Ultra Music Festival Breaks New Ground in Singapore

Billboard

Singapore got a taste of a world-class dance music festival when Ultra Singapore held its first annual edition Saturday and Sunday (a smaller "Road to Ultra Singapore" happened last year). Executive producers Alexander Chew and Raj Datwani organized the local edition of the genre-leading festival brand in collaboration with the head office in Miami. It brought headliners such as deadmau5, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Afrojack, Alesso, DJ Snake and Kygo, among others.

The two-day event took place in the shadow of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, with Datwani noting, "This area is basically Singapore's crown jewel." The fact the pair could use it to produce a dance music fest attended by 45,000 shows the growth of the indigenous electronic scene and the music industry in general. Brands like Mercedes-Benz, Warner Bros., Dom Perignon, Johnnie Walker and Sony participated as sponsors.

Long-term Singapore resident, DJ, promoter and booking agent Oliver Osborne explains, "Seeing festivals like Ultra come to Singapore is quite heartwarming in the evolution of a scene that as little as five years ago felt quite bleak. This festival is evidence of where Singapore is going, the trajectory of the music industry here."

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The city is known for its strict regulations, and Chew notes the producers "worked hand-in-hand with the Tourism Board, the police and the Land Transport Ministry" to make the fest happen. They still faced significant tests. "Infrastructure was the greatest challenge," he says. "There's no WiFi, there's no piping. We're next to a power station and yet we can't tap the power so we had to get generators in."

But the iconic space on Singapore's bay was the only venue the pair wanted to use. Chew observes, "There are so many similarities between the location here and the one in Miami. We're doing it on Bayfront Avenue, and in Miami it's Bayfront Park. You look up and it's the central business district in Miami; same here. You have the Marina Bay Sands here and the Intercontinental in Miami."

The event hosted three stages. For the main one, Chew explains, "We worked with Adam Russakoff [executive producer, director of business affairs, and global talent buyer - Ultra Enterprises/Ultra Music Festival] and created a wish list that we thought would appeal to the consumers out here." The Resistance stage put on more underground house and techno, while the Live stage presented everything from K-pop (in the form of Jay Park) to local pop rock (via Sony Music's The Sam Willows), Singaporean future bass/trap artist Myrne (signed to Diplo's Mad Decent label) and Chinese-American producer Zhu. Chew relates, "We tried hard to have a diverse lineup on the Live stage and cater to everybody."

Banging headliners like Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Afrojack and Alesso got the audience at the Main stage shaking booty, but it was innovative Norwegian producer Kygo (born Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll) who really impressed. The lilting tropical house set included his remix of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing, " Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!" and his own hits "Carry Me" and "Firestone."

Seng Wei Ong, Singaporean founder of the indie electronic imprint Eclesia Records, summed up the weekendL "The Ultra brand is such a global brand, and to have Singapore be part of that is a testament to how the electronic music scene has grown here."

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