Raffles Got Talent? Yes, It Does

By Alyssa Marie Loo (19A13A)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society

9th March, Friday evening. It was the last day of Term 1: the sweet, impending freedom of the March Holiday break impressed upon the Y5s, while the torture of a CT study week loomed upon the Y6s. Yet, in spite of the alluring option of going home to sleep, and in spite of the seemingly long 3-hour event duration, hordes of students still showed up at the RI Performing Arts Centre to watch Raffles Got Talent. For the second year running, RGT met with resounding success: more than 60 act signups, and a full house turnout of more than 370 students at its finals. For those of you who missed the RGT finals night, or are curious to know more about the acts that won, Raffles Press brings you a recap of the winning acts of the night, along with exclusive features on each act.


This year’s Raffles Got Talent was jointly organised by the Student Council and House, with the aim of providing a platform for Rafflesians to showcase their talents. True to form, there was an eclectic range of talents showcased on the voting platform. Notable acts that did not appear in the finals included a juggler to the tune of the Mario theme song, a surreal dance act that performed an impressive collection of popular dance moves to the Nintendo Mii Channel theme song, and a comedian who listed caricatures of all five Houses. Overall, BB had the most shortlisted audition videos with a total of 19. This was followed by BW with 13, and HH with 8. A final total of 15 acts proceeded to Raffles Got Talent’s finals on Friday evening. Each act’s 5-minute performance was judged on-the-spot by a panel: Mr. Eddie Koh (Knowledge Skills), Mrs. Dawn Wu (Knowledge Skills), Su Ying (Batch of 2017 Raffles Rock Chairperson) and Dr. Gooi (Music).

 

MUSIC CATEGORY WINNERS

1st Place: East Meets West, comprising Lee Han Wei (19S06C) and Dai Xiang Rong (19S06O), MR
A frighteningly fast and impressive erhu and piano duet.

2nd Place: Some Chinese Song, comprising Wei Yuxin (19S02A), BW
A heart-wrenching Chinese pop piano-vocal cover, with a comedic twist.

3rd Place: Daylight, comprising Manish (19S03T), Ma Jun Chong (19S03M), Sang Won, Hong Wei and Dayna Har (19S02A), HH
A good ol’, honest rock band with a vocalist capable of amazingly high falsettos.

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East Meets West engrossed in their musical masterpiece.

“That was a performance I would have paid to watch,” commented an awestruck judge after East Meets West had finished their piece. The act was an exotic showcase: a titular fusion of Chinese and Western music through a Chinese erhu and piano duet. “It was an uncommon pairing of a Chinese instrument with a Western instrument, and we thought the audience would find it fresh and interesting,” said Xiang Rong, the piano player. They played a duet arrangement of “Gypsy Airs”, a piece originally composed for the violin. It was captivating to see the pair realise the fast and dramatic piece: Han Wei’s impossibly nimble fingers darting up and down the erhu, Xiang Rong deftly and perfectly playing the piano while managing to keep in tempo. Despite this superhuman performance, they “only practiced together for about a week before submitting [their] audition video.” It is then perhaps unsurprising that the two of them have been learning their respective instruments since they were 7 years old, with both attaining performance diplomas. The two told us about their performance and results: “We weren’t really pressured or focused on winning, we just tried our best to enjoy the process and entertain ourselves and the audience”.

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Yuxin pouring his soul into a Chinese ballad.

In contrast to East Meets West, Yuxin’s act was an unexpected wild card. The curtains opened to a grand piano languishing on stage. Yuxin strode in carrying a score, seemingly well-dressed in his tuxedo, except for the fact that his feet were still clad in sneakers. The audience, prepared for another classical music performance, was caught by surprise when Yuxin played a sum total of two notes before standing up and bowing. Alas, a faux ending; he sat back down and skilfully played a riveting Chinese ballad while singing—and occasionally but intentionally messing up for comedic effect. “I wanted to experiment with something new and not the conventional music that students like us won’t yet appreciate and would probably fall asleep to,” Yuxin explained regarding his unconventional performance, “While performing a comedic moment, it was well received and there’s this sense of satisfaction which blossoms in my heart.” Indeed, he led the audience through a journey of confusion, admiration and laughter; “you brought us through…a range of emotions”, said the judge tentatively. Yuxin was a crowd favourite of this category, but still he felt “delirious” when he found out about placing second. “I thought that the champions truly deserved [their placing] as they showed professionalism in their performance and… there was me,” he laughed.

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5-person act Daylight rocking the stage.

