Local content FTW! Our Honeycombers Hot List dishes out the best in movies, books and music.
We’re showing love to all things local with our monthly column, the Honeycombers Hot List. From local movies and artists to homegrown musicians and authors in Singapore, we spill on what we’re reading, watching and listening to. So bookmark this page if you want to be in the loop! This month, we’ve got a satirical comedy by a trio of theatre companies, a new single by R&B group brb. and the national bestseller, This Is What Inequality Looks Like.
Honeycombers Hot List: May
Watch: The Pitch
Stuck in the middle of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) and daily 20-something cases, we can’t help but feel like we’re in some sort of circuit breaker again. But don’t lose hope. We’ve got something that’s equal parts relevant and light-hearted.
A trio of local theatre groups, Pangdemonium, Singapore Repertory Theatre and Wild Rice, have teamed up together to bring you a short comedy film called The Pitch. While it might have been released last year, the plot is still (sadly) relevant now. With reduced capacity at large events, the arts scene is hit hard (again).
Watch the story unfold as Adrian Pang, Ivan Heng and Gaurav Kripalani try to work together to put on a show about — wait for it — public hygiene during a pandemic.
This satirical comedy shows us how the theatre industry has been navigating the murky waters of the pandemic. Remember when the papers published a certain controversial survey, indicating ‘artist’ as the #1 non-essential job in a Covid-19 context? If you think otherwise (as one should), help ’em out by donating where possible, especially if you’ve enjoyed the artistic work by these theatre mavens.
Listen: Juice by brb.
If you like catchy love tunes against the backdrop of a soulful soundscape, add brb. to your playlist. This local R&B trio features Clarence Liew, Auzaie Zie and Marc Lian. Debuting in 2018, it started out as a passion project. Fast forward to now and the group has three singles, a full album and over 200,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Unlike their debut album Relationshit, which encompasses heartbreak and whatnot, the newly released single Juice is a fun and light track. A bop, we must say. Using a kaleidoscope of luscious synths, meticulous vocals and funky beats, the track invites you to a world of hazy summer romance.
Read: This Is What Inequality Looks Like by You Yenn Teo
Look past the city’s glitzy skyline and majestic skyscrapers, and you’ll see the lesser-known part of Singapore. The same place that made it to the list of cities with the most billionaires in the world and inspired Crazy Rich Asians is also plagued with poverty. Why is that so?
In this thought-provoking anthology, You Yenn Teo explores the wealth gap of Singapore through the lived experiences of low-income Singaporeans. Featuring essays backed up by her three-year research, she dives into topics like education, housing and class privilege.
It’s essentially a literary portrait of what it means to be a low-income individual in Singapore. As the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. You Yenn Teo takes off the veil of inequality and presents us with hard-to-swallow facts. A narrative we’re not so familiar with.
The Honeycombers Hot List: April
Watch: $alary Day by Ramasamy Madhavan
Here’s a film about a migrant by a migrant worker. Meet R. Madhavan. As the title suggests, the short film follows the Tamil Nadu native as he withdraws his monthly salary of $450. After settling his monthly expenses like food, groceries and sending money to his family in India, he’s left with just $8.
Even though there’s little to no dialogue in the film, it sheds light on the plight of migrant workers in the Lion City. What gets to us? His decision between spending his remaining $8 on food or a haircut. In the end, he chooses the latter. But when he speaks to his mum over the phone and she asks him whether he’s eaten, he simply says, “yes”.
The film makes us think of the little things we take for granted. If you feel compelled to lend a hand to our migrant brothers, you can volunteer at organisations like Transient Workers Count Too or Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics.
Listen: I Miss You by Jason Yu
Singaporean singer-songwriter Jason Yu’s newest single will pull at your heartstrings. Part of his debut EP, Ideals, “I Miss You” is a sweet serenade backed up by soft, soothing guitar and piano sounds, written at a time when he was away from home.
“More often than not, we take what’s already there for granted. I learnt that through being homesick while living abroad. Home for me encompasses its people, my family, who are very important to me. This single is for them,” he explains.
Don’t stop there, though. Dive deep into the EP with tracks like “Hearts Releases” and “Make Her Mine”. The former is about an innocent love story while the latter touches on something we all can relate to – the “what ifs” of life.
And what does Jason want us to take away from his EP? “To anyone and everyone who is listening to my music, don’t give up on your ideals. No matter what challenges we face, we should not let setbacks deter us from striving towards our goals. While they might bring about some pain, it’s also what helps to push us forward to give it our all, and to achieve what we want is all the more worth it.”
Read: Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene edited by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson
Since we’re observing Earth Day (April 22) this month, it’s only fitting that we spotlight this book. A first of its kind, Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene is a collection of thought-provoking essays on climate change and environmental issues against the backdrop of our very own garden city.
Singapore has no shortage of lush green spaces, from nature trails to parks to secret gardens. But does that really mean our city is truly “green”? Taking a closer look at the Lion City through an ecocultural lens, the essays implore you to think. Why do we praise the otters but diss the Java mynahs? Why do we fear the Malay folklore legend of Orang Minyak (oil man) but not the omnipresent oil industry? How did we go from killing wild tigers to referencing them in brand logos?
