP. The MV for your latest single, Hideaway, was recently on MTV Asia’s rotation list alongside artistes like Imagine Dragons and Paramore. What was your first reaction when you found out?
I was very pleasantly surprised, actually. I think ‘cus my songs all come from a very personal place — especially that one in particular. So even the video and how it was conceptualised; how it was filmed was quite personal and it was filmed in a very abstract way as well, so I didn’t expect it to make it to MTV but I’m super honoured that it made it there.
In the video, you’re seen wearing a veil covering your face most of the time, only to reveal your face towards the end of the video. Was that a reflection of your healing process with your health?
Definitely. The veil represented a couple of things — first I think when I went through that period of illness; it was a period of intense isolation. So for periods of time, for months at a go, I wasn’t able to do a lot of things or even perform basic functions like eat or walk. A lot of experiences happened within the four walls of my own house. So I think the veil —which kinda represents the title of the song as well— reflects me hiding in a cave. But I think the colours of the veil also represented the dark and the light. It represented two very different states of being. On one hand it can be strong; of love and bravery; of support and encouragement from my friends and family; but I think going through that has its period of darkness as well when it can be about frustration, despair, and loss.
In ‘Blooms’, you seem to be dedicating the song to someone. Who is it?
So it’s something I’ve always kept subtle, but since you’re asking — I was actually referring to God. My faith has always been crucial in my own journey, especially for strength. But even that journey has its own ups and downs; so in the song I think I’m just being very honest. I’m not sugar coating anything, no cliches, just expressing my hurt and how I felt to God — almost like a rejected lover, wondering if it all makes sense. I think it was only after years going through what I had to go through that I came to accept that brokenness was a reality; brokenness is every part human and we can’t expect things to be perfect in a flawed world. But I think it was in that love that I found healing and I found myself in the process, and surprisingly was restored to a much better place than before I went through all of that. So I think it’s a heart wrenching song of being very honest and expressing vulnerability and doubt.
So would your music still be the same without all those experiences?
I think it’ll be very different. I think a large part of my music is inspired by my experience and the things that i learned through them as well, so i think it’ll be quite different.
Your song ‘Waiting for Love’ was recently featured in K-Drama mini series, Barefoot Diva. How big of a Kpop/Kdrama fan are you?
Not as big as I’d like to be! I want to watch a lot of shows but just haven’t been able to find the time, and new shows can be so interesting I’ll keep watching and watching. But I love korean food! I’ve been to Seoul twice in recent years including when I performed at Zandari Festa and I collaborated with [indie Korean singer] Gonne Choi. We shared the stage together and sang one of my originals, ‘Dandelion’.
Who are some artistes you would really like to collaborate with?
If it’s local, I really like Theodora [Lau]’s stuff. I know her personally, I got to know her some years back and I’ve always been a fan of her voice and her expression. Recently she’s been releasing a lot of electro R&B and I really dig them so I hope to collab with her sometime. Internationally, I’ve always been a fan of Lianne La Havas. She’s so amazing.
Would you ever consider singing in another language?
I was thinking of producing a record in Mandarin at some point actually.
Under what circumstances do you write the best songs?
I think it’s been quite wide ranging. Some songs come in just 10 minutes — the tune and melody comes together and immediately. The song ‘Colours’ for the SEA Games was not written like that. I think I was just taking a walk in Korea and the tune just came into my head and I wrote that into a lyric and that took months after. So I think some songs are quick, some songs take a bit of time and intensive periods of working on it. I do like nature though, and I think that comes through a lot in my MVs. ‘Cuz nature kind of represents life to me as well, like it’s beautiful but also grand and scary sometimes.
So what’s next for you? Any plans to do a tour?
I’m actually working on the next EP. The Hideaway EP is actually Part 1 of a series, so there’s Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 Hideaway is supposed to symbolise the winter/autumn seasons and the next EP represents summer and spring. The genres are quite different as well — the first EP is kind of folk-electronic and the next one is a bit lighter, folk-jazz. The first single should drop end of this year or start of next year. Tours not currently because I’m up in my neck with wedding prep. I may be based overseas for a bit for the next 3 to 4 years so I might do little tours here and there.
