Of Meeting and Eating Places - Marcel Lee Pereira Croons Tiong Bahru Market

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)


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]