If you don’t already know what busking is about, it is an act of performance in public spaces and along the streets. The busking scene in Singapore has been growing despite the negativity, and amidst the hustle bustle of the city life, I’m sure you would have caught a glimpse of them or hear them from afar especially along Orchard road. While not many people think highly of these performers, busking is considered as a form urban art and craft.
Despite not having any musical background, Ken Loh will be releasing his debut EP late July. So stay tuned for more updates!
Watch as Ken Loh prepares for a usual busking session:
Being a busker isn’t easy. Tell us more about your journey as a busker and about your music. What are some challenges you face?
I started busking at the age of 19! It all began when my Dad got us some beginner guitar lessons and besides, the guitar does help when you’re 15 and in a mixed gender school. Haha! My foray into performance started when a friend of mine asked me to replace her guitarist who flaked an hour before a school performance audition. I agreed to help her and we played together for the rest of my time in school. The whole attempt at busking started when I was in Melbourne for a holiday in 2014. I chanced upon this band called Woodlock and was floored by the amount of fun they seemed to be having while playing on the streets. I think that was when I decided that I had to come back and apply for a license to busk in Singapore. The rest was history.
I grew up listening to a lot of radio tunes and old era music that my Dad blasts in the car but slowly found my way into the whole ambient/indie rock/indie pop movement. I listen to people like Matt Corby, Damien Rice, Lapsley, Kodaline, Ben Howard and Angus & Julia Stone. My music sounds like what I’m influenced by and I always aim to convey whatever I feel through whatever I play. The more depressing the song the better. Haha! If the listener feels the same about a song as I do, then I think my jobs done.
Busking has been amazing! There are definitely times where I absolutely dread going out to sing and play but most time, I have great fun. Hmmm, apart from weather challenges, I feel like the biggest challenge that every busker faces has to be being recognised as a legitimate artist and not some B-rated subpar performer that’s been relegated to the streets. I have good evidence and reason to believe that some buskers are equally as good or even better than what the industry has to offer. I feel like, although the mindset is changing, there’s still a stigma against buskers in general due to the seemingly ‘less fancy’ working conditions, but hey, if you’re good, you don’t need a big stage with smoke machines do you? Apart from that, challenges are the same as people in other professions; nothing out of the ordinary.
What is the inspiration behind the E.P. What can we expect from it?
Ah good question. I’ve always wanted to write and record something that I can truly call my own and to be able to do that is just beyond my imagination. This EP is a cumulation of songs that I’ve written over the past two years. I didn’t set out with an intention of putting together an EP but I’m glad it came together. These 6 songs are all based on real life experiences (albeit exaggerated). Each song was written for a particular person or experience and it’s very personal so I suppose if the person I wrote about heard it, she’d probably know it was written about her. Hahah, JUICY.
As for the musical part of it, I’ve been trying to incorporate a lot of big ambient sounding elements into the music as it is what I connect best with. I also really enjoy nice organic choir arrangements as well as big tail reverbs. I feel these sounds bring out emotions the best. It’s going to be like a personal diary written into songs and I hope (I’m hoping so hard) that people connect with them. I’ve also always been a words over melody kind of guy and I find more long lasting connections with songs that are just lyrically personal and raw. I have so much respect for artists who are able and not afraid to bare their emotions out into a song for people to enjoy, critique and empathise. I hope at the very least, I would be able to officially play my music for people at some point in time.
If you only had one person to thank, who would it be and why.
My parents; for being crazy enough to not throw pans at me when I pitched my whole music thing.
Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
Ideally, being a performer and playing songs I’ve written. And not starving at the same time. That’d be GREAT. On a serious note, I would love to be able to get formal music education and still be able to survive as a performing artist. But I suppose if that doesn’t happen, I’d still be involved in music, one way or another.
Share with us an unforgettable experience when you were busking. What made it memorable for you?
There have been so many memorable moments from marriage proposals to impromptu dance sessions. However, I think the most memorable thing that has happened to me since the first busking session was meeting new people who have since become very good friends of mine. Of the many people I’ve met, I think Hasyir was the one whom I connect best with. He has helped me grow so much as a musician and as a person. And I can’t think of anyone who I feel better playing music with. I wish him nothing but the very best. It’s amazing how music can allow people of completely different backgrounds to cross paths. Collateral beauty ain’t it?
We see that you have many tattoos. Which one is your favourite and why.
Ah my tattoos Hahah! I don’t have a favourite but if I had to choose it would be the one on my upper left arm. That was done by Pari Corbitt in Melbourne and I got it when I was there in March of 2017. I’ve been a fan of his work for the longest time and to be able to have something done by him on my body is just beyond wild. Other than that, most of my tattoos are done locally and I would definitely recommend my go to guy for a new tattoo, Ben from NakedSkin.
What would be one piece of advice/inspirational quote you would give to your fellow buskers.
Hmmm, advice. I would say be nice to everyone, help anyone and just play what you connect best with. Everything will fall in place, in time. 🙂