Lastly, if you were to be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
I don’t usually like to draw attention for myself. But I think if I could walk away from life having encouraged one person through a dark night I think I’ll be incredibly thankful. I remember moments like that as well — when I sing at gigs and they come to me in tears and give me a hug and say that a particular lyric spoke to them and encouraged them. I was very awed and humbled and I feel like if music can do whatever it did for me during my own difficulties, I hope it would help someone else along the way as well.
Neon Lights festival returns for a three-day celebration of the best indie acts
Singapore’s biggest indie music festival, Neon Lights, is back for a third instalment this November with a stacked line-up spanning three days. The festival returns to Fort Canning Park from November 9 to November 11, complete with headline acts and indie legends from all around the world.
After successful runs in 2015 and 2016, local indie fans were left disappointed when Neon Lights took a break last year. The organisers made a promise the festival would return in full strength in 2018 and that it did. Festival director Declan Forde said they were thrilled to be returning and had put a lot of thought into the line-up to ensure both quality and diversity so everyone could enjoy the festival to the fullest.
Kicking things off on November 9 is Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna who will be serenading the crowd in her first public performance in over a year.
Fans of Interpol are also in luck because the band from New York will be making their Asian debut with a full set on November 10.
Other acts include the likes of Caribou, Riot !n Magenta and Cigarettes After Sex amongst others. For the full line-up, as well as schedules, head on down to the website.
Neon Lights runs November 9 to November 11, 6pm to 1030pm on November 9 and 2pm to 1030pm on November 10 and 11. Individual day tickets start from $99 for adults and $25 for children and can be purchased via the website or SISTIC.
Things to do this weekend in Singapore (21 Sept – 23 Sept)
This week’s an exciting one. We’ve got a 2000-2018 dance party, art exhibitions (some all the way till 3am) and something for all you tea-lovers out there. With these many options on your plate, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
1. Art After Dark x 6th Anniversary Celebrations (21 Sept)
Celebrate Gillman Barracks’ 6th anniversary with another run of their Art After Dark! It’s the perfect way to kick off your weekend – there’ll be live performances, interactive art experiences and delicious food served all the way till 3am.
When you’re done exploring the two new gallery openings presented by Ota Fine Arts and Yavuz Gallery, or traversed through our very own Nguan’s photography, you can rock out to the tunes of Pleasantry and The Pinholes. Definitely grab that late night bite from the likes of Park Bench Deli and Handlebar.
Address: Gillman Barracks, 9 Lock Road, Singapore 108937
Time: 7pm onwards
Ticket pricing: Free
2. Singapore Tea Festival 2018 (21 Sept – 23 Sept)
Quench your thirst with this year’s comeback of Singapore Tea Festival. With more than a hundred blends of tea, 30 tea and tea-related brands, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
There’ll even be dialogues and workshops where you’ll about learn skills such as modern kombucha making from industry leaders. To redeem a complimentary Yixing Purple Clay glazed porcelain cup, all you’ve got to do is register at teapasar’s booth!
Address: ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801
Time: Fri: 3PM-10PM, Sat & Sun: 10AM-10PM
Ticket pricing: Free
3. V A N I T A S Group Art Exhibition (21 Sept – 23 Sept)
This brings a group of talented women into the spotlight. Featuring six independent female artists, VANITAS is a group show which explores themes like mortality, the transience of life and the futility of pleasure.
Be wowed by the dark art styles of @sarahthursday, @erikartoon, @mothhead_, @peithedragon, @yelselogy and @sanatoriium. Remember to bring some spare cash to purchase some of their merch!
Address: kult, Block C2-5, Emily Hill, 11 Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore 228120
Time: Fri: Opening Night @ 5pm, Sat & Sun: 12PM-8PM
Ticket pricing: Free
4. Xiao Kopitiam #2 (22 Sept)
Pop by this reimagined kopitiam for maybe the chillest weekend you’ve had in a while.
Dig into LAD & DAD’s comfort British fare – think bangers & mash and beef stew (we can attest to the amazingness of this dish), get a intricate henna design from the famous @henn.drawn or just grab a personalised haiku at the typewriter.
