Everybody Make Some Noise

Published on 3 March 2015

A collection of young musicians, artists and photographers get a big boost in confidence and growth through Noise Singapore, an annual programme that celebrates its 10th year in 2015.

TEXT BY THERESA TAN

Bejamin Kwek (right) is the perfect poster boy for Noise Singapore. He is an illustrator and multi-disciplinary artist who counts Heineken, Nike, Johnnie Walker and StarHub among his clients. He is also one of very few artists specialising in 3D anamorphic floor art.

Qwek is one of four new mentors in this year’s Noise Singapore, a platform for young musicians, artists and photographers to up their art by submitting their works, participating in a mentorship programme and showcasing their creations. For four months, these fresh talents work with dedicated mentors to learn their craft and the business side of art. Qwek knows Noise inside out, having participated at every level.

“I’ve been a Noise member since six or seven years ago. It has been a gradual transition: from submitting my works, to judging and finally, to being a mentor. My journey with Noise is reflective of my growth as a professional illustrator. So it felt natural for me to say yes when they asked me to be a mentor,” he explains.

“They” are the National Arts Council (NAC), which initiated Noise Singapore a decade ago. The Open Categories invite under-35s to submit original works of art, design, photography or music. Top entries are showcased and stand to win the Noise Singapore Award of $5,000. The mentorship programmes, which includes the above award, pair young artists with industry professionals: The Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) is offered to artists and photographers and The Music Mentorship (TMM) to musicians.

The programme has attracted increasing numbers of entries yearly, with 2014 seeing over 5,400 entries from 1,000 participants. Among the lauded talents who have emerged from Noise Singapore are bands Take Two and Stopgap, singer Mariam Suso, rapper ShiGGa Shay, photographer Robert Zhao Renhui and toy sculptor Daniel Yu.

Kenneth Kwok, Director for Arts & Youth at NAC says, “For the past 10 years, Noise Singapore has been dedicated to helping talented young people realise their dreams. We could not have done this without all the arts professionals — many of whom have achieved much acclaim both locally and internationally — who have given up their time to mentor these aspiring talents.”

Daniel Sassoon (right), by day an attorney, by night a music veteran (resumé: rock bands Livonia, Electrico and In Each Hand a Cutlass) is one such professional. He has been a Noise mentor since 2012. He returns each year because “I love hearing new music and meeting young bands and musicians. One mentorship programme won’t change things radically but hopefully, it sparks something and serves as a catalyst for them to take the next steps in terms of personal development and growth.”

Ellipsis (right) is a band that came under the mentorship of TMM mentor guitarist and music journalist Eddino Abdul Hadi. “Eddino challenged us to come up with a new EP for the mentorship programme, and out of that, our second EP, Permanent Distractions, was created in six months,” says band member Soh Zhengping. “He provided us with advice and recommendations to market and push our music out —he also helped us get publicity in Straits Times Life!”

Modernist Chinese instrumental group Sa won the Noise Singapore Award in 2013, a move that member Natalie Tse sees as an acceptance of the diversity of music in Singapore. “We are not a typical ethnic Chinese instrumental group,” she says. “We have made a conscious creative choice to include various approaches, such as using extended techniques and electronic pedals (associated more with the electric guitar). Achieving the award is a recognition of our efforts to break new ground musically.”

The trio was mentored by renowned live looping artist Randolf Arriola. “We particularly enjoyed the reflective moments which Randolf facilitated. He offered us thought-provoking questions that helped us in developing a tasteful use of electronics with our acoustic instruments,” Tse recalls.

Mentor photographer Bryan van der Beek (right) feels that the most important aspect of mentoring a young artist is to give one-to-one face-time. “I was lucky to have gone to university in the US, and one of the biggest privileges was having regular contact with working professionals. There are very limited opportunities for aspiring photographers to work closely with a professional in Singapore, and I see this as a way of paying it forward.”

The beauty of the mentorship programme, says returning mentor Pann Lim (right), the award-winning Creative Director of Kinetic Design and Advertising, is that the mentor learns too. “I have been mentoring for the past three years and I have to say, while every year the experience is different as I work with different mentees, it has made me grow as a creative. In our industry, ideas are built upon rounds and rounds of discussions, so if you ask me, seeing the mentee’s work improve and the added knowledge I have gained working with them, makes mentoring absolutely rewarding.”

Noise Singapore is calling for entries to this year’s Open Categories and Mentorship programmes. Closing date is 15 March 2015. To commemorate its 10th anniversary, a special Noise Alumni Showcase takes place this October and features this year’s mentees with past participants and mentors. Find out more at noisesingapore.com.

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