Perfect 10 for Mosaic

Perfect 10 for Mosaic
British folk singer Vashti Bunyan (centre) performing at the Mosaic Music Festival 2010 at the Esplanade.

In its 10 years, the home-grown Mosaic Music Festival has helped to invigorate the live music scene in Singapore and many are sad to see it end.

The final edition of the Esplanade's annual 10-day indie and jazz music event ended on Sunday, featuring acts such as jazz chanteuse Dee Dee Bridgewater and indie singer-songwriter Neko Case.

Singapore now has a packed calendar of non-mainstream music concerts and festivals. While the arts centre is retiring the Mosaic festival, this does not mark the end of the Mosaic brand, as ad-hoc concerts will continue to be held under its name.

Co-founder of indie music label KittyWu Records Errol Tan, 38, ticks off the many Mosaic festival highlights for him over the years from Scottish post-rock band Mogwai and Norwegian folk-pop duo Kings Of Convenience in 2006 to Canadian indie supergroup Broken Social Scene in 2008.

He recalls that back then, it was "almost unheard of for these bands to make it down to Singapore. Even if they made it to the region, they would make a beeline for Japan and Australia and bypass us".

He adds: "On the whole, it has brought fresh new music to the general music-loving audience in Singapore."

Life! music reviewer Yeow Kai Chai agrees. He has attended all 10 editions of the festival and says that it has kept to the spirit of discovering new acts and balancing that with more familiar ones. For him, Mosaic is about "respecting the music and it's all about the music".

Offering a different perspective was Keith Tan, 33, guitarist for local band Obedient Wives Club. While he used to go for shows "night after night" early on, he has been going for fewer Mosaic gigs with each passing year. This time around, he went for only American indie act Washed Out.

In part because musicians now make more money touring than selling records, he says, the live music scene in Singapore has opened up to such an extent that there is now an "over-saturation" of shows. And because he does not rely only on Mosaic for music performances, he is also "indifferent" to the festival winding up.

In its ninth year last year, the festival drew a crowd of about 90,000 to all performances, both ticketed and free. This was down from 135,000 in 2012 and 120,000 in 2011. The Esplanade no longer releases attendance figures for its shows.

But whether a show is well-attended or not has no bearing on whether it was good.

Referring to folk music muse Vashti Bunyan's delicate gig in a sparsely filled Esplanade Concert Hall in 2010, Mr Yeow notes: "It's not always about the numbers but the memories that stay with you years later."

The music festival's appeal is not just local and it has had loyal fans from far afield zeroing in on it each year.

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