Recently we had the honour of visiting Mr Phoon Yew Tien, a pioneer and giant in Singapore’s music scene. Born in Singapore in the early 1950s, his love for music started with tunes and stories from the radio and Rediffusion. It was not an easy time for a budding musician in Singapore, when access to musical scores, let alone instruments and formal lessons, was challenging to say the least. Through grit, passion, hard work and an abundance of talent, Mr Phoon Yew Tien is now easily one of Singapore’s most prolific and well-regarded composers and arrangers of music.
In 2000, he was commissioned to rearrange our national anthem Majulah Singapura which was recorded by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the Singapore Youth Choir. Did you know that there are 7 versions of the anthem? And that there are about 20 different instruments (and 80-100 musicians) involved in this arrangement, all of which have their own musical scores and arrangements? All these parts come together in the rousing piece which we are all familiar with.
We feel so proud that Mr Phoon lives in our midst, right here in Pasir Panjang! Although he has lived here for over 2 decades, his memories of our kampung span even earlier, when he visited the beach and the Haw Par Villa in his youth. So when he was commissioned by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) to compose a piece with local-inspired flavours, “Village Pasir Panjang” was born. This piece was inspired by the kampungs and fishermen in old Pasir Panjang – you can hear some traditional Malay folk songs weaved into this spectacular arrangement. The arrangement was performed by the SCO in Vienna and at the Esplanade Concert Hall. We added some old kampung pictures (contributed by residents in Pasir Panjang) to accompany the music and we are very excited to share an excerpt of this piece here, with kind permission from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Mr Phoon. Come walk down memory lane with us.