I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that Budak Pantai was having their inaugural appearance at the Singapore Arts Fest.
Funny that I was first ushered into the world of weird and wonderful at the Festival Village (Esplanade Park). After catching glimpses of someone having a picture of pikachu shaved into his hair, spying a pretty $30 terrarium, and gawking at the Bridge Cafe Project, I was finally ready for my a Capella fix.
And the boys didn’t disappoint a wee bit! Their repertoire and humorous introductions left the very full audience in stitches.
Taking irreverent digs at nearly everything, from Pedra Branca, repulsive women, Japanese tourists – their parodies and mash-ups were gold. Come on, who can do a version of Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” in English, Chinese, and Hokkien, without sounding too tacky? (Wa jing Su ka le…)
The group are crazy good, and current too. Every time I hear them, recorded or live, I think to myself: more arts groups just need to let loose and have pure, unadulterated fun.
Unfortunately Michael Loh had to remind all of us that the members of Budak Pantai have day jobs because they can’t make a living with singing. Says the lawyer who has appeared on “Who wants to be a millionare”.
I had a great time listening to their originals – the environment-friendly “Plastics are forever” with a 007 twist, “Why do men have nipples” (It’s such a great mystery of life), and the “Baking Song”. Such simple prose, yet so catchy and comical!
Plastics are forever
They take 1000 years to disappear
They release plastic fumes when they burn and exhume
(Sung to “Diamonds are forever”)
O my Pedra Branca
It’s still there at high tide
O my Pedra Branca
Just one football field-wide
No one can take our lighthouse away
(Sung to “Una Paloma Blanca”)
Special mention would go to Gordon Ng of the group. I had fun watching his face contort during the performances, and listening to his beautiful falsetto voice.
And of course, the audience adored their classic version of Siti Nurhaliza’s “Bukan Cinta Biasa” with the Canto intro. And that’s when the lot of us heard the vocalised electric guitar twangs and riffs of the talented Gordon. Danny Lai’s acoustic accompaniment truly stood out here as well.
To me, it was a case of too short, and too late. I’d have loved to have an hour-and-a-half long a Capella concert featuring guest artists. But I think the venue wouldn’t have held up, as the audience were sitting on beach mats and stools in the humid open air venue.
After the performance, the crowd dispersed almost immediately, with only a few staying to listen to DJ Cats on Crack. It’s clear that Budak Pantai are well-received too among the youth- their unique and eclectic brand of music just tangentially references popular songs from Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, and satirizes them to comedic hits.
In Michael Loh’s words, they are just “5 Chinese guys with a Malay name, who sing songs in Hokkien and sometimes in Chinese.“
I beg to differ. They’re an excellent local a Capella group that has garnered a following, and are such a delight to listen to live. Really underrated, though they’ve been singing for 18 years out of pure passion.
Budak Pantai performed at the Singapore Arts Festival Village Main Stage on 2nd June 2012, 10pm.