Shazuan Shiraj on Becoming ABANGSAPAU, And The Singapore Music Scene

"Don’t support local. Support good. And believe me when I say there is plenty, plenty of good music from here."
Published: June 20, 2024
Rhythm of a Nation: Top Local Music Acts To Know
Shazuan Shiraj, 25

There’s no denying the amount of musical talent we have on our shores. But for a truly Singapore-centric playlist, these names—spanning Malay-English rap and chugging guitar riffs, to dulcet, undulating Tamil R&B and Jungle beats—are who you should be bobbing your head to.

Related article: Suthasini Rajenderan on Infusing Indian Music With R&B and Hip Hop Elements

Tell us how you got into music.

I’m Shaz, and I’m a hip-hop artist who doesn’t wear pants. I’m also a founder of New Mongrels, a music movement based in Singapore. I always describe my entry into music as a happy accident. Before music, I was en route to becoming a Social Work scholar and had a whole path I’d set out for myself academically: I graduated with a perfect GPA, I was a Lee Kuan Yew Model Student awardee, and was the first ITE student in 31 years to make it to the finals of a national public speaking competition. Then, in polytechnic, I completely fell in love with music. I had a friend who woul push me to rap and release what I wrote. Before I knew it, I officially debuted as an artist in 2019, performing over 30 shows in my first year. I pursued Social Work because I wanted to become the person I needed growing up. I had no father figure, witnessed substance abuse, experienced physical abuse and homelessness, and watched my mother do everything she could to put food on the table. I just wanted to become a worker for youths-at-risk. I got a message last year from someone saying my music stopped them from suicide, and that’s when I realised that my intention to pursue Social Work—my initial calling—actually transmuted into a vocation for music. I had no intention of music becoming a career, but now, five years on, I’m still here.

Related article: Amanda Keisha Ang On Getting Her Start And How ’90s Music Influenced Her Sound Today

What is the one wish you have for Singapore’s music scene?

I just hope we get to a place where our own artists feel loved in their own hometown. Far too often we only feel true love and validation when we succeed overseas and return to Singapore. But I hope we can get to a place where the music is loved here first. I dislike the concept of ‘support local’. Don’t support local. Support good. And believe me when I say there is plenty, plenty of good music from here.

Related article: The Girls of Taledrops on the Biggest Inspiration of Their Sound

What local music acts would you recommend?

If you’re new to music from Singapore, a good place to start is listening to the artists from New Mongrels. From Mary Sue to rhyu to Bellied Star to AE$OP CA$H to CURB, I can confidently say there is something for everyone.

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