Famous Bands from Singapore
Singapore’s music industry is appreciated worldwide for its diversity, cutting across a number of genres including rock, punk, acoustic, metal, pop, jam, amidst many others. The list below details some of Singapore’s most famous bands who are putting the economic giant on the map in the music world.
Pop rock and indie band, Electrico was originally formed in 1996 under the name Electric Company. The band’s line-up consists of the following:
- David Tan
- William Lim Jr.
- Desmond Goh
The band released its first album titled So Much More Inside in 2004, as well as their debut single, I Want You. Said single rose to the number one spot on 987 FM’s official Top 20 weekly charts. The group has gone on to gain international recognition and accolades including winning three COMPASS Awards for Top Local English Pop Song in 2006, 2007 and 2008. During the 2nd Power98 Singapore Music Awards, Electrico was named Best Singapore Band.
2. The Quests
The Quests have been considered one of the most successful bands in Singapore during the 1960’s. Henry Chua (bassist), drummer Lim Wee Guan, lead guitarist Raymond Leong and lead vocalist Chong Chow Pin (Jap) formed the band in 1961. They started the band after being inspired by the likes of the Shadows and Cliff Richard.
The band’s first original composition Shanty was released in 1964, debuting at Number one of Singapore charts for 12 consecutive weeks, displacing I Should Have Known Better by The Beatles on the charts. The band became quite popular in the mid-1960s, performing on tour in several countries. They however disbanded officially in 1970 as each of the members went on to pursue diverse goals.
Humpback Oak was an indie and folk rock band that originated in 1990 and gained fame following the release of their first album, Pain-Stained Morning. The group was particularly active from 1990 to 2001, where they released hit tracks such as Finer Life, Lower Girl, Circling Square, and Fear which won them attention in South-East Asia.
In 1995, the band was honored with the Critic’s Choice award and Favorite Local Act awards during Singapore’s Perfect 10 Music Awards. Its members included vocalist and guitarist Leslie, Vincent Chin, bassist Daniel Wee and drummer Stanley Teo.
First formed in 2007, Wormrot is one of Singapore’s noted grindcore bands. OC Weekly has described them as one of the top international grindcore bands, having toured the United States and Europe.
After releasing their first compilation Abuse, they landed a recording deal with Earache in January 2010, later reissuing Abuse in April and June that same year. The band became the first Singaporean music act to perform at the Glastonbury Festival. This remarkable achievement happened in 2017. Their most notable works include Dirge (2011) and 2016 album Voices.
This Singaporean band was originated in 2003 by lead singer and rhythm guitarist Sara Wee and Alvin Khoo. They are well-known for regularly performing at famous bars including Harry’s Bar at Boat Quay, Hive by Wala Wala and Timbre at The Substation.
In September 2010, 53A released their first studio album titled Settle the Kettle to much acclaim. During the 2016 National Day Parade, the band was selected to perform the theme song, “Tomorrow’s Here Today”. They have mentioned The Beatles, The Click Five, Foo Fighters and John Mayer as their greatest musical influences.
6. Tokyo Square
Pop rock band Tokyo Square shot to fame after their 1985 rendition of the track Within You’ll Remain topped Singaporean and Thailand charts. The group was formed in 1984 by lead vocalist Linda Elizabeth Dana and guitarist Peter Han, later joined by Max Surin and other members.
Their 1985 compilation, Class Acts were released by WEA Singapore and sold at least 23,000 copies within its first three months. The compilation earned Platinum certification having sold over 500,000 copies with Within You’ll Remain gaining more widespread success than the group imagined. Tokyo Square performed at the 1986 National Day Parade, making them the first rock band to ever do so.
Formerly known as Breed, this Singaporean indie rock band was formed in 1992 and consisted of Pagit Yong, William de Silva, Muhammad Alkhatib and Alwyn Lim. The band is noted for songs such as Losing You, Wallflower and Projektion.
Astreal’s second album, Fragments Of the Same Dead Star was released in 2006 by Wallwork Records shortly before certain members of the band parted ways. In that very year, they received a nomination for the Street Style Awards and performed at a variety of shows including Explore Singapore, ZoukOut and Lime Sonic Bang. In 2007, Astreal was named Best Band of the Year by Juice Magazine.
