Today, the world unites in celebration of one of the best and most urgent causes: International Women's Day.
Rightfully, this should be a nonstop, daily affair – we should never forget or disregard the contributions of women in shaping everything that we have come to regard as socially, culturally, philosophically and personally important. In the fight for respect and representation, especially in these highly volatile times, a thorough and sincere acknowledgement of the strong, immensely talented women who exist in society, is a crucial step.
That's why, within the arena of Singaporean music, Bandwagon celebrates the women who have made a difference.
There shouldn’t be a day that goes by when anyone invested in contemporary Singaporean music shouldn’t give thanks to Vanessa Fernandez. She’s a true Golden Voice: Instantly captivating, powerfully impactful and utterly inspiring. As an artist, she stands in singular rank. As a mentor, she burns ivory towers with her all-reaching care and influence. Thank you, Van.
Kit Chan is a bona fide legend. Before she was a big name locally, she made her name for herself in the rest of Asia and her homecoming, with the now-legendary National Day theme ‘Home’, was nothing short of spectacular. Kit is still packing out arenas to this day.
Linda Ong of Lunarin
Late last year, something irreducibly powerful happened: Lunarin broke a six-year silence with its three-track EP Into The Ether. Its coronation as one of the best releases of 2018 was an instant conclusion. Its trio of makers performed masterfully and at the centre of its monumentality rests its frontwoman-bassist Linda Ong. Even if you’ve always known that girls can rock, Linda’s sky-parting presence will expand the definition of that truth to the nth degree.
You can’t think of Alemay Fernandez in anything other than superlative terms. The almost-twenty-year career of the homegrown jazz singer has seen her perform alongside The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Ray Parker Jr and Laura Fygi & Benny Golson, to name just some of the world-movers of jazz. She’s a beyond-highly decorated doyenne with a globally renowned gift that continues to give, gloriously.
She turns heads with every move she makes – beat that. Across her growing body of work, she’s blazed a simmering, irresistible arc. There’s a sumptuously earthy essence that accompanies her voice and presence that takes no prisoners. Yellow Claw would agree vehemently, too.
Give it up for Syndicate’s female half. For as long as the boundary-blasting Singapore-made audio-visual collective has been a beacon of visionary art, Cherry has been a fount of nurturing influence, encouragement and power. Since her club night in 2004, her formidable presence has become as vital to the landscape in Singapore as it has internationally. A lot of the underground happenings we enjoy now are due to the fact that she did them first.
Since the release of her debut single ‘1057’, Jasmine Sokko has blazed a path for herself unlike any other. With multiple singles hitting well over a million streams and making Singapore proud by reaching the finals of Chinese electronic music reality TV show Rave Now, Sokko has cemented her spot as one of the top dogs in the local music scene. You go girl!
Singer-songwriter Meiting’s ever-glowing optimism is her most outstanding quality. Whether she sings about heartbreak, longing or loss, she always places emphasis on the silver lining and that is the spark all of us need in our downtrodden moments. It also helps that she sounds like a dream.
A standout performer in both singing and theatre, jazz singer Joanna Dong is always striving to push the boundaries in both disciplines. From her bilingual compositions to collaborations with DJs, she’s never afraid to dive head first to expand her artistry. And may she never stop!
They say that behind every great man is a woman, and that certainly rings true with Azean Rot. The manager of famed grindcore outfit Wormrot, Azean has locked down tours for the band in Europe, USA and even got them a performing slot at the iconic Glastonbury festival. Azean has more than done her part to bring recognition and glory to Singaporean music and for that, we will never forget her.
Singer-songwriter Linying has had several singles hit over a million streams thanks to her crystalline vocals that have even won Troye Sivan over. We’re eagerly awaiting for the next chapter of her devastating artistry.
Making magic from pain is art’s most powerful affordance. On her debut EP Bad Habits, this honey-voiced chanteuse pulled light out from darkness on a clearly spellbound stage. Now, she’s a major label proposition on the cusp on even more reverberating moves. The brighter her star glows, the greater a refuge her music will provide.
Celine Autumn, frontwoman of Sobs, is an undeniable star. From her onstage presence to her captivating, dreamy voice, she is one of the most entrancing artists in modern Singaporean music. Be sure to catch her and the band as they open for Japanese Breakfast's debut Singapore show happening soon.