Not all is doom and gloom, though. In “Feeding the Monkeys: Towards a Multispecies Singapore”, the writer presents us with the idea of building a forested ecosystem on top of our existing buildings, where humans and animals can come together. Just Google “Link-Scape tower” and you’ll see what we’re talking about. And of course, the titular essay is reason enough to check out this anthology as it gives you a bit of history on the national dish.
All in all, this book is for anyone in Singapore who cares about the environment. As you take in the beautiful prose, remember that these environmental issues are real and happening as we speak.
The Honeycombers Hot List: March
Watch: Aqua Man by Jet Ho
No Jason Momoa or special effects here. Just raw emotions. Aqua Man takes its name after the Hokkien slur, ‘ah kua’, which is used to describe an effeminate man. Written and directed by local filmmaker Jet Ho, this short film takes a peek into the LGBTQI culture in Singapore, specifically conversion therapy.
Set in the nostalgic 00s, against a tinge of blue-sepia tone, the five-minute short quickly sets the tone. The plot starts with a young boy, Junjie, taking the lift up to his HDB home where his widowed devout Christian mother is seen talking to a pastor. Jet Ho manages to capture the disconnect between the mother and child in the most poignant way possible. The mother is hopeful (and at her wits’ end) that the pastor can cure her son’s homosexuality. But the son knows you just can’t pray the gay away. The argument leads to Junjie leaving his home, taking the same lift that brought him to this unfortunate situation.
While we wish it was a feature film, we praise Jet Ho for shining light on a sensitive topic. Because of the strict censorship laws, he took it to YouTube to launch his film.
Listen: Summer by Eve Alai
What better time to launch a single titled ‘Summer’ than now? Having completed his music degree at Lasalle College of the Arts, Eve Alai is a Singapore-based electronic producer-songwriter known for his deep house tunes. For his latest single, he collaborates with UK-based artiste Arjun Ratwatte and Sri Lankan producer Madaid to create the perfect soundtrack to your car rides.
“I wrote the first verse, then the chorus and immediately had Arjun in mind so we got talking about collaborating on the track. He wrote the second verse and the writing was complete, but I felt that the production was missing the last bit of oomph it needed,” Eve Alai explains.
That’s when Mandaid came in to add a warmer feel to the track. “It was a very smooth process for me as we all work on Ableton, so we just sent one project file back and forth between the three of us,” Madaid shares.
Don’t mind us as we hit the replay button while eagerly waiting for Eve Alai to drop his six-track debut EP.
Read: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Firstly, we’re super proud that this book was handpicked by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. Written by Singaporean author Balli Kaur Jaswal, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is equal parts endearing and hilarious.
The plot takes place in Southall, London, where there’s a strong Sikh community. Protagonist Nikki goes against her family and drops out of university, taking a job at a pub in an attempt to “find herself”. Struggling to make rent, she takes a second job at the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) to teach English to elderly widows. She has her work cut out for her as some of the ladies don’t even know how to write their own names in English. Here comes the hilarious part: these sari-clad women start writing erotic stories in Urdu, and with her help, they translate it into English.
While the London setting might seem distant from our sunny shores, there are certain themes we can all relate to. For instance, there’s a Nikki in all of us – on the precipice of adulthood, charting our own paths, which may or may not be aligned with our parents’ hopes and dreams. Then, there are all these women in the story, which is a reflection of the selfless women we know in our lives, be it grandmothers or mothers. At its core, the book is about womanhood, feminism and the Punjabi Indian diaspora. Want more? Check out other amazing titles by the same author such as Sugarbread and Inheritance.
The Honeycombers Hot List: February
Watch: Wallflowers: Sights and Sounds of Singapore
Covid-19 has thrown a spanner in the works for all of us, from working from home to social distancing to putting our travel plans on hold. While we for sure miss flying off to explore foreign lands, have you really taken the time to explore your own backyard? Granted, we don’t have gorgeous rolling hills or snow-capped mountains, but Singapore definitely has a lot more to offer than just tasty food. Take a cue from the Wallflower project.
Supported by National Arts Council Singapore and brought to you by local creatives, this multi-disciplinary project implores you to take a step back and take a closer look at your surroundings. Using different mediums like sound, video and art installations, this project highlights the in-between moments of iconic neighbourhoods.
First on the line-up is Tiong Bahru: a place where time stands still. Awash in a dreamy filter, the short video showcases people in this nostalgic ‘hood going about their everyday lives. Think along the lines of shopping for groceries in a wet market, kids playing in the playground and gleeful senior citizens waving to the screen (talk about breaking the fourth wall). Enjoying the music? The real-life sounds are recorded on-site. For a limited time, you can purchase the ambience soundtrack for free! Follow them on Instagram to see where they’ll take you next.
Listen: My Name is Nat Ćmiel by Yeule
Electronic pop meets melancholia with Singapore-born underground artist Yeule. She’s known for her heavy-synth tunes, spacey productions and mysterious persona (her stage name takes after a character from the Final Fantasy franchise). Here, she gives us a sneak peek into her sophomore album, “Glitch Princess”, with her recently released single “My Name is Nat Ćmiel”.
