Desmond Ng may be performing at this year’s National Day Concert, but don’t expect the singer-actor to be crooning any heart-thumping patriotic songs. Instead, the 2015 GeTai Challenge champ, the only artiste to be pulling double duty by performing on both days of the music extravaganza at Gardens by the Bay, will be putting on his getai shoes and belting out Hokkien songs that your ah gong and ah ma will be familiar with, before rocking out with his band AL4HA the next day.
To be honest, we were a little surprised that he will be putting on a mini getai show, but it’s a smart move if you want to expose the younger generation to the dying art. They probably won’t go to any getai shows, so you bring the getai show to them, right?
Granted, the getai show will not be for everyone, but the 31-year-old can’t help but “feel quite special to be the only one singing in Hokkien” and is looking forward to seeing the audience’s reaction when he starts spewing the dialect.
“They are unlike the typical getai crowd who are mostly the older generation. I think 90 percent of them will be youngsters, so I’m not sure what to expect. But music is a universal language that transcends all boundaries - even though I don’t understand Korean, I can appreciate K-pop songs - so I am curious to see if the youngsters will be able to appreciate the Hokkien songs of yesteryear,” he said.
Desmond’s strategy to appeal to the younger audience is a fairly simple one: perform “more upbeat songs” to get them into the mood, and hopefully with a dash of sassy showmanship and more down-to-earth costumes (gaudy outfits were never his style anyway), he can capture their attention.
He’s even planning to go all the way by interacting with the audience in Hokkien. “But if there is no response, then I will have to switch to Mandarin,” he laughed.
And if they get up and walk away during the performance? “That’s okay,” he said with a shrug. “I’ll just take it as they are taking a toilet break.”
Continued on next page: Desmond tells us who he hopes to perform with at the National Day Concert
Desmond Ng with his AL4HA bandmates guitarist Simon Lai and drummer Joe Lee
On the second day of the National Day Concert, we’ll see a very different side of Desmond as the frontman of rock band AL4HA jamming to tunes that include original songs and covers.
Though Desmond started out as a getai singer, he is a rocker at heart. “Rock is a genre I am most comfortable with. I have wanted my own band for very long and we have great chemistry and ‘feel’. The rocker persona is closer to the real me,” he shared.
Despite having to put in double time to prep for the shows on top of his already hectic filming schedule, Desmond relishes any opportunity to sing, not to mention the pride (ahem, bragging rights) that comes with being the only artiste to perform on both days of the concert.
“I feel it is an honour as it is more than I deserve,” he said modestly. “Maybe it’s because my songs cover a wider genre, so this gives me a chance to showcase a different side of myself. Not everyone has the chance to do so.”
But what would really make his day would be the chance to share the stage with Singaporean icons Dick Lee and Kit Chan, who are also part of the star-studded line-up for the concert - he even knows which songs he’d like to sing with them (hey, one can dream, right?).
“Kit Chan’s songs are more theatrical, so it would be nice if we could perform a big song that we can have fun with and hit the high notes, maybe a tune from the musical Snow.Wolf.Lake, whereas Dick Lee’s songs are more graceful so we could do a rock version of one of his songs, like ‘Fried Rice Paradise'. I think that would turn out pretty well because of the huge contrast,” laughed Desmond.
“I like ‘Home’ and ‘Life Story’, but these are national songs so better not play play. I might get reprimanded for it.”
Dick Lee and Kit Chan in the music video of 'Our Singapore'
When we asked if he felt a tinge of FOMO (fear of missing out) at not being included in the all-star music video for this year’s National Day theme song, ‘Our Singapore’, Desmond responded to our question with a laugh. “The thought never crossed my mind, but now that you bring it up, I feel as though I should feel a little disappointed. Perhaps I am still not up to standard yet. Maybe after I have more original songs, I might feel disappointed, but not at this juncture.
“My dream would be to one day be able to perform a National Day song because it proves that you are someone in the music industry and that people listen to your songs,” he continued. “If that happens, I can die without regrets.”
Gardens by the Bay & Mediacorp National Day Concert takes place on August 10 and 11 (Saturday and Sunday) at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. Performances start at 6.30pm. Admission to both the concert and fringe activities is free. For more information, visit gardensbythebay.com.sg/nationaldayconcert.