"TBB is about family and friends. We merely provide the bricks and mortar; it is the people - who hangout to chill, to chat, to laugh, to cry, to celebrate, to connect - that give it character." - Chris Chong, owner/founder.
Situated just at the edge of Tiong Bahru Estate is a watering hole that gives residents plenty to look forward to after a long day at the office. TBB Tiong Bahru Bar, also affectionately known as TBB, is the venue for Musicity Singapore 2014's closing performance on 10 May featuring The Sam Willows, Nabilah Husna and Gideon + Allee.
We chatted with Chris Chong, who started TBB with Bernard Seah, and found out that TBB isn't only for the evening tipple.
1. How and why did you decide to participate in Musicity Singapore 2014?
We view ourselves as part of the Tiong Bahru community and strive to blend and promote the "localness" and "arty-ness" of the area.  One way we have done this is by supporting local bands; to perform at our premises and retail their CDs.  We even bought 50 copies of a local artist's CD as our way of support. When we heard that Musicity was happening in Tiong Bahru, it was only natural for us to offer our support.
2. This event has a heavy emphasis on spaces and the stories behind them. What's the TBB story? TBB is about family and friends.  Bernard and I are family; cousins who spent weekends at our aunt's home in Yong Siak Street in the 70s.  So, to set up in Tiong Bahru was like bringing the past back to life. Our aunt who no longer lives in Tiong Bahru does come to TBB every now and then.
Then came the friends. When TBB first started, it was the support of friends that kept us going. Slowly, it became friends of friends who also became friends.  TBB merely provides the bricks and mortar.  It is the people - who hangout to chill, to chat, to laugh, to cry, to celebrate, to connect - that give TBB its character.
3. What should diners definitely sample at TBB and why?
Food wise, our Singaporean tapas created by local chef Daniel Sia (of The Disgruntled Chef) are definitely must-trys.  Drink wise, the current favorite is a sharing drink called Absolute-Fly.  It has vodka and a few other alcohols mixed with juice and served in a 750ml bottle with a pouring spout, All you have to do is tilt your head back, open your mouth and a friend will pour in a 3-5 second shot. Another favorite are our Jello-shots.
Come mid-April, we will introduce our day-time concept called KOMMUNE.  KOMMUNE is a café that will serve excellent local-roasted coffee and espresso derived drinks, great American-styled cakes and an Aussie-inspired all-day brunch.  It is for the working crowd looking for a place to "park" themselves for an hour or two in-between meetings or to meet with clients over coffee.  Power sockets for laptop computers, power banks for mobile phones and Wi-Fi provided."
- The Musicity track for TBB, "1949", was written by The Sam Willows. Stream this track on the app from 25 April 2014.
Performance details:
Saturday 10 May 2014 7.30-10pm
Featuring The Sam Willows, Nabilah Husna, Gideon + Allee
Price: $20
** Ticket holders will enjoy a 10% discount on non-Happy Hour and non-promo F&B.
Musicity Singapore 2014 is about creating an experience of and in a space. Our eight participating artists have written 12 original compositions, each one tagged to a particular location in Tiong Bahru Estate. From 25 April, you'll live the experience as you stream these amazing tracks with the web app installed in your phone. And when you do, know that these tracks were recorded, edited and mastered at Beep Studios. Founded by Kevin Foo and Joshua Wan, Beep Studios started out as The Loft Studios in 2004 and morphed into its present-day self in 2009. In February 2014, Beep moved into its new warehouse-like space in the former Spring Singapore building in Bukit Merah, a space that was built originally for the production of Government media for the National Productivity Board (NPB) in the 1980's. The space boasts a vintage 2,500 square ft, acoustically treated, live room/sound stage that was built to spec in the 1980's, and remains as a testament to the recording and media production history that has developed through the years in Singapore. Making the decision to work with Beep was a cinch. These guys don't just master music, they make it!
L -R: Wong Wai Huin, Stuart Wee, Kevin Foo, Colin Ong, Eugene Chia (Photo: Marc Nair)
1. What was it like recording these Musicity tracks which are stories of Tiong Bahru?
It is always a privilege to be involved with the production/recording process as we document the art that is produced by artists - from musicians, lyricists, composers to poets and spoken word artists. The range and diversity of the songs and poems really reflect the diverse nature of the lives and buildings that grace the beautiful district of Tiong Bahru. These stories transport us to specific moments in Tiong Bahru's history, they tell of the nuances that often elude the busy individual that might just gloss past the area. They speak of a time past, but still very much relevant in the present.
As the different artists came through the studio, there were many "goosebump moments" as these artists delivered narratives and mental imagery that truly capture the essence of what Tiong Bahru is. I can only hope that these tracks will be heard by many, both locals and visitors alike.
2. How does this resonate with your own approach to music?
I believe that music is an art form that yearns to elicit an emotional response. Musical soundscapes that carry you away to another place in time and space; lyrics that are accessible and relevant; rhythms and harmonies that make your body react in an almost subconscious manner - these are just some of the many tools that a musician, songwriter or composer has that can help him/her craft that piece of art. These artists that have crafted musical and spoken word stories for Musicity Singapore 2014 have done so in a manner that is true to the inspiration - Tiong Bahru - but with an emotional honesty as well. These are pieces that I can genuinely say that I am proud and glad to have been involved with.
