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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Of Rainbow Hair & Happy music: Interview with Daphne Tian of The Ukulele Girls

I first met Tian, who was helping out at her friend's store in Haji Lane, a warm and bubbly character whom I ended up chatting for quite abit. It was here that I came to know that she is one half of local girl group Ukulele Girls, who has been slowly but steadily making waves in the Singapore's music scene. Naturally, I could not miss the chance to pick her mind about their latest album, Love on the Equator.

Performing at Going Oms bar, Haji Lane
Has Singapore found her own ukulele-toting Zee Avis? Perhaps even better.

This all began after Tian's graduation, where the 29 year old found herself teaching at Ban Than Nam Chai Orphanage in Thailand. After falling in love with the place and people, she eventually organized a 15-person volunteer trip in collaboration with her then-employers, Positive Psychology Centre. It was at this time she met Kaylin (27), whom had joined to learn more about positive psychology.

 Tian (right)& Kaylin (left) meets for the first time 
"Over this period, we bonded over my ukulele, which I'd brought along on the trip, and we started playing together for fun. It was a wonderful experience, and everyone that came along was deeply moved and inspired by the children we worked with. We spent many nights sitting around, singing with the locals and the other volunteers." Naturally, this kindled affinity soon saw Kaylin getting her own ukulele once back home and as they say, the rest is history.

Match made in musical heaven 
When asked about her partner, she feels Kaylin is the perennial "sweet girl next door", whilst she's the more reckless and liberated of the two. She claims, "we're total opposites, but we share a bohemian outlook on life. But we have different strengths that make up for each others' weaknesses, and even our voices are very different, yet complementary, so our songs have lots of layers and harmonies." 

Tian describes their latest album, Love on the Equator as "REALLY, REALLY HAPPY". She explains further; " if you're familiar with the ukulele, you'd know it's a really cheerful and fun little instrument, and that's definitely affected the way we write our music. Inspired by everyday life, and we want our music to uplift the spirits and bring joy."

Review: I should have really discovered the Ukulele Girls sooner! The girls pen their very own tunes, with catchy and heartfelt lyrics coupled with of course, their unmissable instrument Ukulele. The soothing harmonies by both girls are like the emollient for the grind of everyday life, as they sing about little stories of everyday life, with a dash of self-deprecating humourI would best describe their songs a very light-hearted and almost dreamy, the kind of sounds I'd see myself at a cosy cafe listening to on a laidback Sunday. My favourite happy tunes are 'Drawing Circles' a whimisical song about a blurred friendship veering into a tentative romance. Can't stop hitting the replay button! 

Even the album itself, was more like a shared project with their talented close friends: Artist Yumi Marvelous, who designed the characters, and two other friends who shot it and constructed small standees for the album where its placed at all retail partners.

Friend Barry working on handmade standees
And it has snowballed into exciting heights that the girls had not actually dare expect. Tian counts some of Ukulele Girls's high points as when they participated in annual music festival NOISE Singapore 2012, to writing and recording an original for Sharksavers international campaign "I'm Finished with Fins". But not just being limited to Singapore, you might have recognised the girls on "Ladies On Vacation - Japan", a travelogue for Toggle, where they composed the show's theme song and 10 jingles for each city they visited.

Dressed as Geishas for travel show, Ladies on Travel, Japan
But of course like most budding music artistes, the road has not always been that rosy. The constant need to juggle day jobs, family, personal life and gigs within very limiting and conflicting schedules, meant that sacrifices were necessary to make time. "We've also had some differences in opinion as to the direction our album should take, and even when the launch should occur. But I've learnt that there needs to be a lot of give and take and open communication in any partnership!"

Making waves in the local news. Credits to various sources.
So, whats next for The Ukulele Girls?

To which Tian replies excitedly, "now that we've launched our album, we're really keen to get our music overseas and maybe even play at some ukulele festivals around the world! At the moment we're working on getting our music out locally first. The next festival we will be performing at is at Esplanade's Flipside Festival in June 2014. We're also planning to shoot a music video for one of our singles to have a stronger online presence on Youtube.

Looks like the future of the Ukulele girls looks as colorful as the ladies themselves.

Check out The Ukulele Girls on their various social media
 Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /

Have a listen at their tracks:

Don't miss out their current giveaway and stand a chance to win a Kamoa Mahogany Soprano Pineapple E-P Ukulele worth S$166!

The Ukulele Girls "Love On The Equator" CD is retailing at $19.90 and is available at the below:

 1. Ukulele Movement 66 Kampong Bugis, #05-01 Kallang Rivergreen Bldg, Singapore 338987 Singapore, Singapore 338987
 2. Alternative Store 59 Haji Lane, Singapore, Singapore 189252
 3. SIFR Aromatics 42 Arab Street, Singapore, Singapore 199741
4. Tracyeinny Outlets - Chinasquare 3 Pickering Street #01-15 Nankin Row Singapore 048660 - Bishan 9 Bishan Place Junction 8 Shopping Centre #02-36/37 Singapore 579837 - Jem 50 Jurong Gateway Road #04-05 Jem Singapore 608549 - Tampines 10 Tampines Central 1 Tampines 1 #02-20 Singapore 529537

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