My name is Neil, and I am a musician, ethnomusicologist, and audio engineer based in Singapore. I specialise in performing hybrid music, where multiple musical styles are blended together to varying degrees. My primary instruments are the voice, guitar, mridangam, and siku, focusing on four primary musical styles – Jazz, Carnatic, Flamenco, and Andean. I initially started playing percussive fingerstyle guitar, and have continued incorporating elements of this style to my ventures in hybrid music. Through 'Music for Well-being Initiatives', I seek to reach out to others with the simple joy of music and have led multiple teams of musicians to do the same.
I'm also a Christian and an animal lover, owning a ginger tabby cat I rescued as a kitten and five chinchillas.
I was first inspired to pick up fingerstyle guitar during a performance by Indian guitarist and missionary Benny Prasad at his church service in late 2010. Since then, I've taught myself how to play the guitar, first by following videos on YouTube and eventually developing my own techniques and compositions. With my interest in hybrid music, I have experimented and sought to innovate new guitar techniques by incorporating musical elements of various cultures onto the acoustic guitar.
I've always been rather introverted and shy (and still am), and I never imagined that I would be singing on stage in front of large audiences. For this rather amazing feat that a younger me would never believe, I have close friend and mentor Erick Guansing to thank. Erick is an amazing singer and vocal trainer who believed in me and gave me the courage to be where I am today as a singer. Singing has been a blessing to me and has allowed me to venture into so many fascinating styles and to tell stories otherwise hard to articulate on the guitar alone. I also employ the voice as an instrument in the styles of jazz and Carnatic music.
My interest Carnatic music first began during my undergraduate studies at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. When initially introduced to Carnatic rhythms and the percussive vocal syllables know as Konnakol, I saw the potential of incorporating these elements to the acoustic guitar. I'm happy to say that I've made significant progress in this seemingly impossible daydream of mine at the time. Since then I've been trained as a mridangist under the mentorship of Mr V Raghuraman of Alapana Centre for Music and Dance, who has been exceedingly gracious and generous in developing my skills and integrating me into the local Indian community in Singapore.
I've loved the rich and dense sound of the siku before I even knew the instrument that produced it. When I first discovered this humble Panflute, I immediately knew that I wanted to learn how to play it. I have since been guided as a sikuri by close friend and musical collaborator Leonardo Garcia from Chile. I have adapted the instrument into my playing style by creating melodic lines on the siku with my right hand while tapping out chordal accompaniment on the guitar with my left hand. I play on a chromatic instrument as a soloist, which is atypical of the more traditional style where a single melody is performed by two musicians interlocking with each other.
As an audio engineer, I hold a Bachelor of Music with Honours in Recording Arts and Sciences from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM), National University of Singapore (NUS). Since graduation, I have continued to work with the conservatory through live-sound engineering, concert recording, orientation programme facilitation, and video production. I currently use the knowledge I have gained in my undergraduate years in the art of field recording, where I record sights and sounds outside of the studio setting. I employ field recording to record my own music as well as to document music in Singapore as part of my ongoing research interests.
My interest in ethnomusicology began alongside my explorations into world music, as I wanted to venture deeper into these fascinating cultures beyond just their musical elements. Understanding each culture through a more anthropological lens has added an invaluable dimension to my music-making process that makes it so much more meaningful and enlightening. Specifically,I am interested in studying the music of Singapore and how its close-proximity interaction across multiple people groups has led to hybridisation in local musical activities. It is my desire to discover and create a unique ‘Singaporean’ style of music – one that is hybrid in nature. This research has largely informed the artistry of my own music, where I seek to create a trans-cultural blend of multiple musical cultures.
Neil serves as an official ambassador of Maestro Guitars and plays on a Vera 12-fret Cocobolo and a Singa Madagascan Rosewood Double-Top guitar.