Music in a Meritocratic Society
by Redwan Hamzah • June 11, 2020
Ever picked up an instrument growing up, only to find your interest in it waning after awhile? Or perhaps you shunned the idea of playing music completely, feeling subtly crippled by the need for achievement at a younger age?
I know, from a personal point of view, that there seems to be some kind of inculcated pressure to achieve in Singapore. From a young age, we are taught (through Social Studies classes, through morning assembly, through family environments, through social circles) that studying hard and working hard comes with rewards of success based on the merit of your work.
The onus of success is on you, and that if you are thriving, you are winning.
It feels like a responsibility you have as a young Singaporean, to simply achieve in whatever it is you do; disregarding human variables such as religion, race, economic standing, etc.
This system of meritocracy results in two key outcomes:
- when success comes, you feel wholly responsible; it was down to your pure hard work
- when failure happens, the blame is all on you; you have not worked hard enough
Now, taking ownership of how well we do in Life is definitely a huge positive in my books, but I have to say that a collective meritocratic mindset seems to have resulted in a recipe for anxiety, chronic self-doubt and even depression.
For someone to succeed, someone else has to fail. It seems to me that those who fail are expected (in an unspoken way perhaps) to take blame for their failures, regardless of whether they have done their best in their capacity.
It has to be said that none of this is very inspiring or healthy in trying to build an emphatic, inclusive and diversified culture.
Insyncsg was founded on ideas around making music accessible, and to provide an environment where stress-free learning is always the modus operandi – the exhilaration and euphoria of playing music especially in a complete band setting is made possible for anyone as a result of simplified systems of teaching and a visual language used for notation.
I remember an instance of running our ‘Let’s Jam Lah!’ programme, where a participant mentioned how it was difficult for her to want to pick up an instrument when she was younger because of all the attached outcomes from the act of doing so. She appreciated how she could now freely try out the various instruments in a fluid and relaxed way, to be able to figure out if any one instrument appealed to her inner voice and whether that would inform a decision to perhaps take on weekly lessons for said instrument.
This incident is seared in my mind and motivates me to keep developing Insyncsg together with my co-founders, to establish it as a known platform for expectation-free music experiences; you get the sheer joy of music-making and music-creation without any kind of stress or difficulty (in truth there might be a little as with any new activity, but we work hard to ensure that it is as minimal as it can be).
We have three programmes currently that establish such frameworks:
This is an hour-long activity that involves the modern band family of instruments – you can choose from trying out drums, keyboards, guitars, bass, or even vocals. We take you through the basics of each instrument, and consequently enable the learning of a complete song using easy-to-understand systems and visual languages. The song choice is completely up to you (choose from our varied repertoire, or request your favourite song!)
This activity can vary in duration depending on the need: team-building or leisure, which is an applicable variable to all our programmes. The main gist of SongCreator is experiencing the process of writing a complete song from start to finish. We have developed and stream-lined a working method to ensure anyone participating becomes part of a team of songwriters, with a full song written and recorded at the end of each session.
We have also curated this activity to be made possible from home, in our e-SongCreator series.
If you’re interested, we have an Insyncsg Gives Back! Session coming up, where we will be running this entire activity free of charge this weekend. Click here for more details (password for the event is insyncsg).
This one is something that we are excited to roll out soon. Insync Socials will be a bi-weekly event where you will get to meet new people, play musical instruments for the first time, and make real connections.
You will be learning entire songs as a band, and with refreshments provided and experienced music trainers around, it will be a day of learning and sharing for everyone there! We are planning to make it genre-based themes, and for the very first edition we will be looking at pop hits of the current day.
Beyond the Framework
Something that I have been personally seeking to develop for Insyncsg is a continuation pathway beyond any of our programmes. While not up on our website yet, Insyncsg now offers music lessons for every instrument you see at play in our Jam Lah! series: guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and vocals. In addition, as an extension of our SongCreator series, we will also be offering audio production and engineering classes for the budding home producer seeking to expand his beat-making and hit-making abilities.
Past the initial taste-session of these instruments through any of our programmes, you can now decide and have the option of taking on weekly music lessons with us.
In closing, I hope this article comes to you in good health and spirits. We at Insyncsg look forward to doing more, giving more and listening more in the days to come, and may we all strive to be the light that we need in each other’s lives as we move forward in this challenging time in history.