8. The Observatory
Formed in 2001, The Observatory is recognized as one of the most influential electronic, art rock and experimental bands in the country. With membership consisting of alumni from prominent 1990s bands, the group has released notable albums including the following:
- Blank Walls (2005)
- Dark Folke (2009)
- Oscilla (2014)
- Catacombs (2012)
- August is the Cruellest (2016)
The band’s most recent lineup includes the following musicians:
- Yuen C. Wai
- Cheryl Ong
The release of the 1983 debut album, Regal Vigor shot this punk rock band to instant fame in the 1980s. The band is particularly recognized for pioneering the Singaporean alternative music genre.
Zircon Lounge was formed in 1980 with Chris Ho, Ernie Woo Huay Pin, Tan Tiang Yeow, and Ronnie Chung Shih Loong. The band’s contribution to WEA Record’s Class Acts Two, namely Cold in Buriram and Vaneepok gained popularity with Vaneepok being named the album’s best song, while Cold in Buriram peaked at number 3 on Singaporean charts. The group however split up in 1988.
10. Singapore Symphony Orchestra
This symphony orchestra is noted for its regular performances at the Esplanade Concert Hall and Victoria Concert Hall. First formed in 1978 with director Choo Hoey, the music group has been subsequently directed by Shui Lan as well as Hans Graf.
The group has several recordings released by BIS Records including that of Alexander Tcherepnin’s six piano concerts, 2012 recording of Rachmaninov’s works, as well as a 2007 recording of La Mer by Claude Debussy.
11. Lorong Boys
The Lorong Boys earned virality in 2014 for performing inside MRT trains. The band was established in 2013 with the following:
- pianist-guitarist Jonathan Shin
- flautist Rit Xu
- percussionist Joachim Lim
- violinist David Loke
- violinist Gabriel Lee
The members, who first met at the National University of Singapore, finished first in a talent competition named Sparkz in 2014. They recorded MediaCorp Channel 8’s theme song for the series Life-Fear Not in 2015.
12. The Steve McQueens
This R&B/Pop band was formed by lead vocalist Eugenia Yip, keyboardist Joshua Wan, bassist Jase Ang, and drummer Anson Koh in 2013. The group has earned recognition performing at international jazz festivals and during the Southeast Asian Games closing ceremony in 2015.
Their debut album, Einstein Moments was released in March 2014 during the Singapore Jazz Festival. They subsequently released albums, Sea Monster in 2015 and Terrarium in 2017. The group has performed at the Melbourne Jazz Festival in Australia and the 2016 Zandari Festa in Korea.
Impiety is regarded as one of Singapore’s first ever extreme metal bands. The band was formed in 1990 by vocalist and guitarist Shyaithan and drummer Necro-Angelfornicator.
The band is noted for its albums including the following:
- Paramount Evil (2004)
- Terroreign (2009)
- Worshippers of the Seventh Tyranny (2011)
- Versus All Gods (2020)
14. Singapore Chinese Orchestra
Acclaimed as the country’s only professional Chinese orchestra yet, the 85-musician orchestra was launched in 1997. First established in 1968 as part of the National Theatre, it was initially known as the People’s Association Chinese Orchestra.
It has had music conductors including Li Xueling, Ng Tai Kong, Lim Tiap Guan, Ku Lap Man, Qu Chun Quan and Tsung Yeh. They are well-known for their performances at the Singapore Conference Hall. In 2003, they formed the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra which consisted of younger musicians aged between 11 and 25 years.
In June 2011, HubbaBubbas was formed with a lineup consisting of lead singer Stephanie Lim, vocalist Mervyn Ye, and guitarist Ryan Chan in 2012.
The group has gained popularity with performances during the Singapore Writers Festival, Singapore Night Festival, the World Blood Donor Day and during the Southeast Asian Games in 2015.
The band joined the SCAPE Invasion Tour in 2015 together with artists including Gentle Bones, Daphne Khoo and Shigga Shay. They are noted for the release of the EPs A Hubba-Christmas (2013) and Amy (gdala) (2016) and the 2016 single, Address.
This Vedical metal band is one of Singapore’s most versatile bands incorporating genres such as avant-garde metal, thrash metal, folk metal and blackened death metal. Initially known as Rudhra, the group was formed in 1992 as a trio consisting of guitarist Bala, drummer Shiva and bassist and vocalist Kathir.