The third-placing Daylight was an explosion of energy the moment they started their set. Four members—the vocalist, bassist, guitarist and drummer—already had experience performing together, as they had originally performed at Rafflesian Spotlight in RI Y1–4. Conversely, Dayna, the only girl and the band’s keyboardist, had only just been recruited. Two rock songs, What I’ve Done by Linkin Park and Supremacy by Muse, were chosen for their performance as they were “super hype and nice”, and also because the songs capitalised on Manish’s impressive vocal range. Interestingly, the band could not secure the RI Studio for their rehearsals, and actually booked an external studio that cost about $55 for each three-hour session. When asked why they were willing to pay for an external studio, the band said that “we didn’t go to practice just for RGT. We just really like to play together so it’s worth the money….It’s really fun to play as a band, and we all know that once school gets busier it’s hard to meet up to play.”

 

DANCE CATEGORY WINNERS

1st Place: Konfidante, comprising Tasha Sonia Kaur (19S03O), Val Tan (19S03G), and Janice Tan (19S06I), BB
Three ladies dancing a fierce and powerful choreography to a medley of songs.

2nd Place: Wan Jialing (18A01A), MT
Suddenly, you’re in Hawaii!

3rd Place: Over 50-kg Club, comprising Linus Tan and Kent Han (18S06P), HH.
A pair popping, locking and dancing serious hip-hop.

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Konfidante full of power and energy mid-dance.

There was perhaps little surprise for the announcement of the dance category winners, considering that the judges openly expressed to Konfidante that they were “the best dance act we have seen tonight.” Konfidante is indeed a polished and accomplished group: their Raffles Got Talent victory is the second notch in their belt after their victory in the 2016 edition of Raffles Girls’ School’s talent show, R-Factor. Konfidante is made up of three talented dancers that have been dancing together since they were in Year 2. “The 3 of us were actually deskies…and…we realised that we all shared a passion for dance,” said the trio. For RGT, the three chose a powerful and fast-paced music set: Burn Break Crash by Aanysa x Snakehips, Yonce by Beyoncé, and This is Me from The Greatest Showman soundtrack. Despite the high bar posed by the energy of the music, the girls matched up perfectly with their equally empowering self-created choreography. The three were overjoyed by the results, but also added that they were “really happy because of [their] friends that were there to support and cheer for [them].”

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Jialing gracefully swaying in her Hula dance.

Meanwhile, there was a considerable amount of confusion and surprise when Jialing stepped out onto stage adorned with an array of leaves and flowers, clad in a black tube top and a long, flowing skirt. Understandably, Jialing’s act was to feature a dance genre we Singaporeans do not usually get to witness: the Hawaiian hula. She has been learning it at a hula school in Singapore called “Ka Pa Hula Ka Lei Maile Hi’ilani”, which is a Singapore branch of a real hula school in Hawaii’s Kauai Island. “In hula, each dance has a meaning and therefore you must be taught by a teacher and have permission to perform to ensure that the meaning is not lost or wrong when you dance,” Jialing told us in an interview. Her intricate outfit of flora and fauna was similarly full of deliberate meaning, though the judging panel mistook it for “a good use of school plants”. On her head she wore a yellow feather (a lei hulu that represents royalty); around her neck draped two long, black-beaded necklaces (lei kukui to represent enlightenment); another piece hanging on her neck was an even longer chain of leaves (a lei maile to represent unity). “It’s one thing I love about [hula], is that everything carries so much meaning!” Jialing enthused. Perhaps the audience was hardly aware of all the embedded meaning, but we were nonetheless charmed by the delicately graceful way she danced. As a judge described, she “really brought the waves of Hawaii to us”. In the end, Jialing was “really surprised” by her second place—but more importantly, she felt elated to have been “given a chance to perform and showcase something that [she loves] so much.”

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Over-50kg Club looking quite weightless in their agile choreography.

Last but not least, the cryptically named ‘Over 50-Kg Club’ is actually the name in reverse of the two dancers’ act at last year’s RGT: ‘Below 50-kg Club’. The two lanky street dancers appeared on stage and danced to Icon by Jaden Smith, Mans Not Hot by Big Shaq, and Manolo by Trip Lee. Kent, one of the two Y6 dancers, told us that they adapted choreography from YouTube and practiced just 2 days before finals—an impressive feat considering the fluent, coordinated and energetic hip-hop performance that they presented on stage! Their explosive dance act ended with a troop of boys joining the pair on stage in a last hurrah, performing a short dance sequence together as an ensemble. Though the duo’s initial goal was to win a speaker for their CCA (Street Dance), one of the prizes that the RGT committee originally announced, they are nonetheless very happy with their results.

 

OPEN CATEGORY WINNERS

1st Place: Srivibhav (19S06I), HH
Beatboxer shows you a seemingly impossible array of sounds from just his mouth.

2nd Place: Sherwin Lam (19S06O), BB
Beatboxer using a loop pedal to make a self-created remix of 3 songs.

3rd Place: Ifran (19S06I), BW
First-time standup comedian that transitioned from school salt to dad jokes.
When the emcees walked onto stage literally beating a cardboard box, the audience was hardly aware that we were in for three incredible back-to-back beatbox performances: first Sri’s, then Sherwin’s, then a beatbox battle between the two.