Address: 21 Moonstone Lane, Poh Leng Building #09-01, Singapore 328426
Time: Lunch: 3PM-10PM
Ticket pricing: Free
5. The Passion Pop-Up (22 Sept)
Support your local businesses and female entrepreneurship at this pop-up. Try out delicious treats from That Vegan Cake, juicy burgers from Hustle Co and more.
The Passion Panel, filled with names like Isabel Lee of An Acai Affair and Beckie Liu of Haikini,
will delve into how they sparked off their passion for entrepreneurship, developing it into an actual business. It’s not all work, though. Play beer pong or sign up for a HIIT session with Charity Chan, a personal trainer!
Address: 52 Craig Road, Singapore 089690
Time: 11AM – 4PM
Ticket pricing: Free
6. High School Never Ends (22 Sept)
Blast it back to your childhood or travel all the way to the present at HopHeads’ latest escapade, featuring 2000s-2018 electronic dance pop and the hottest radio hits.
Their parties are so popular that all their online tickets have been sold out. Your best bet is to head straight to the door for a ticket, then straight into the most nostalgic night of your life.
Address: 178 Clemenceau Ave, Haw Par Glass Tower B1-00, Singapore 239926
Time: 10PM – 4AM
Ticket pricing: Door tickets $20, inclusive of one drink
Tokidoki x River Safari: A Whale of a Time Awaits
What do you call something that provides comfort, is pleasant to have and is part of a larger establishment? A manatee (amenity)!
Jokes aside, manatees are the co-stars of the event at River Safari this September, as tokidoki’s Mermicorno characters are making a splash at Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park.
Designed by Simone Legno, the characters of the internationally recognised lifestyle brand are featured within the park as 10 life-sized sculptures, including the three newest members Submarino, Jade and Fortuna.
Hop on the Mermicorno x River Safari Trail and win exclusive, limited-edition tokidoki x River Safari enamel pins. All you have to do is answer two questions that are rotated each week. (they’re really easy, but I shan’t reveal them so as to not take away your fun.) Unfortunately, three of the five weeks have passed — but you still have the chance to bring Cerulean (week 4) and Jade (week 5) home. They run out of stock very quickly, so be sure to get there early!
Mermicorno x River Safari Trail
Venue: Around the park
Timings: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Joining Mermicorno and Manatee are mermaids, whose graceful performances and bubbly interactions in the aquarium are not to be missed. Watch as they swim elegantly among the manatees, nature’s very own mermaids of myth.
Venue: Amazon Flooded Forest
Timings: 12:45pm, 1:45pm, 2:45pm (20 minutes)
Make sure you and your loved ones catch a photo op with Canola, our lovable mascot. Fun fact: Canola, the actual manatee and animal icon of River Safari, just turned four in August!
Meet our Manatee Mascot
Venue: River Safari Entrance
Timings: 10:00am & 4:30am
Other activities include Colour Us Cute at the Mermicorno meets Manatee colouring wall, River Trail Encounters, where the park guides will share stories about the manatees along with their quirks and habits, and Amazing Encounters Await, granting you the opportunity to get up close in behind-the-scenes tours, Manatee Mania and Amazing Amazonia.
Colour Us Cute
Venue: River Safari Entrance:
Timings: 10:00am – 5pm(Weekends only)
River Trail Encounters
Venue: Amazon Flooded Forest
Timings: 12:15pm & 5:30pm (20 minutes)
Amazing Encounters Await*
Venue: River Safari Visitor Services Counter
Timings: Manatee Mania – 9:30am, Amazing Amazonia – 1:30pm (1 hour)
*Additional tour fees apply, and pre-registration is required.
At the end of your enjoyable day out, don’t forget to grab tokidoki collectibles such as plushies, key chains and blindboxes from the River Safari retail store to complete your Mermicorno experience!
There’s also an Instagram contest giveaway — all you have to do is share your most creative posts tagged #tokidoki and #RiverSafari on your public Instagram account for a chance to win a Manatee Mania tour and River Safari admission tickets for 2 adults worth $300.
Water you waiting for? Dive right in!
Activities runs until September 30, 2018, on weekends only, unless otherwise stated. For more information, please visit http://www.riversafari.com.sg/tokidoki.
Address: 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729726
Opening hours: 10:00am – 7:00pm (last entry at 6:30pm) daily
Ticket prices: Adult – $32, Child – $21