To all readers (especially the female ones), a very happy #InternationalWomensDay to you! As an aspiring creative professional in a very niche market, it gets pretty hard at times breaking through the clutter. But somehow from my experiences, I get the feeling that it's even harder to be taken seriously as a baby-faced young lady. I've slogged long and hard at this game and clocked in the hours, but especially as I up the ante in trying to turn this hustle into a career, I've met with obstacles that should not be there.
My drive taken for insolence, my kindness taken for granted, my experience exchanged for envy and blocked opportunities, my youth and feminine appearance mistaken for amateurishness. More and more, as I witness the ugly side of this industry do I wonder to myself; 'If I were a strapping young man, would I be facing these exact situations?' If I were a boy, would my drive be admired, my kindness praised, my experience applauded? Would envy dissipate and grant me the opportunities I deserve? But alas, all these 'what ifs' create are self pity and doubt. What use would that be?
So to all the girls out there with a great idea in their heads, with a passion that cannot be snuffed, believe in the potential of your voice. Having a voice does not mean literally having to stand up and speak, or having your writings published. To have a voice means to stand up for what you believe in, to speak when no one else has the courage to. Be brave, and don't be afraid of how other people see you. Sit in the front row of the classroom by yourself, ask for the opportunities you desire, be a strong, goddamn independent woman. Because progress is progress, no matter how big or small. By having your voice heard, prove your mettle to the rest of the world and soon enough, us girls will truly run the world. Happy Women's Day <3
When people hear that I'm a music reviewer, often the first question they have is "How do you appreciate so many different kinds of music?" Believe me, I had the same question for myself when I first tried my hand at reviewing albums. It seemed like such a huge feat that I was most certainly under-prepared for to treat different types of music objectively and appreciate them equally. Of course, I didn't always start out loving all kinds of music, initially I was most inclined towards R&B and Pop, and it took years of patient listening and maturity as a person for me to immerse myself into different genres. Here's a rough timeline of how my musical tastes have expanded over the years:
2007: R&B, Pop
2008: Initial appreciation for Rap and Hip hop
2009: Further appreciation for Hip hop
2010: Grew an appreciation for Rock & Easy listening/Folk
2011: Developed an appreciation for Jazz
2012: Got into Alternative Rock/Folk Rock and Brit Rock
2013: Initial appreciation for Electronic Dance Music
2015: Deeper appreciation for independent genres and Jazz, and gained an increased appreciation for EDM music
2016: Gained a greater love for Rap music, EDM, Reggae and Indie music in general
So as you can see, my appreciation for music and different styles of it has grown over time, and is still growing and changing every single day. Some of my appreciations of genres were love at first sight (rock, folk) but with some others such as alternative rock, they were slow to take shape but got there in the end! I do not claim to be an expert on any of the genres that I love, but as a music reviewer I believe its important to have a base of knowledge and understanding of how different genres have come to be, and what characteristics artists who are inclined towards these genres share.
However, my appreciation for a wide range of genres did not happen organically, nor overnight. Some songs from different genres I may have immediately taken a liking to, but for others, it took perseverance and persistence. I managed to discipline myself by taking a critical approach to every song that I listened to. Rather than just listening once and from there deciding whether I liked it or not, I listened again, again, and again (and wore out many MP3 players in the process). If I didn't like the song, I would ask myself why and listen carefully to pinpoint what exactly it was about the particular song which led me to dislike it. Was it bias that had led me to immediate dislike for a song? And likewise, if I liked a song, what was it about the melody, lyrics or arrangement which had attracted me to it? If theoretically speaking it wasn't a good song but I liked it anyway, was I being biased due to a particular artist's participation on the track? All in all, I constantly pushed myself to find justification that was relevant rather than arbitrary for my attitude towards every song. This constant questioning and critiquing of each piece of music I listened to led to an increased need for answers that I usually didn't have. So that meant listening to every piece of music and researching the characteristics and histories of different genres and contexts until I had an answer that I was satisfied with. In this way, finding an answer for why I felt the way I did gave me a greater appreciation for each of the different genres of music that I listened to, because I then had a better understanding of the way they were created and why they were created in that particular way. (On a side note, now you know why album reviews take me so long!)
Not going to lie, it's been a trying couple of months for me. Recently I've come to realise the fact that I'm not perfect (obviously, I know but it only finally hit me), and that I have faults which are hard for me to come to terms with. It's been wreaking havoc in my mind over the past few days, making me think if certain situations came to be that way due to issues with my personality. Sometimes I guess my anxiety just gets the best of me and I start to speed up, working at a superhuman pace that others can't keep up to. I used to think that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but really what's the point of living in a world with other people when you're off in your own world by yourself right? Anyway, due to this situation there were many confrontations and negative (but constructive) criticisms that came out of it. After going through stages of shock and denial, I'm slowly trying to use my own methods to come to terms with my faults, letting go of the past and trying to incorporate all the advice I've received into a solid direction for me to move forward towards. But it's definitely much harder that I thought, and I'm not gonna lie-it's an internal struggle that has caused more than a few tears and a hell of a lot of frustration with myself in the process.
