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Challenging Personal Limits, Establishing Emotional Connections

Written by: Hu Chenwei (21A15), Wee Yu Yan (21S66)

Photos by: Jayne Peh Hin Peng (21A11)

Jayne Performing Her Self-Composed Song, "To Sea" (I)

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Jayne Peh Hin Peng (21A11) for clinching the “Best Song Award” and “Lyrics (Merit) Award” at the 2021 “SG:SW I Write The Songs” Festival. A nationwide Mandarin-Pop songwriting festival, SG:SW provides a platform to cultivate burgeoning local musical talents.

Jayne’s winning piece is titled “To Sea” (我带您去看海了). Scattering the ashes of loved ones into the sea is a common practice, and Jayne cleverly incorporated this practice into the song. Centred on the grief of the passing of an elder, To Sea drew inspiration from 831's 外婆的告别式 (“Saying Goodbye to Grandma”) and Deng Jianchao’s (邓见超) 橘子 (“Tangerine”), both of which revolve around familial relationships.

A member of WeYoung (华中未央), the songwriting branch of Chinese Society in Hwa Chong, Jayne was inspired by a prompt given by her seniors, the theme of which was “Loss” (失去). “I thought of the idea of using ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’, which is a song that soldiers sung on the battlefield over dead comrades.” After creating a demo of “To Sea” and sharing it during a peer feedback session at a CCA session, her instructor encouraged her to join SG:SW 2021.

“It was incredibly exciting to take part in SG:SW. I only started taking part in competitions last year, and SG:SW was my, like, final, big-boss battle kind of goal.” Though Jayne was initially insecure about the simplicity of “To Sea”, as she added new sections, the song evolved and Jayne gradually took pride in her work.

Apart from its expressive lyrics and mellow melodies, another charming characteristic of “To Sea'' is its employment of three different tongues: Mandarin for the verse, Hokkien and English for the chorus. “I chose to use three different languages because, to me, it is the very representation of grief - the central motif of the song.”

Just like how grief is a universal concept, she hoped that her song would transcend all age, language, and cultural barriers and establish connections amongst the listeners. “Loss is inevitable for all of us, so I hope my listeners could take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone even in such isolating experiences.”

Her efforts eventually bore fruit. “After “To Sea” was published, I saw how it connects different generations,” remarked Jayne, “and it reaffirmed my belief that music stretches across all boundaries.” Jayne was delighted to witness her younger cousins singing joyously to the English section, her grandparents talking excitedly about the Hokkien section, and her peers analysing the Chinese lyrics with her.

Nonetheless, the organic integration of three languages into one coherent piece proved no easy task. Particularly, singing in Hokkien was an exceptionally novel and challenging experience for Jayne. “I initially struggled a lot with the Hokkien chorus,” recalled Jayne, “and much of the feedback I received from the masterclass segment of the competition was that the Hokkien lyrics didn't match the melody.”

Jayne Performing Her Self-Composed Song, "To Sea" (II)

Jayne Making a Speech During the SG:SW Competition

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