The R&B singer was pegged for greatness from the get-go — from her impressive singles to her placement on Laneway’s 2017 line-up, a debut album that shattered all expectations and impeccable live performances. It’s been two years since the release of Season 2, but we’re willing to guarantee that whatever she drops next will be sumptuous.
Tanya Chua has been a true trailblazer for Singaporean music since her debut in 1997. Making music across English and Mandarin, she is as versatile as she is inspirational. And who can forget her iconic performance of ‘Where I Belong’ at 2001’s National Day Parade. That will be forever etched in our national memory.
Sandra and Narelle of The Sam Willows
Singapore’s most ubiquitous band’s two bombshells don’t get enough credit for their ambassadorial role in spreading the gospel of local English music in the mainstream. Inadvertently, their success – in musical and non-musical arenas – has been instructive and, dare we say, foundational, for subsequent generations who want to make impactful music with a wide blast radius. Sandra and Narelle are exemplars of the much-overlooked fact that you don’t need to be a diva to be a star.
Stefanie Sun has amassed a huge following throughout Asia, ever since she stepped into the scene 19 years ago. Her debut album Yan Zi even earned a Golden Melody Award. She also signed with a world-class agency, Creative Artist Agency, last year, which rightfully puts her on a pedestal of her own.
Know her name. The best promoters light up the night – they’re the soul within the city that inspires discovery, allows for connections to be made and for there to be a hella good time! As the boss of Moonbeats Asia, Veronica has ensured that those who love cutting-edge, indie-minded dance music will never feel alone here. When you think of how lucky you are that there’s always something happening, think of her.
Rani Singam is an unmistakable figure in Singaporean music. Her remarkable power in songwriting and production has earned her many well-deserved accolades. And she’s also mentoring budding musicians through her involvement in “Jazz 123 – Rani Sings For Kids”. She’s, no doubt, one of this country’s most valuable voices.
Not enough people know that we’re in the midst of the Far East Empress. Not enough people know that one of the best, most accomplished talents in the sister worlds of hip-hop and reggae is a woman named MAS1A, who’s as lionhearted – if not more – as the best, most chest-thumping male. So listen to her catalog, know her story and, above all, give respect to your Queen.
From a small rag-tag crew of fledgling female DJs to Singapore's premiere all-girl music collective, with name-making showcases everywhere from New York to Tokyo to playing huge festivals back home, ATTAGIRL! has become a beacon of inspiration for women in the more exciting corners of dance music. ATTAGIRL! has long been flying the flag for empowerment, equality and justice – and this fight is timely and timeless.
Aisyah Aziz is flying the flag for Singaporean Malay music high and proud. The award-winning multi-lingual musician has spent a significant amount of time focusing on Malay music but if her appearance in 2018’s National Day theme proved anything, it’s that she can belt it out in English, too. Most definitely keep an eye out for what she does next.
The Analog Girl
Before electronic music became the dominant and defining mode of popular and populist sounds, Pamela Mei Wong aka The Analog Girl had made a career out of expanding the lexicon of pop sounds with cutting-edge mores and vice versa. Her 2017 album Golden Sugar Crystals is the most evolved reflection of an imprint that continues to be one of the most breathtaking testimonies of Singaporean art.
Any discussion about women in the Singapore music scene, has to include Weish. A woman of many hats, the musician has starred in several acclaimed projects, ranging from .gif to sub:shaman, to collaborating with Charlie Lim, playing a large role in the music behind the award-winning Shirkers film, as well as being a Noise mentor.
Sherlyn Leo of Disco Hue
“I also want to stress that out of the four of us, Sherlyn has improved the most”, this is what Sherlyn’s bandmate Zie had to say about her in an interview with us last year. Armed with a saccharine coo that can uplift as well as melt, Sherlyn has emerged as the gorgeous centre of one of Singapore’s best bands.
All-girl hardcore punk outfit Radigals have been fighting for women’s rights since its debut and have proven time and again that girls can absolutely kill it. With its sense of urgency and empowerment, Radigals will long be vital to Singaporean music.
