The Accidental Musician

Published on 26 October 2017

Photo: Henzy David

Up-and-coming singer-songwriter Shak’thiya Subramaniamm is still incredulous about his unexpected musical path.

By Melanie Lee

It started out with poetry slams, where 25-year-old Shak’thiya Subramaniamm (or Shak) would perform his own material, such as the poem about penguins taking over the world.

But one night, at the Blu Jaz Café’s open mic event, Destination: Ink, the then-polytechnic student decided to shake things up and play music instead.

“I was about to enter National Service and I just wanted to tick ‘singing on stage’ off my bucket list,” he recalls. With his guitar, he sang covers of Maroon 5’s ‘Sunday Morning’ and Ed Sheeran’s ‘The A Team’.

After the performance, a lady from the audience asked him when he would be singing again.

“I told her it was the first time I was doing this, and I wasn’t sure if I would do it again,” he says. “I honestly never thought I’d end up playing music.”

Still, the question must have stirred something in him, because Shak started going to more music open mics such as The Diarist Sessions, and The Overheard Sessions. He also began to write his own songs, a particularly cathartic process that helped “take the weight off” a difficult period he was going through. Eventually, Shak was offered proper gigs at the Hard Rock Café and NightFest 2016. He now even has his own band, Shak and the Baits, and is signed on by the Singapore-based indie music label Nelumbo Records. There are plans to release an EP next April.

Shak’s recent involvement with The Great Singapore Replay also gained him new fans when he paired with Charlie Lim to create a soulful, jazzy spin of the 2005 local pop hit ‘The Girl from Katong’.

“A lot of people have said a lot of kind things and I will forever be grateful for that. I still find it crazy that people would want to listen to my music,” he says.

Given how open mics have, as it were, opened many doors for him, Shak believes the platform is the best way for any aspiring musician to figure out if music is really one’s jam. “You have people staring at you, you’re dealing with your own insecurities and, sometimes, there are drunk people messing with your set. All this is happening when you’re not even sure of what you’re doing. It’s a real testing ground to see if you have the mettle, to see how much you want it.”

Photo: Shak'thiya Subramaniamm

Listen to ‘Taxi’, the debut single by Shak feat. The Baits here.

Shak hosts open mic sessions at The Beast Southern Kitchen + Bourbon Bar
(17 Jalan Klappa) every Thursday.

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