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Sri producing more sounds from his mouth than one humanly believes possible.

One would never guess that RGT was the first time Srivibhav had ever performed for an audience. Sri, as he is more commonly known, walked onto stage dressed in an unassuming green hoodie, black pants, and white gloves, and left the spotlight with the audience stunned in awe—a judge even had to probe, “Are you sure you’re not hiding a drum in there?” At that point, Sri had only been learning beatbox seriously for 10 months. He formulated his RGT routine by integrating bits of his favourite beatboxers’ routines with his own composition; he incorporated routines of beatboxers like Amit, Audical, Napom and Piratheeban. When asked how he felt about his debut performance being so successful, Sri replied that he “felt happy! I thought beatboxing was a subculture that’s not very appreciated by the public, because it is very technical…people don’t appreciate it unless they know how hard it is to execute. I’m happy to see that the general public enjoys it.” Certainly, it was plainly evident that the audience enjoyed it, especially since Sri’s friends were hollering “One, Two, Sri!” at the top of their lungs before and after Sri’s performance. “I’m very happy about that because it’s also my Instagram handle,” Sri commented cheekily about their enthusiasm.

For Sherwin, the second beatboxer to perform, he started learning beatboxing to enrich his a cappella singing covers, and has since been beatboxing for nearly 2 years. His performance was a three-song mashup of Havana by Camila Cabello, New Rules by Dua Lipa and Shape of You by Ed Sheeran, utilising a loop pedal to layer tracks of his beatboxing as the base rhythm and tempo. After his performance, one judge commented that it was especially interesting to witness how he created the whole track live from scratch. Sherwin told us that he actually arranged the mashup himself the night before the performance: he had been inspired by a YouTube video that did a similar looping beatbox cover, then he added on New Rules and Shape of You as he went along with developing the track.

The battle between Sri and Sherwin was the closing highlight of the beatbox saga. The beatboxers took turns of a minute each to perform a piece. As they were ominously backlighted with red, flinging taunts at each other like “I will take you down” between bass beats, the battle seemed genuinely ruthless and entertainingly hostile from the audience seat. Yet, we were told that it was in actuality a prepared arrangement. “When the House Captains knew there were 2 beatboxers in the final, they told us the idea and we both agreed to try it out,” Sherwin told us. The two performed very different styles of beatboxing, and despite the final rankings, there was no clear winner of the battle. However, it is safe to say that Sherwin won the audience’s hearts when he began beatboxing and singing the Raffles Institution anthem in his last turn, transitioning into the bass drop by singing the internet meme “somebody toucha my spaghet”.

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Solo comedian Ifran humbly reads his stand-up script to a full house audience.

Meanwhile, Ifran had never expected to be at the finals: his OG mates had casually recorded a video of him telling jokes, and he agreed to have it submitted only for House points. He then unexpectedly found himself stumbling onto stage with cue cards in hand, approaching the solitary microphone stand, assaulted by bright spotlights. “I was pretty nervous but I couldn’t really make out anyone’s faces at first so I guess that helped. My hand was shaking when I told my first joke,” Ifran recounted about his initial nervousness. Stand-up comedy is a difficult and pressurising act to pull off; yet, as Ifran slowly eased into delivering his lines, it was evident that this budding comedian could definitely ace it. After his performance, Ifran boldly told the panel judge that “the script was not approved by the teachers”. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise: the jokes that incited the most laughter were often the ones which took jabs at the school and its culture. One segment that seemed to hit off well with the audience was when Ifran sang, to the tune of Home by Kit Chan, “But whenever I am feeling low / I look at Frisbee and I know, / they’ll never be accepted / as a sport as it’s just for show.”

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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All the performers at RGT finals!

In terms of House points from final placings, HH has gained the most House points with 1 first place and 2 third places. This is followed by BB with 1 first place and 1 second place, and then BW with 2 second places. However, tallied together with audition video participation points, BB seems to be the leading House for RGT overall.

Yet one’s main takeaway from RGT is ultimately not the numbers game: what truly defined RGT was the incredible display of intra-House support and House participation. BW OGs were waving fansigns at the concert in support of performers, BB performers received support boards compiled by their House Captains and their friends, and the MR Captain was described as “really helpful and supportive in helping [acts] perform their best during live finals”, as some examples among others. Council representative Warren Liow (18A01B) described that it was a challenge to organise RGT, to work with “a highly demanding timeline…and to have the time and energy come up with fresh, high quality ideas” while juggling Orientation and initiatives like House Batch Shirts. However, Council’s work seems to have paid off with the enthusiasm and enjoyment that everyone derived from RGT’s performances. Raffles Press looks forward to an equally incredible show next year: seeing this year’s turnout, the school can indeed look forward to many more talented Rafflesians taking the spotlight.

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