Singapore goes deeper underground

Singapore is well established as a global finance and tourism hub but its underground cultural scene, more than a decade in the making, has largely escaped the glossy pages of travel guides.

The island-nation has worked hard to attract international acts to nightclubs and festivals in recent years and thanks to the efforts of local creative talent, it now also caters to those with less mainstream tastes, with a range of entertainment offerings from disruptive art to eclectic live music.

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This Saturday, the Rail Corridor Art Space, a viaduct next to Singapore's old railway track, will host an innovative day-to-night event, one of several held this year.

Local collective Tact Space and reggae-focused outfit Singapura Dub Club will bring upcycled art, dance workshops, video projections and genre-defying DJs to the venue as part of a multidisciplinary series commissioned by Singapore's National Arts Council (NAC). A similar event was held last month under the NAC's series, featuring party promoters Good Times, while creative group Hyphen has also hosted numerous projects at the venue.

Managed by street art crew RSCLS, the Rail Corridor Art Space boasts two walls that are the city's largest legal spaces for graffiti artists.

Creative takeovers of public spaces are increasingly becoming an example of Singapore's evolving scene.

Last year, a collaborative community project by Tact Space and music brand Rockstar Collective (RSC) saw artists occupy former "vice mall" Eminent Plaza, filling the building's disused karaoke lounges and massage parlors with graffiti and music acts.

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"I'm reaping the rewards of people who pioneered this scene ... A lot of what I am able to do now is a direct result of what the crew of [former music venue] Home Club had been doing for a good ten years at least," Tact Space's Elisa Lam says.

Singapore's arts and music scene first started heating up back in 2003, and by 2008, she notes "there was no lack of gigs to go to."

Good Times has been helping provide those gigs. For the past seven years, promoter pair Syafii Ghazali and Eric Foenander have thrown a monthly party, featuring a range of hip hop, funk, and bass music from local DJs.

"There's never been a grand plan to shake up the scene," Ghazali says. "We just want to throw a good shindig. It just so happens that our idea of the perfect party almost exclusively involves local acts, so I guess the implicit message here is Singapore's Got Talent."

Another collective called Sideshow, led by Tom Kelly and Aidan Bamrah, has been a fixture in Singapore's music scene for a decade. Committed to creating one-of-a-kind experiences, they've pioneered well-loved events such as the quarterly parties at Labrador Park. This year, the group was involved in an independent animation festival called Cartoons Underground and Brazilian carnival 'Ritmo do Brasil.'

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"The scene has grown and diversified while maintaining its spirit of mutual respect and collaboration. It's exciting times for art and music lovers in Singapore," Sideshow's Kelly tells CNBC.

And the NAC is working to foster Singapore's underground talent, with a range of mentorship programs, grants and international showcase platforms to help artists reach a wider audience.

"To grow our arts scene, exposure on the global stage is important, not just to develop a new audience base for Singapore artists but also to enable exchanges between professionals which can broaden and deepen their art practices," said Kenneth Kwok, NAC director of arts & youth and strategic planning.