Equal parts alluring and haunting, her latest track introduces the listener to herself with lines like “I like pretty textures in sound”, “I like the way some music makes me feel” and “I like making up my own world”. All of this in a robotic voice against glitchy techno sounds. If you like what you hear, her debut album “Serotonin II” will capture you with tracks like “Pocky Boy’ and “Poison Arrow”.
Read: Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam
Longlisted for Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2015 and shortlisted by the Singapore Book Awards 2017 for its fascinating cover, Kappa Quarter is an original work by local writer Daryl Qilin Yam. Before we dive into the plot, let us address the elephant in the room. What is a kappa, you ask? It’s an ancient water demon from Japanese folklore. Taking the shape of a human being, they seamlessly live amongst us and the only way to tell them apart is the hole on top of their heads. What’s their vice? They like to steal human souls.
If you’re a fan of Haruki Murakami’s work, Kappa Quartet will suck you in with Daryl’s prose. It interweaves introspection, ambience, mystery and magical realism. Set between Singapore and Japan, and divided into eight chapters, it introduces you to soulful characters, probing you to take a deeper look at the human condition. What hooked us was the way Daryl adds depth to scenes through compelling and poetic words. You can already visualise it in your head – hence the parallel comparison with Murakami. By the time you reach the last page, you will get a true sense of Daryl’s writing. We’re looking forward to his second novel Lovelier, Lonelier, which will be out later this year.
The Honeycombers Hot List: January
Watch: Tiong Bahru Social Club by Tan Bee Thiam
Who would have thought that Singapore’s cosiest neighbourhood would be the setting of an imprisonment establishment under the disguise of a happiness project? Well, in Tan Bee Thiam’s Tiong Bahru Social Club, this is reality.
The satirical comedy follows Ah Bee, a hardworking boy who ditches the 9-to-5 grind for a spot in the Tiong Bahru Social Club – a pastel-drenched community aimed at optimising its members’ happiness. But as the day passes, the happiness algorithm can’t seem to keep Ah Bee, for lack of a better word, happy. In all honesty, quantifying happiness can be strange. But in this movie, it works. From Ah Bee’s deadpan personality to the Wes Anderson-like cinematography to the exaggeration of quirky Singaporean habits, the movie is equal parts dreamy and whimsy. While Tan Bee Thiam could have easily taken the dystopian route, he keeps it lighthearted.
Tiong Bahru Social Club is, in our opinion, a must-see for everyone who calls Singapore their home. And for those who miss the iconic Pearl Bank Apartments, be prepared for a visual feast.
Listen: Forget us by Maximilian
What’s the perfect soundtrack to the rainy weather we’re experiencing right now? Let us introduce you to Maximilian. Max and Justin, who make up the musical duo, might have crossed paths in university two years ago. But what really brought them together was their mutual passion for creating music.
With no experience or whatsoever, these self-taught artists decided to dip their toes in the local music scene by producing one original song a month last year. “Our final song of the project, ‘forget us’, is a song about the feelings, emotions and lessons that have overwhelmed us the past tumultuous year”, Max says.
Equal parts nostalgic, lyrical and dreamy, ‘forget us’ was conceived as “a reminder to forget all those who don’t matter, and aspire for the toxicity this year to ‘forget us’ as well”, Max explains. If you’re digging the chill beats and euphonious vocals, you’ll also enjoy tracks like ‘Apollo #8’, ‘white-bird’ and ‘violet / aisle’.
Since the release of their first single, they have quickly gained more than 400,000 streams on Spotify and a decent following on social media. “This was something we could never have dreamt of; we are always grateful for the love that fans have shown us, and we hope to return their love by going the extra mile and continue improving with our craft”, Max says.
While we eagerly wait for new music from them in 2021, tune in to their weekly bedroom series where Max croons his own rendition of iconic songs. Think Coldplay, Oasis and Harry Styles.
Read: 17A Keong Saik Road by Charmaine Leung
New to SingLit? We recommend this poignant memoir to start your foray into local literature. Why, you ask? It has a little bit of everything: history, culture, community spirit and family, which are essentially the cornerstones of the Little Red Dot’s society.
The pages will whisk you away to a familiar street that’s set at a different time. Keong Saik Road in the 60s is a far cry from what it is now. Instead of boutique hotels and buzzing bars, the enclave was lined up with brothels and “entertainment” watering holes. Author Charmaine Leung paints a more vivid picture of the titular street’s red-light district past with her story about growing up in the area as a daughter of a brothel operator.
It’s worth mentioning that 17A Keong Saik Road is more than just a personal recount of what it is like to be living in a seedy neighbourhood. It also shines a light on the lives of marginalised women in the early 1900s who left their homeland to make a new life in Singapore. Charmaine weaves in narratives of said women with beautifully strung words, which essentially builds on her own lived experience. One thing is for sure: the book makes us pine for the nostalgia of 1970s Singapore.
Know of an underground local artist in Singapore or a homegrown title that should be on our Honeycombers Hot List? DM us on Instagram or Facebook with your recommendations!