Profile: Bani Haykal

Published on 15 September 2015

Who needs batteries when you have the creative stamina of multidisciplinary artist Bani Haykal?

BY daphne ong

Bani Haykal challenges labels and traditional notions people have of music. With sound and music as his primary tools, the work of this multidisciplinary artist and 2013 Young Artist Award recipient also spans installation and poetry. He writes and experiments with music and text, and has performed and created extensively in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and France.

Starting out conventionally enough as a guitar player in his teens, Bani formed the alternative rock band b-quartet with his brother and two cousins. He is also a member of audio-visual collective OFFCUFF and creative ensemble Erik Satay & The Kampong Arkestra. After deciding to be a songwriter exclusive to b-quartet, he began exploring spoken word and creating soundscapes for mux, a performance/music collective.

The 30 year-old artist is constantly defining and exploring the scope of his work. “I’m not just curious about music’s methods and aesthetics, I’m also curious about its politics, histories and philosophies.” He even challenges concepts of music. “While I did start out writing songs and playing in a band, I’ve moved away from such conventions and consider transposing musical ideas to other mediums or forms. For instance, to think of music from a sculptural or conceptual perspective: what is a long tone, visually? How do I define and present the sound of woodwinds, physically?”

In addition to the five published books under his belt, including a collection of poetry, the self-professed ardent collaborator has collaborated, exhibited, performed and toured internationally as an artist and a musician. This, is in addition to his own solo performances. He has contributed to installations and theatre performances with artists like Ho Tzu Nyen and Darren Ng, and theatre companies including The Necessary Stage and Teater Ekamatra.

Ever eclectic, Bani draws inspiration from diverse figures like philosophers Al-Farabi and Walter Benjamin, mathematician Paul Erdös as well as performers Björk, Anthony Braxton and P Ramlee. When asked what inspires his art the most, his reply, “It’s not what, it’s who: my partner in crime and biggest critic, Ila.” Otherwise known as Shahila Baharom, fellow member of OFFCUFF.

Currently an artist-in-residence with The Necessary Stage, Bani also offers guidance to younger musicians through the Noise Singapore’s Music Mentorship Programme, a National Arts Council initiative. More recently, he was named one of the finalists for this year’s President’s Young Talents, an award which recognises young artists whose practices break new ground in contemporary art.

Check out Bani’s work at the President’s Young Talents exhibition, on at SAM @ 8Q.

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