On Day 7 (Dec 28, 2007) of the Singapore Trip, I visited the
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Esplanade
can be compared to a jumbo-sized version of our own
Rangashankara but on a much grander
scale – while Rangashankara is a place where plays are produced and
played (pun intended), Esplanade is a place for all kinds of
performing arts including music.
It has a 1,600 seat concert hall and a 2,000 seat theater. It was
opened in Oct 2002 and within 5 years, it had 5000 performances and 20
What I was impressed most with Esplanade was the story behind
the conception to its architecture. There was a ‘Passages’ exhibition
on display explaining the story and I watched 3 videos on the TV
screens and I was very inspired.
The ideas was originally conceived in the 80s by the then Culture
Minister of Singapore. However, he realized the time was not right for
a performing arts center when they’re still building a nation. In the
last decade, the same person became the Prime Minister and got things
moving. There was a long process of conceptualizing what Esplanade
stands for, and in the end they said it’s a performing arts center
for the people, and the stress on the ‘common people’ aspect can be
seen in every decision, in every aspect of the place.
For example, the weird open-glass structure was a result of their
focus on “for the people”. How? They wanted common people walking by
to be able to look inside on what’s happening and to consider it part
of their society and that they can participate as well, and not think
of it as just some building for some crazy artists. So, the structure
had glass through which people can see, but considering the climate,
the architects came up with the leaf-like structure which can be
controlled by computers to fold. The result was that during the
daytime, people can look inside as well as the sun’s heat gets inside
the building. During night, the metal leaves are closed, and the heat
remains inside. What a beautiful design! In fact, this architecture
has won many awards.
Similarly, they set up restaurants inside the complex so that the
general public can use this as an excuse to visit the place. Even the
shape of the building is like the common-in-Singapore durian fruit for
the very same reason!
On Day 8 (Dec 29, 2007), I went back to Esplanade to experience the
free weekend concerts at the WaterFront called “stage@powerhouse”,
and boy, was I impressed with the local talent.
There was a performance by ‘The Rhythm Chefs’ who make music out of
kitchen utensils! It sounds stupid, I know, but seeing these guys
performing live, their music was actually catchy.
Later in the night, they got the audience involved from tourists to
mostly kids who were excited at being able to bang away to make some
As I’ve written before, notice how Singaporeans make things as visual
and as interactive as possible. The crowd really liked the
There was also a stage show by bands such as the ‘Peep Show’ band.
They were decent but the lyrics were way too clichéd. I liked the tune
of one of their songs “I know”.
There was also a performance by a band called ‘Comic Strip’ (if I’m
not mistaken) and they were more of a big orchestra doing everything
from pop to salsa-like songs. They kept the crowd dancing by the bay,
although I couldn’t understand which language the singer was crooning
in (apparently it was English, no offense meant).
The best performance of all, was a performance of ‘Hotel California’
by a couple of 12-year old kids. We were so blown away, Abishek,
Srinivas and myself, we were just speechless. The kids were supported
by an experienced guitarist guiding them (but carefully and sometimes
slyly letting the kids do most of the music). He said “Please don’t
think that your 12-year old children or nephews or nieces just listen
to music, they can play well too. I would encourage you to send them
to Esplanade and help them learn to play music just like these
talented kids right here.”
It was interspersed with the singing performance of a teenager girl.
She had surprisingly good control over her voice and sung some popular
pop and rock songs.
I seriously wonder if I have any talent in anything that can match
these kids. Damn.
Even on the way back down the underground passages to get to the
subway trains, there were paintings and artwork by 5-year old and
6-year old kids all over the passage.