Sonic City: Making Rock Music and Urban Life in Singapore

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by Steve Ferzacca

Singapore, Rock City. On any given day in the basement of Peninsula Plaza, a shopping mall in central Singapore, Singaporeans of different ethnicities and ages can be found imagining and living a way of life through music. Based on five years of deep participatory experience, this sonic ethnography is centered around a community of noisy people who make rock music within the constraints of urban life in Singapore. The heart and soul of this community is English Language rock-and-roll music pioneered in Singapore by several members of the legendary 1960s “beats and blues” band, The Straydogs, who continue to engage this community in a sonic way of life.

Grounded in sound studies, Ferzacca draws on Bruno Latour’s ideas of the social—continually emergent, constantly in-the-making, “associations of heterogeneous elements” of human and non-human “mediators and intermediaries”—to portray a community entangled in the confounding relations between vernacular and national heritage projects. Music shops, music gear, music genres, sound, urban space, neighborhoods, State presence, performance venues, practice spaces, regional travel, local, national, regional, and sonic histories afford expected and unexpected opportunities for work, play, and meaning, in the contemporary music scene in this Southeast Asian city-state. The emergent quality of this deep sound is fiercely cosmopolitan, yet entirely Singaporean.

"Cultural anthropologist Steve Ferzacca's Sonic City begins in the guitar shops of Peninsula Shopping Centre and weaves itself through the sonic ethnography of Javanese "kroncong" of the early '90s and the Malaysian and Vietnamese tours he went on with the bands he plays in, Blues 77 and The Straydogs, from 2012 to 2016. He offers a hidden history of Singapore music, laced with insight and wisdom.
- Gerrie Lim, author of Singapore Rebel: Searching for Annabel Chong


Steve Ferzacca
is a cultural anthropologist interested in exploring the sonics involved in everyday life. He is Associate Professor at the University of Lethbridge.

Publication year: 2020
288 pp / 229 x 152 mm / 48 images
Paperback
ISBN: 978-981-3251-08-3