Melding EDM, erhu and brass: music producer Likie Low and her upcoming album ‘Parts of Me’
Having grown up being exposed to traditional and contemporary genres of music, the now 23-year-old erhu player and music producer honours her roots in her debut album releasing on May 30.
In recent years, the lines between music genres have begun to blur, with combinations like pop-rock and country-pop populating the music scene.
As for 23-year-old erhu player and music producer Likie Low, though fusing her chinese traditional musical roots with classical, electronic dance and brass music is still unheard of locally, it is a niche she desires to hone.
It is also with these three genres that Likie uses to set the tone for her upcoming debut album Parts of Me dropping on May 30.
Likie’s initial interest in music came from observing her father play the erhu at home. His enthusiasm for traditional Chinese music instilled in her a desire to master the two-stringed instrument.
“It was to the point that, when I was 12 and had to prepare for PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination), I couldn’t study much as I was practising the erhu two hours a day after coming home from school,” she said.
Likie then developed a knack for music production, Electronic Dance Music and brass instrumentation in her later years of study at School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA) and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music’s Collaboration and Production Major.
“In my third year in SOTA, I was introduced to electronic music and music composition. That’s where I fell in love with both,” she shared.
After acquiring a synthesiser, speaker and Logic Pro – the staple for any music producer – at the end of her fourth year at SOTA, Likie began experimenting with remixes influenced by her taste for pop and dance music.
Through her three years at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, Likie was introduced to even more composition techniques and began developing a fondness for wind and brass music.
She said: “When I first came into the Conservatory, my first few friends that I made were trombonists. And after learning to compose for brasses, I fell in love with its sound world.”
And it was in those opportunities to compose, perform and collaborate in Likie’s undergraduate journey that Parts of Me was born.
She said: “I wanted to explore how traditional Chinese music would fit with electronic music and brass instruments for a very long time. So, this album is not just a school project, but a way to organise my identity.”
The ten-track album, comprising both remixes and original compositions, is arranged in three sections in reference to Likie’s musical growth.
The first four tracks, Folk Beauty, Flowing Rivers, Edge of Gobi and Defeated, are remixes of traditional Chinese music pieces that draw upon her early days of learning the erhu from nine years old.
“Being the first piece I ever learnt from my instructor, this piece holds a significant place in my heart,” Likie said of Folk Beauty, a remix of traditional erhu folk piece 阿美族舞曲.
The following three tracks, title track Parts of Me, Horn Legend and Chillin’ Pandemic Style, are brass quintet pieces that incorporate contemporary composition to meld Chinese, Western and electronic dance music.
“It’s kind of a staple of the album,” Likie said, mentioning that she also collaborated with the brass players whom she performed and recorded with.
The last three songs on the album, Good Enough, FOMO, I’m gonna miss, are vocal tracks which summarise the underlying three genres that tie the album together.
Though this is her first full-length album, Likie is no stranger to performing and releasing her own works.
After releasing singles and then an EP in 2020, Likie’s most notable performances took place at Esplanade, being invited to be part of its Huayi Festival that year and subsequently have her own show Let The B®ass Drop in 2021.
However, Likie said these performances come with its set of challenges, especially when it comes to writing for brass instruments.
“As an erhu player, my biggest challenge is in writing for brass instruments, such as considering the points in the piece that my players need to breathe,” she said.
Besides musical writing, Likie said it is crucial for her to establish a good rapport with her performers and manage her time well in the lead up to concerts.
She said: “To create my own shows, I not only have to write, arrange and produce backing tracks, I also have to plan for rehearsals and the eventual concert. So there’s a lot to do for a one-hour show.”
However, it is in such live performances that Likie derives encouragement and motivation to continually create music.
“I think the most important part of my music creation is to see both the audience and my performers have a good time,” she said.
It is with this mindset that Likie continues to hone in this newfound genre of music, both as a performer and composer.
She said: “I think right now, my music is super niche. I would like to continue finding something that the world needs, taking this time to brush up my DJ skills, my teaching and my playing.”
With an archive full of unreleased works that she has previously performed, Likie said there are plans to record and collate them for a future album.
In advising other composers seeking to find their voice, Likie emphasised on developing a healthy music diet and getting exposed to composition techniques, either through institutional courses or individually.
She said: “I feel like everyone already has a voice. But you just need to understand how to analyse your voice. So from the music that you like, try to make your own spin by experimenting with instruments.
“Find out your taste at your own pace, nobody can tell you what’s yours. And after knowing what you like, it’s best to get a mentor to further develop it.”