(cover photo: Brass Nation at Esplanade in December 2014 / credits: Hairul Bohari)
Brass Nation, is a up-and-coming name in the Singapore music scene.
The 9 piece ensemble was founded in 2012, after a gig performance requested for a particular set up of two trombones, two trumpets, one alto saxophone, one bass, two percussion, and the electric guitar.
To reach out to the younger crowd, the music performed are usually matching towards the audience’s tastes, as they comprise of top chart songs rearranged with elements of soul, funk, hip-hop, rock and pop styles, all within the contemporary brass band framework.
(see below for one of their busking videos)
“Brass Nation is all about a group of friends coming together to make music,” said Thomas Chen, a core member of the ensemble. “There isn’t many people who are doing this, especially with this unique setup. I suppose it is the brotherhood, and the memories and fun we had over the years that keeps us all bonded,” he continued.
“The common interest is one thing, but most importantly, I would say that we enjoy what we are doing here. For me, I am happy to be performing with them as I feel comfortable with everyone,” said Faiz Samdi, one of the percussionists with the group.
Chang Xiangyi, a trumpeter with the ensemble, believed that being part of Brass Nation would be a cool experience. “I have seen busking bands before, but not the brass band kind of thing. I like performances that allow each member of the group to display their skills, so Brass Nation is a good place to start.”
When it comes to arranging music, it is the role of both Thomas, and Eddie Chng, the other trombone player in the group. The style of each piece is generally pop, but the direction is set based on the opinions offered by the individual players. The percussion parts are not written so that the players can improvise on the spot.
“I think it is the type of music we play, which is very different from the band repertoire I teach everyday in my main job. The music here connects to even the general crowd, and it keeps them entertained,” commented Owen Choy, who works as a school band director in the day.
“With the varied music I perform with the group, I get more solos, which are great opportunities for me experiment many sound types and styles on my instrument,” said Jason Tan, saxophonist for the ensemble.
With the group having to perform at least 25 gigs over the last few years, Thomas recalled one of the most memorable performances in Esplanade last year.
“It is the first time that anyone of us has performed with this minimum setup over 3 sessions of 45 minutes. It was hardwork and we had to rehearse every night that week for the gig. It was fulfilling to see that the crowd loving us at the end of it.”
Bass (sousaphone) player Jash Chua also held vivid memories about the group’s first overseas trip to Taiwan in April this year, where they were selected along a few Singapore acts to perform in the Spring Scream 2015 Festival.
Despite facing difficulties from the start, the ensemble stayed on and preserved through the hard times.
“We started with no contacts, had to rent studios to rehearse and had to source around for gigs. It was hard to maintain our members as we had limited repertoire during that time. Eventually, we made it, with a permanent practice venue and a better music library, but what kept the group going strong the past two years were the gigs and public performances. Of course, this is only possible with the commitment of our core players and some new faces who constantly make an effort to come and make music despite their daily work schedule,” said Eddie.
Moving forward, the ensemble hopes to expand in collaborating with other art forms through their core gig performances.
“In our upcoming show at the Esplanade this year, we plan to have a DJ setup, while we perform our music. We are also getting in a dance instructor to teach us some dance moves so that our future performances can be much more lively, rather than the static ones we are doing now,” he continued.In
In the long term, the ensemble also looked at the possibility of creating their originals.
“There are currently a few bands who we look up to, such as The Soul Rebels. They produce their own songs and people love it; we hope to follow in their footsteps,” said Faiz.
Brass Nation will be performing in following performances:
- 18 July @ Ang Mo Kio Community Centre
- 6 August @ Esplanade
- 7 – 10 August @ Sentosa
- 8 August @ Singapore Botanical Gardens
- 28 & 29 August @ Singapore Night Festival 2015
(Brass Nation with a cover of “Unbelievable”)