PS: Singapore is fast becoming an 'international brand'. Governments are scrutinizing how our nation did it in the past 40 years, MNC's are relocating their regional HQ's here, Tourism is gaining ground, and even the wealthiest individuals in the world are beginning to enter our little red dot. It is with much passion and hope that the music and the art that is produced here in our little island state will stay true and relevant to the culture that is Singapore. We have an amazing talent pool of artists and creatives, and I hope that the music scene/industry will flourish in the decade to come, as more local artists produce world-class work... It is my dream to see music from Singapore become an international phenomenon (and hopefully not in a similar tradition to PSY's "Gangnam Style") :)       ----- Interview with Kevin Foo
The Beep Studios Team
Kevin Foo - Producer | Mix Engineer
Stuart Wee - Studio Manager | Recording Engineer
Eugene Chia - Composer | Sound Designer | Audio Engineer
Colin Ong - Composer | Engineer
Performance details: 26 April: The French Bookshop, 7.30-8.30pm - Marcel Lee Pereira (music) and Marc Nair (spoken word) 9 May: Bincho, 6.30-7.30pm - Marcel Lee Pereira (music) and Jennifer Champion (spoken word) Tickets: http://www.eventnook.com/event/musicitysingapore2014/home   It's been a busy 2014 so far for Marcel Lee Pereira. He's been putting the final touches to his second album - with his band, The Glad Stones - which is scheduled for launch in mid-2014, he's written and recorded his track for Musicity Singapore 2014 and he doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon. And it's only March! But this is great news for anyone who appreciates expressive lyrics set to honest melodies. For Musicity Singapore 2014, Marcel wrote a track about Tiong Bahru Market entitled, "The Place Where We Met".  We sneaked in some time with this tireless singer-songwriter to ask him about the track and for his thoughts on being a part of Musicity. 1. What can you tell us about "The Place Where We Met"? "I’ve had the intro guitar riff at the back of my mind for some time now. It's got a happy, upbeat feel, which I thought would be perfect for the song idea I had. I wanted the song to be about hope, about something long-awaited that is about to happen. The chorus flowed naturally from that riff, and it was what I started writing first. The scene in my head was a woman who looks out to sea every day, patiently waiting for her lover to return, when suddenly she thinks she spies his ship on the horizon. It is that exact moment, that sense of anticipation that I wanted to capture in the chorus. Next, I wrote the verses to develop the woman's story around the chorus. I gave the verses a lighter feel, to match the riff. I spent the most time on the verses, because I needed to put myself in the shoes of the person singing the song, what she went through, all the years waiting for her lover to return. What would she have done everyday, and how do I fit the market into all of it? I think that was the most challenging part about writing this particular song – setting it in a specific place that would meet the objective of the Musicity project. 2. What impact did the songwriting process have on the way you feel or think about the space?
Tiong Bahru has a very special place in my family. My grandparents were living in Tiong Bahru, the day the Japanese planes struck Singapore in 1942. In fact, my father and his siblings were featured in National Heritage Board heritage trails to talk about their experience when the sirens started ringing. When the war broke out, my grandfather was called away to volunteer, and never came back. The day he died, my aunt was born in the bomb shelter that housed the residents of Tiong Bahru. There’s an air of endurance to the place. It’s all new and clean now, but some of the shops there have literally stood witness to the changing landscape since the post war days. I felt that I should not write a song just about a “market” but add a human element to it. So it’s about a love story set in the market. It’s a place that has been there for a long time, but some things never change, and the song is about how someone’s love for another never changes despite everything around her changing.
3. What does the Musicity programme mean to you as an artist?
As an artist, I think this is wonderful because it's not just about my creation, but also how it sends someone into another dimension, creating a completely new and sensory experience. It links newly-created works to the physical space and its history, and the result is a completely different way of experiencing a familiar place, accompanied by a virtual soundscape. The use of location-based technology lets the listener, who is physically at the place, see and feel what the writer might have seen and felt at that point – and that adds another dimension to art: space and time. Listeners will be able to live/breath/experience the song/place through that platform, and they can choose to take away new impressions and ideas from that.
4. Performances will combine music and spoken word poetry. What are your thoughts on that?
Music and the spoken word are both expressive performance arts. In an online medium, the spoken word must carry an idea through the words themselves, and the tone/rhythm/expression behind them, and this I think places a lot of pressure on the artist who must capture the essence of what he wants to say solely through that medium. With music, ideas are carried by both music and words, and each must be able to grab hold of the listener. However, the listener has to work harder to decipher both in order to make meaning from the song. Combining both music and spoken word I think is a great idea that serves to add multifarious layers to the entire Musicity experience. 5. There will be a panel discussion at the opening on 25 April. The topic is, "Sonic Architecture". Do you have any thoughts on the issue to be discussed?
Music connects, and can evoke memories of a bygone era, opening doors to new listeners. In Singapore, especially, we feel the undeniable march of progress through the ever-changing cityscape and the unending construction. While conservation itself helps, many buildings lose their character and become sanitised and commercialised after being refurbished, and their “soul” is lost. To some extent, performing arts can be used to bring that lost character to life."
  [For those familiar with Tiong Bahru Market - a veritable food haven - you'll be glad to know that from 25 April, you'll be able to stream Marcel's track with the web app the next time you're there. We're certain that the music and chwee kueh combination will make for a delectable experience. For those not yet familiar with Tiong Bahru Market, it's time for a visit.
** Chwee kueh = steamed rice cakes served with a savoury turnip garnish]

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