CCA Previews ’19: Raffles Jazz

By Mak Rui En Rayna (19S03O), Chairperson

When you hear the word jazz, what comes to mind?

Perhaps you think of swanky bars in the 1920s where the lighting is dim; the singers croon and people sway slowly to the sound of the saxophones. Perhaps you think instead of discos in the 1970s, blaring loud, snazzy, brassy funk, or fancy modern cafes where light piano music plays soothingly to relax the patrons. Perhaps you think of Michael Buble, the spirit of December? Or Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, or even George Gershwin?

You wouldn’t be too far off. But how can one small club, the only club of its kind among all of Singapore’s Junior Colleges, manage to truly capture the essence (or multitude of essences) of jazz?

Well, though we certainly do try, we can’t. Not fully, anyway.

Regardless, Raffles Jazz is a remarkable start for anyone who wants to delve headfirst into this wonderfully diverse world of jazz music. It’s a great place for any musician who wants to learn and grow technically and musically among their peers. A good place to unleash your unique ideas about music and, in exchange, come away with many other extraordinary perspectives that change the way you think and play. You may even find yourself exploring improvisational and creative talents of your own that you’ve never had the chance to nurture, or (this is harder than it sounds) your innate sense of rhythm.

This all sounds pretty complicated. What do we do, exactly? As a jazz club, our main focuses are on performances that we put up, from our annual concert in May to school-organised events like National Day Celebration and Batch Night. We do also collaborate with other CCAs, as was the case when the Raffles Photographic Society invited us to provide ambience to their 2018 Exhibition, complementing the beautiful works they had on display with our playing. Evidently, there is certainly no shortage of opportunities to perform.

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Jazz in action at Batch Night 2018

In between, we usually have practices every Wednesday from 2.30 to 4.30pm and every Friday from 3.00 to 5.30pm. Such band practices may also increase in frequency leading up to our performances.

We take this time to play just about anything that can be considered jazz, from bossa nova to swing, from ballads to funk. It’s clear that the genre of music that we play is an inherently fluid one that requires an excess of communication: within the band, between the band and the audience, and that of our own self-expression. Hence, bouncing ideas off one another is something that we do often, and every voice counts in our small, extremely close-knit club. Most of us love nothing more than the time spent jamming together in the studio, trying to perform some seemingly-impossible pieces uniquely based on our own interpretations, and ever-growing in our love and passion for our instruments and our music. This allows us to grow not just as musicians — but also as collaborators, and most importantly, friends.

To help us along, we have extremely experienced instructors, most of whom are professional jazz musicians, who teach us to master new techniques on our various instruments, as well as shine a spotlight into Singapore’s jazz music scene. Our alumni, too, are an extraordinarily talented, passionate and supportive bunch who often drop by to lend an invaluable helping hand and guide us through our jazz journey, be it technique or style-wise. This contributes to a huge, wonderfully warm jazz family that you will soon find yourself becoming a part of by entering this CCA.

But, what if you’ve never heard of jazz music before this point? Don’t worry, some of us were in your shoes before JC, and most of us learnt what we know now only after joining the CCA. You’ll still be able join in and learn with us! After all, as the great pianist Herbie Hancock once said: “It’s not exclusive, but inclusive, which is the whole spirit of jazz.”

Still unsure? We will be having a pre-audition workshop in early 2019 where you can ask your burning questions! We’ll also be having an introductory talk about jazz music and putting on a short performance of jazz standards then, to give you a preliminary glimpse into our both our CCA and jazz as a genre. We hope to see you there!

If you’re interested in joining, we’d love to suggest that you start listening to jazz music! There’s something for everyone among jazz’s many forms, so starting to explore it is always a great way to begin. We hope you take to it just as we have, and set foot on this incredible journey.

So, join us in creating our own magical little jazz bars, our own funky discos, and our own quaint cafes in this very corner of the world. Here you can paint the picture you want and do so with your music, your style, the sounds rippling from our very own school studio.

And we assure you that the experience will be utterly unforgettable.

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