In 1994, the band released a project titled The Past. Their second album titled The Aryan Crusade (2005) earned them further recognition. It was listed as one of the top albums of 2002 by Big O Magazine. Rudra headlined the first of the annual 3-day Singaporean music festival, Baybeats in 2010.
17. A Vacant
This 5-piece post-hardcore band is one of the country’s most famous. A Vancant Affair was established in 2004 with members including Matthew Lim, Rudi Osman, Joshua tan, Hafyz Tajuddin, and Tan Wei Shen.
Their first studio album, Reasons to Leave was released in 2009. The band has achieved fame through a number of its performances, particularly performing at prestigious events such as the 2008 Rockstar Taste of Chaos. They have also performed as the opening acts for several international music acts including Story of the Year, As I Lay Dying and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
18. Orchestra of the Music Makers
Orchestra of the Music Makers was first launched in 2008, and comprises both professional and volunteer young musicians. The group is regarded as one of the Lion City’s greatest musical glories since its first concert was held at the Victoria Concert Hall in 2008.
The group received the HSBC Youth Excellence Award in 2009 and has continued making a name for themselves with performances during the Arts Festival, Lichfield Music Festival, as well as the United Kingdom’s Cheltenham Music Festival.
19. Pug Jelly
Pop punk band, Pug Jelly was active in Singapore’s music scene between 1999 and 2005. The group has had members including Matt Cooper, Sam Cooper, Lewis Farman, Chris Verhoeven, Adam Nelson and Masashi Kimura.
In 2005, they earned a nomination for the MTV Asia Awards. The debut single off their Come Home Soon album peaked at number one on a number of prominent charts and has received airplay across several countries including Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and their home country. After years of inactiveness, the band went on an official hiatus in 2008, changing their name to The Dirt Radicals in 2009.
20. Matthew and the Mandarins
This band is famous in Singapore for producing hit country music songs such as Singapore Cowboy (1978), as well as Let’s Put the Sing in Singapore (1979).
The group’s leader Matthew Tan formed the band in 1961. The group had gained substantial fame by the 1970s with the release of Singapore Cowboy which became a number one hit. The group is best noted for albums such as the following:
- Four Seasons (1974)
- Matthew & the Mandarins (1978)
- The Very Best of Matthew & the Mandarins
21. Western Union Band
Pop rock group, Western Union Band was extremely famous in the 1970s with major hit tracks such as Sausalito, I’ve Found My Freedom and Driving Me Crazy.
Their 1972 single Baby, Driving Me Crazy peaked at number four in the Malaysian Top 10 charts while their single titled Something About You Baby rose to number 7 on Billboard charts in April 1972. The group is noted for albums such as We’ve Got Love (1978) and the self-titled album Western Union Band (1996).
22. I Am David Sparkle
This band is famous for its work in the post-rock, progressive rock, experimental rock and indie genre in Singapore. First established as an instrumental collective, the band became active in 2001.
Its membership consists of well-known music acts including Amran Khamis, Farizwan Fajari, Johnny Mo, Adel Rashid, and Zahir Sanosi. I Am David Sparkle’s debut album titled This Is the New was released in 2007, followed by the release of their notable single Nosferatu Me Nervous (2009), and the 2010 album titled Swords. The group became the recipient of the Best Alternative Act award at the Motorola SUPER-StyleMIX in 2007.
23. ShiLi & Adi
Musical duo ShiLi & Adi is noted as one of Singapore’s finest music duos, consisting of singers ShiLi Yap and Adi Rakhmadian. The duo is recognized as one of the first few bands to perform during the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix from 2012 to 2015.
Their collaboration with Erwin Gutawa on the 2018 album Detik Waktu: Perjalanan Karya Cipta Candra Darusman won them the Best Album of the Year award during the AMI Awards. They are also loved for their 2019 singles namely Bersamamu and When I’m With You.
24. SYC Ensemble Singers
Formed in 1964, this choral group was formerly known as the Combined Schools Choir and was later called the Singapore Youth Choir before its name was changed to the SYC Ensemble Singers.
The group is renowned in the country for its accolades including receiving the President’s Charity Award in 1997, and the Excellence for Singapore Award in 2000.
SYC Ensemble Singers were the first choir from Singapore to compete internationally, subsequently winning the Youth Choirs category at the Llangollen Eisteddfod. They also won in the contemporary music category during the 58th Concorso Polifonico Internazionale in Italy.