As an instrumentalist and vocalist, I look for people who are very musical — not just someone who can hold a tune or strum in timing. I tend to gravitate towards individuals with great tone, who hear harmony in-depth and who possess the ability to really captivate the audience.
These artists all inspire me to get better and improve my own craft, and nothing is more powerful than that. Look out for these five local musicians who deserve your attention.
1. Lisa Haryono
Lisa is a talented multi-instrumentalist who plays the keys, cello, guitar and even bass, all underneath her immense vocal ability. She mostly sessions for bands on instruments; playing keys for JAWN, playing and singing while on the cello for iNCH, fronting bands like The Good Life Project and acts as a sessionist for Kings. But she has a treasure trove of original compositions that will blow your mind in a delicate, soulful way. She is on my list as one of the artistes who just has to release something. She did a solo set for Xiao Zhar Bor organised by iNCH at SingJazz Club last year, which left everyone's jaws on the floor. Listen to her cover of The Impressions' People Get Ready here.
2. Helmizar Kamal
Think of a mix of Sam Smith and Patrick Stump with inflections unique to himself. Helmi is a beast. He constantly gets better at singing on top of being a top-notch drummer. He also plays the guitar, keys and bass. He is a human cheat code. If there is a voice you need to hear, it is Helmi's (basically this is what I'm going to be saying of the five people I'm listing here).
I think he may finally be exploring the possibility of making a record of his own. Singing in both English and Malay, you can find his music on YouTube. Listen to his original, 29 Bears.
This man (whose full name is Shak'thiya Subramaniam) is so precious in his artistry that what he considered a weakness is now his greatest strength; his honesty in every moment. Shak is kind of like a folk John Legend but better, because Legend doesn't do folk.
He sings from the heart and soul, fogs up his glasses and forgets his lyrics fearlessly as he stays true to the moments in every performance. You can taste the emotion as he delivers them. It's really a treat watching him perform because he does it on his terms, and that's the only way you would want it. Not to mention his voice, which is amazing. He has the ability to make anything sound like diamonds. Throw him random words to sing like "burp" or "fart" and you will never see those words in the same light ever again. Check him out on YouTube here.
4. Bob Shiah
This guy is like the elusive white whale. He's the unicorn you've only heard of but never seen. His voice will make you cry, laugh and feel weak at the knees. Currently studying accounting, he used to help his mother at her vegetarian shop. Only a few of us have had the pleasure of seeing him sing. He's a pure soul whose voice comes from another place — that soul would make you think he lives and breathes gospel music, eats chicken wings and waffles and drinks grape juice. But you wouldn't expect him to have started singing Mandarin pop once upon a time.
To me, he's the best vocalist in Singapore. He's painfully shy though, so I've made it a mission of mine to bring him out to the light this year a little more. Listen to his rendition of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On here.
5. Charlie Blouse
This girl is a phenomenon. She constantly writes — in the bus, at work and at home...probably in the shower too, if her notebook is waterproof. And boy does she run like silk. Known more affectionately as Amy Joy, her runs are sweetly, softly, precise a la r&b trio girl group KING. She's a fan of indie music, so she draws influences in songwriting from that side of the coin. Think of her as a more indie Corrine Bailey Rae, but grittier. Listen to her cover of Justin Timberlake's Suit & Tie here.
Tim De Cotta and Helmizar Kamal will be performing at Getai Soul 2016 from 7 to 8 May. For tickets, click here. Charlie Blouse will be performing at Getai Parlour, a Getai Soul Pop-up on 30 April on 30 April. For more details, click here.