Nothing seems to be really helping to make it go away-not even really Chinese music, which has helped me through so many hard times previously. I was beginning to give up, resigned to lolling around in bed and watching endless useless YouTube tutorials until those feelings and memories of bad experiences suppressed themselves enough to make me feel better, until I rediscovered JJ Lin's duet with Jason Mraz called "I am Alive". Nothing was able to truly make me feel better except this song. It encompasses everything I feel right now; helpless in a dynamic and changing environment where I am no longer in control, trying my best but still failing so many time that it's cumulated into a feeling of loneliness. But despite its softness in approach, the lyrics and simple and strong, telling me that I DO have what it takes to hold on. It affirmed me in a way that no one could, comforting me by embracing me heart and soul. It tells me that I am brave and strong, loveable and invincible. Essentially, it was just what I needed to get up and keep on trying. Personally, I think it's the perfect coalescence of JJ and Mraz's personalities in this song which did it for me; JJ's optimism and drive, and Mraz's serenity and stability. As I write this, I can honestly say I'm not 100% better yet. But that's okay, because I'm still alive, and I'll get through this. For anyone out there having a hard day, this message and this song is for you. I hope you feel better soon.
As many followers on this blog may know, I've long been on a soul-searching journey to find out why exactly I love Chinese music so much. I've previously written articles digging deeper into this subject, but felt that in terms of why I loved Chinese music, there was certainly an element still missing and yet to be discovered.
But in a lightbulb moment I had yesterday, I realised that the REAL reason I have continued to love this music so much was not because of its uniqueness (because upon delving deeper there has been certainly much left desired in terms of the quality of their music), but because of a more personal reason; a flaw my brain subconsciously overlooks. Escapism.
When I started getting into Chinese music, it was an awkward time in my existence (12 years old, the epitome of awkward adolescence). There were many things happening around me that I didn't want to deal with, so I used music as a buffer to shut things out. Because I enjoyed listening to it so much, it allowed me to escape into a different world. Instead of being in a reality where I perceived myself to have no friends and where nothing of interest to me could happen, I surrounded myself with music so much so that the artists I listened to became my friends, the songs they sang became stories shared and their albums became my life lessons. It was escapism at its best.
But the tangible use of Chinese music was not the only way I used it to escape. I used to believe that there was nothing interesting about me, nothing different. I didn't know who I was and no matter how I tried to look, I always came to a dead end. But I stubbornly believed in the art of naming; my name Jocelle was unique, and I would not let my parents down by being anything other than such. So instead of following the same trends of other teenagers, bowing to peer pressure, doing what they did, I decided to use Chinese music and the Chinese language to reinvent myself on a clean new slate. P.S. I'm pretty sure this isn't a healthy way to go about finding yourself, but I am merely telling my story, so others may find resonance in my words.
Anyway, continuing on! I learned Chinese because I felt it was logical to learn the language of my heritage, but at the same time I have now realised that it meant much more than that to me. Shying away from the remnants of my Singaporean accent left in my voice (yes, I still do have a
Singaporean accent after staying in Australia for half my life), I didn't wish to be judged by how I sounded, placed in the 'Asian FOB' group and being expected to have the same ideals and hobbies as them. So taking the opportunity of learning the language all over again, I used it as a gateway to present myself how I wanted to be presented. This is probably why although I speak with a Singaporean accent in English, my friends say I speak with an ABC accent in Chinese. I wanted a better way to represent my passion for bridging gaps between the East and the West, especially in my music.
I became an embodiment of Chinese music because I wanted to show those around me that there was much more to Asians than just 'The Azn group'. To break down the walls of preconceptions that only Chinese speaking people can listen to Chinese music. I value now what living in both Australia and Singapore have taught me. From living in Singapore, I learnt to always value where I came from, and to treasure my mother tongue. From Australia, I instead learnt the meaning of creativity and critical thinking, which effectively helped me to coalesce all my views into a dream to help promote Chinese music to a Western audience.
Although I was never bullied in school, it was clear to me that racial stereotypes were very much in place. And I wanted to change that, by being a model of how Asians are much more than maths geniuses and physics whizzes. More than anything, I felt insignificant, and I wanted to change that. Making a difference in the world before I leave it was always something at the foremost of my mind when I started this, and still is. Music is a universal language that can have the power to start a revolution, and to provoke acceptance of ideas others would never accept otherwise. So this is how I choose to make meaning within my life.
As you can see, at the start of my journey I used Chinese music as a wall to hide behind and to disconnect myself from the rest of the world. But in doing so, I actually found myself on the other side, if that makes sense. So I'm happy that for good or bad, it has made me who I am today. Someone who although is still on a path of self-discovery, is truly proud of her own achievements and is able to rise above petty comparisons to make a difference and create value for the world.
Now back from my travels, I use this now as a blog to document any live reviews, and personal experiences related to our collective passion for Asian identity and Chinese music.