Ginette is the frontwoman of one of my all-time favourite bands, Astreal. On multiple occasions, I’ve watched her attack her bass live and stood in the thrall of her band’s densely swirling universe of superlative sound. And for years, I’ve carried her songs with me through all the various phases and sagas of my life. “Snowflake”, in particular, I’ll never let go off.
Lennat’s passion for music is an ever-blazing fire. Both musician (she pounds the skins for Obedient Wives Club) and manager (at Warner Music Singapore, she is the beacon who manages Jasmine Sokko, Ffion and Disco Hue). Continue carrying/being the torch, Lennat!
Nur Suhaili of The Psalms
Formed in 2006 and fronted by powerhouse vocalist Nur Suhaili, The Psalms have been ahead of the curve for a long time, thanks to its eclectic mix of soulful jazz and metalcore. While the band is a force to be reckoned with, it’s Suhaili’s powerful and harrowing vocals that help push the band over the edge. Her place in the Singaporean music Hall of Fame is cemented.
Drums, bass and a fiery measure of soul – that’s RAH’s sonic calling card. As the leading lady of Darker Than Wax and Revision Music, she’s an assurance of a spectrum-confounding, speaker-stretching music whenever she DJs. Even if clubland is a gated boy’s club, here and aboard, RAH’s a wolf in wolf’s clothing standing on the inside, even in the underground. She’s lean, mean and hella dashing.
iNCH is unapologetically herself – always daring to give her art the fullest extent of expression. Outside of music, she is a strong advocate for the environment, which has led to the creation of her latest single ‘SUN & MOON ☉+◑’. Throughout all her artistic guises, the one constant has been her commitment to keeping her expression sincere and progressive. Continue to applaud her.
Award-winning rapper Lady Kash’s sound is empowered and strong, which mirrors her uncompromising drive and attitude. The legendary A. R. Rahman is one of the many who will testify to the level of talent she brings to the table. Furthermore, her determination to be one of the greats is reflected by her numerous accolades and the fact that she started her own record label, AKASHIK in 2013.
Mimie is not a musician but her endeavours have made it possible and viable for musicians of a certain stripe to continue to develop their art as well as for an audience to cherish and appreciate it. Together with her hubsand Amin (another unsung hero), she own and run Decline, a DIY space that has served as haven for bands operating in Singapore’s punk underground. She is the co-author of its philosophy: "Keep your politics at home”.
Sheeq Luna’s debut single ‘Guts & Glory’ is a blueprint for a spectacular entry into the music scene. It is sultry, seductive, regal and a packs a punch-in-your-face stand, exclaiming “Here I am”.
From YouTube cover musician to a bona fide solo artist, Joie Tan’s trajectory has been defining and inspirational. On her debut self-titled album, she shows she's not willing to be pigeonholed, exploring her vocal range and sense of poetry across every track.
Anvea Chieu believed in creating a safe space for people to enjoy music so much so that she opened Lithe House. Not only has she hosted some of the Singapore’s most vital indie bands, she has opened her doors to many up-and-coming artists. She is one hero of the larger movement of Singaporean music whose labours will be remembered by history.
Wahidah of Subsonic Eye
Dream pop quartet Subsonic Eye’s frontwoman Wahidah is the perfect knot that ties the talents of all the members together. Her hushed and breathtaking vocals never fail to be the perfect vehicle carrying the band’s shoegaze charms.
Ysa Yaneza’s distinct artistic personality shines through sonically and visually. Throughout her resume, she has thrown out the rulebook of cuteness and what it means to be in love/out of love/indifferent of love. In that regard, ‘Tea’, ‘IRL’ and ‘Max’ are anthems of individuality and power.
Coming off Jacky Cheung’s world tour, where the duo served backup vocals, Carrie Yeo and Chen Diya played to a sold-out show just last month and proved to be a hit with its fans despite being away for so long. Keep their words from a recent interview with us in mind: “We definitely pray that we can write more songs that connect, inspire and even heal.”
Sara Wee of 53A
Frontwoman of 53A, Sara Wee, has risen to be a glowing presence in the scene. In her repeated role as a mentor for the Noise Music Mentorship, she has been involved in grooming the next generation of artists with something important to say. Sara, we salute you.
Local Malay punk outfit SIAL! has been leading the charge for women in the punk scene since its inception. Powerful vocals and a fight-back attitude is exactly what’s needed right now and SIAL! does it perfectly.