Music, Culture and Identity in Singapore

Semionauts of Tradition: Music, Culture and Identity in Contemporary Singapore is a new book by Juliette Yu-Ming Lizeray and Chee-Hoo Lum, published by Springer. It is reviewed for JCA by  Rui Oliveira Lopes of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Lopes commends the book for its “perspective on the issues of cultural identity expressions and contemporary artistic practice in Singapore,” exploring identity, cultural diversity and multiculturalism in music and the impact of globalisation.

In the book, Lizeray and Lum:

argue that young Singaporean musicians are more interested in constructing new meanings through the negotiation of tradition and identity, than a static approach to the preservation of traditions. The authors suggest that Singaporean musicians adopt a kind of anthropophagic approach to their traditions and cultural identities and re-invent a new set of meanings, resetting cultural signs and re-interpreting their musical heritage.

Semionauts of Tradition addresses “pertinent questions about vertical and horizontal cultural interactions examining how music is taken as a carrier of memory, bridging the past and the present, and forging the road for mutual understanding between different races, ethnicities, cultures and nationalities.” However, it also “leaves open the questions about hierarchies of identity when it deals with culture and nationality…”.

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