Singapore Adventure

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sounds of Singapore
by venitha

Jim started a blog entry on this topic several weeks ago but gave up before he finished it. A strong urge to sing along with "Wind Beneath My Wings" yesterday at Cold Storage, loudly belting it out as I wandered the aisles in search of oatmeal, led me to revive it.

From its towering highrises to its lush tropical vegetation to its captivatingly diverse population, Singapore is a visual feast. But when I close my eyes, what do I hear?

The sounds you expect are assuredly here: a chaotic melody of foreign languages, frenzied honking of city traffic, annoyed cackles of birds. But the most frequent and inescapable noises are not what I expected.

It was the jarring rat-tat-tat of the jackhammer that initally opened my ears to the sounds of Singapore. The city is growing. Quickly. Everywhere, there is construction, and with it, the sound of jackhammers. Our apartment looks out onto a construction site. None of the apartments we viewed were not in the vicinity of a construction site. Our nearest MRT station is a construction site. I ride up the escalator into increasingly hotter air and an increasingly louder jackhammer.

More inescapable than the pound of the jackhammer is the sound of Singaporean women: a cacophony of pointed heels click-clack-clicking on hard surfaces. A chaotic beat resonates in the pedestrian underpasses and echoes through the MRT station hallways. Ironically, I must stand out in my stealthy sandals from Lands End and SAS.

If I have to crown a winner, though, the true Sound of Singapore is ... really bad 80s music. We're talking Foreigner, Culture Club, "Funky Cold Medina". An endless medley of awful songs that, sadly, I know all the words to. I keep hoping it's just some sort of strange Singaporean torture. I confess! Whatever it is! Just make it stop! Unfortunately, it's way too pervasive for this to be the case.

The taxi driver plays the radio. Bad 80s music.

The shopping centers play Singapore's version of Muzak. Bad 80s music.

A show is put on in the courtyard of our service apartment. Bad 80s music.

I'm taking comfort amidst all these yearning, heart-broken ballads in the fact that my musical tastes have not - yet, at least - reverted to those of my teenage self. I saw Bryan Adams in concert when I was in high school, but I passed on seeing Air Supply at the Esplanade earlier this month.