By Lim Tian Jiao
This semester, several on-campus events have given students a platform to showcase their musical abilities. In particular, two student-led initiatives, sofa sogood and Bread and Jam, are bringing live music to the Yale-NUS community for the second year running.
sofa sogood is a casual music event held every other Friday evening in the Elm Courtyard, an open lawn enclosed by Elm College (one of the three residential colleges in Yale-NUS). Students can sign up to sing at each session, or participate in the open-mic section after.
The regular event was inspired by a desire to have more music on campus. Said Arjun Jayaraman (Class of 2020), one of sofa sogood’s three organisers, “sofa sogood is held in an open space, so even if you’re just walking past, you’ll hear thirty seconds of music. The music is everywhere for people to enjoy, whether or not they have the time to stop and watch at length.”
At the same time, sofa sogood’s laid-back atmosphere makes it an ideal platform for students to step out of their comfort zone. This was the case for Gary Wee (Class of 2023), who had not performed for an audience before coming to Yale-NUS.
“I taught myself to play the guitar and sing, but I’ve always been a bit anxious about performing in front of people,” he said. “sofa sogood is very welcoming, though. People just come here and enjoy music without much judgement. I’m more comfortable in front of an audience here than at the more formal music events.”
Students attending sofa sogood at the Elm Courtyard. Image provided by Yoon Sun Woo.
The sofa sogood team also actively encourages performers to showcase original music, and when there are too many signups, they prioritise original songs over covers.
Mohammad Zirdi Syukur (Class of 2023) has performed in five sofa sogood sessions, playing original songs in three of them. Although he started writing music last year, sofa sogood was the first time he performed his own music. “Back home [in France], concerts are usually big, so you’d have to perform a song that people know or something that’s really polished. Here, you can share what you’re working on — I can come with something that’s half-finished, present it, see what people like about it, and then take it from there.”
As performance after performance goes by, sofa sogood is gradually becoming an integral part of campus life. “Some weeks, a few of my friends have asked me if sofa sogood would happen on Friday — it’s become something that they’ve come to expect and even anticipate,” said Gabriel Chua (Class of 2022), another member of the sofa sogood organising team. “I think this goes to show that people do need this regular space, to just unwind and enjoy the music.”
Similarly, Bread and Jam is an annual concert that encourages up-and-coming and experienced bands alike to get into the spotlight. Complemented with equipment and audio support by staff from the Arts and Media Department, the event is a large-scale, yet relatively informal opportunity for musicians to make themselves heard.
“Before Bread and Jam, there wasn’t any school music event in Semester 1 that allowed students to perform with a full band setup,” said Nicolas Kang (Class of 2020), a founding member of the event. “We wanted Bread and Jam to be a concert with a low barrier-to-entry which would bring bands together to practise and perform, giving them an opportunity for exposure and confidence-building.”
Performers such as Raihanah Nabilah Fatinah (Class of 2023), singer for the band Arkipelago, appreciate the space Bread and Jam provides for large-scale performance. “Usually, I perform solo — playing with a group of friends is more interesting. Also, I enjoyed having an audience to interact with,” she said.
The band Arkipelago performing at Bread and Jam. Image provided by Alistair Chong.
Bread and Jam is loosely guided by the principle of having one “bread” song — a song that audiences are likely to be familiar with and would come for — and one or more “jam” songs, songs that represent the flavour of a band. With a line-up of seven bands and nineteen songs, this year’s concert also encompassed a wide variety of genres.
Pocari Sweat, a newly-formed group that played two Japanese songs, was one of the bands that took advantage of Bread and Jam’s openness to less conventionally-popular music.
“I wanted to play anime songs with a band, because that’s what inspired me to start learning guitar in the first place,” said guitarist Leong En-Lin (Class of 2021) on the band’s formation. Singer Larissa Lee (Class of 2021) concurred. “I grew up singing a lot of Japanese music, so it’s great to have a setting in which to play this,” she said.
Overall, Bread and Jam was an event appreciated by performers and audiences alike. “I really enjoyed myself,” said Liyana June Adnan (Class of 2023), who attended the concert. “People were vibing to the music. I’ll definitely come again next year!”